Sister Joan Crevcoure, M.M.
Current Ministry Location-Maryknoll Sisters Center
For forty-two years, Sister Joan Crevcoure called the South Pacific’s Marshall Islands home. Scattered over 29 atolls and comprised of 70 square miles of land amidst 772,000 square miles of ocean, they were the site of the United States Pacific Proving Ground, where atomic and hydrogen bombs were tested, the last test conducted in 1962, the year Sister Joan moved to the republic. Atomic testing still continues in the Pacific.
The Green Bay, WI, native’s missionary journey in the Marshalls began in Majuro, the capitol, where she taught primary and junior high school and was principal of Assumption School. Then, in 1971, she joined another Sister for more than thirty years of Outer Island ministry. This consisted of teaching religion, hygiene and cooking, doing pastoral ministry, and training prayer leaders and pastoral workers, as well as elementary school teachers for four mission schools she supervised. She also helped teachers at local public schools.
Education of the Marshallese children and building up the local churches were priorities in Sister Joan’s work. Along with the other Maryknoll Sister who served with her, Sister Joan assisted in translating and publishing a Marshallese hymn book, prayer book and several religious instruction books, setting up three little parishes, renewing four others and establishing three Catholic schools in the remote outer islands. They received permission from the bishop to empower prayer leaders who presently do almost everything a deacon would do.
Sister Joan and her companion could rival St. Paul in terms of travel tales. Once, they floated at sea while a Marshallese repaired the boat engine in the rain. Another time, around the Christmas holidays, they were stranded on an island with nothing left to eat but heart of palm. They made crib statues out of coconut tree netting, and asked the people of the island to bring whatever food they had to celebrate the day. After prayer, all shared one doughnut apiece for Christmas dinner.
Sister Joan joined Maryknoll in 1946, after studying for two years at Rosary College, River Forest, IL. She received her bachelor’s degree in education from Maryknoll Teachers College in 1949. One year later, she was assigned to Hawaii, where she taught elementary and junior high school students, earned a Masters degree in education from the University of Hawaii in 1958, and was administrator of elementary and junior high schools in Hawaii, until being sent to the Marshalls in 1962.
Forty-two years later, in 2004, Sister Joan bid a fond farewell to the Marshallese and moved to the Maryknoll Sisters Convent in Monrovia, CA, where she resided until returning, finally, to the Maryknoll Sisters Center in Ossining, NY, where she is an active member of the community.