July 24, 1933 – December 20, 2016
Baptized Noreen Mary Joyce, this second daughter and youngest child of Michael and Catherine Joyce was born happy. Her father owned a small radio repair shop that supported the family through the depression, World War II and the years that followed. As a child Noreen dreamed of going to Arizona and running a cattle ranch. She described herself as being “wild about airplanes,” studying the different kinds of aircraft and gleefully calling out their correct names as they flew overhead. When Noreen was preparing to enter the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur her parents dipped into their hard earned savings to buy her an airplane ticket. They thought it would be her only chance to experience flying. Little did they know the path Noreen’s life would take.
Noreen met the Sisters of Notre Dame at Notre Dame High School in Chicago. She liked the Sisters, and especially the sense of joy among them. Sister Helen Cecilia, her Freshman Math and Religion teacher, was transferred to another school at the end of Noreen’s freshman year. It was to her that Noreen wrote during her sophomore year asking for guidance. Not only did Noreen feel called to enter the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, but she was very interested in applying to the Candidacy of the Sisters for her Junior and Senior years of high school. Sister Helen Cecilia encouraged her to follow her heart. Noreen’s parents were supportive and she entered the Candidacy in Columbus, Ohio at the beginning of her junior year. She loved it! So much so she entered in February of 1951 and finished high school as a postulant. When asked why she chose Notre Dame she replied, “I did not, God chose Notre Dame not me, but I thank Him every day for his choice.”
Noreen was given the name Sister Catherine Michael and began her teaching ministry at Villa Park, Illinois. She was always grateful to the Sisters at Villa Park whom she felt taught her so much about teaching and community life. Noreen loved teaching little children. She was able to have fun with them and found herself deeply touched by their simplicity and insights into the world around them. In her many years in the classroom she never taught a class higher than 4th grade. Her specialty was early childhood education. Noreen saw the potential for the Montessori Method and asked to be trained in it. Her work in Montessori included three years directing the Montessori Program at the Summit Country Day School. Throughout Noreen’s years in teaching she sought out workshops and courses that would help her be more effective with her young students. Early teaching years took her all over Illinois, but as she was quick to point out, “I taught all AROUND Chicago but never IN it.” Those years also took her to schools in Ohio where she came to love working with African American children.
In the wake of the Second Vatican Council Noreen answered the call to serve as Director of Religious Education at the parish where she was teaching. In addition to teaching her little ones, Noreen set up the CCD program and taught the 10th grade CCD classes. She tended to her personal renewal as well: participating in the Mini-ARC program in 1972, making a 30 day retreat in 1974, participating in the Global Spirituality Program in 1977-1978, in the Julie Renewal Program in 2000 and in Province sponsored study programs.
It was toward the end of her time in the Global Spirituality Program that Noreen received a letter from a Sister in Arizona asking if Noreen would consider replacing her the following year. Noreen took the request to Province Leadership and was missioned to Arizona that summer. She wasn’t going to run a cattle ranch, but her childhood dream of going to Arizona was about to come true! Arizona lived up to Noreen’s expectations. She was a person who was always cold, until she went to Arizona where she could finally warm up. Noreen welcomed the opportunity to enter into Hispanic culture, and a lively local Church. She earned an Advanced Liturgy Studies certificate and after nine more years in the classroom moved into serving as liturgist in a parish.
Then her mother fell and broke her hip.
By 1990 Noreen’s sister, Ileane, had died and Mrs. Joyce had been widowed. Noreen asked for and received permission to move to Florida to help her mother. The next eight years found her back in early childhood education and lovingly caring for Mrs. Joyce. Noreen, who had always loved community, was grateful another Ohio Sister was also in Florida to help with parent care. Holidays would find Noreen taking her mother to join Sister Gwen and her mother for a light-hearted celebration. Florida also gave Noreen the opportunity to do some flying. The father of one of her students had a small plane and would often take Noreen and his daughter with him on short trips up the coast. Once in a while he would even let Noreen take the controls and do the actual flying.
After her mother’s death Noreen returned to Arizona where she studied spiritual direction and worked as a teacher’s aide until 2010. Her last two years in Arizona she continued to volunteer in early childhood classrooms. In 2012 she moved to Cincinnati and started serving part time as a receptionist for the Province Offices and as a sisterly presence to the Sisters in the Health Center.
In community Noreen was known as light-hearted, fun loving, joyful, warm, friendly to all, interested in those around her and very affirming of her Sisters. Noreen loved people, was a good friend and a mentor to many, a great listener and dedicated to the Notre Dame Mission. She had the reputation for waking up happy, singing early in the morning, and having a pun or a song for every occasion. Noreen loved teasing community members, and she could joke about herself. She knew that non-morning people sometimes “grabbed their coffee and ran” so they wouldn’t have to face her morning energy. Commenting on the number of different communities she lived in Noreen said, “I always looked at it as the Provincial wanted to share good things with the Sisters – so I got moved!” She also said, “I have to say I’ve loved every house I’ve lived in. I enjoyed every mission I’ve been on. They were all so different.” For Noreen the size of the community didn’t matter as long as the spirit among the Sisters was positive.
Noreen enjoyed being out in nature: hiking down to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, tubing on the Salt River, horseback riding and exploring new places. It didn’t matter if they were simply sharing a meal or fulfilling a life-long dream and exploring Ireland, she enjoyed spending time with good friends. Noreen also loved her family. She stayed close to her sister’s children, taking great joy in face-to-face visits and Sunday night phone calls. With a smile on her face and a twinkle in her eye Noreen recently said, “I have to say I’ve had an exciting life – I can’t complain.”
When asked if she ever doubted her call to religious life, Noreen told of an experience she had as a novice. “In Chapel one morning I was reading John 16:15. The words were: ‘You have not chosen me, I have chosen you.’ They stuck in my heart so hard I never doubted. ‘You have not chosen me, I have chosen you.’ That’s what made me so happy: I knew I was His.” News of Noreen’s final illness took everyone by surprise. She faced it with her characteristic simplicity, positive attitude, and deep faith. As we gather to celebrate her life we miss her deeply but are consoled by our belief that our good God has joyfully welcomed his chosen one home to eternal life. We give thanks for the gift Noreen has been for each of us and ask her prayers that we may follow her example of making God’s goodness known, simply and joyfully, to all those we meet.
Born July 24, 1933 in Chicago, Illinois
Parents: Michael Joyce (born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) and Catherine Hedderman (born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)
One sister: Ileane
Baptized August 13, 1933 at St. Mel Church, Chicago, Illinois
Confirmed May 15, 1945 at St. Bartholomew Church, Chicago, Illinois
Entered February 4, 1951 at Mt. Notre Dame
First Profession: August 13, 1953
Final Profession: August 13, 1958
St. Bartholomew Parish School, Chicago, Illinois, 1947
St. Joseph Academy, Columbus, Ohio, 1951
Bachelor of Science in Education from the University of Dayton, Dayton, Ohio, 1964
Master of Education from the University of Northern Illinois, De Kalb, Illinois, 1972
1953-1956 St. Alexander Parish School, Villa Park, Illinois
1956-1957 St. Victor Parish School, Calumet City, Illinois
1957-1960 St. Helen Parish School, Dayton, Ohio
1960-1966 St. James Parish School, Dayton, Ohio
1966-1973 St. Rita Parish School, Rockford, Illinois
1973-1977 Summit Country Day School, Cincinnati, Ohio
1977-1978 Participant, Active Spirituality Program, Mt. St. Joseph College, Mt. St. Joseph, Ohio
1978-1987 Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish School, Glendale, Arizona
1987-1990 Coordinator of Liturgy, Queen of Peace Parish, Mesa, Arizona
1990-1998 St. Coleman Parish School, Pompano Beach, Florida
1998-2000 Student in Spiritual Direction, Kino Institute, Phoenix, Arizona
1999-2008 St. Theresa Parish School, Phoenix, Arizona
2008-2012 Ministry of Prayer, Mesa, Arizona
2012-2016 Community Service, Mt. Notre Dame, Reading, Ohio
Died: December 20, 2016
Sr. Kim Dalgarn SNDdeN
December 21, 2016