Sister Jean was born Elaine Eason in Buffalo, New York, USA in 1941. She attended school in Gardenville and Buffalo, New York, graduating from Mount Mercy Academy High School. Throughout her time in MMM she remained in contact with several Sisters of Mercy who taught her.
She met the Medical Missionaries of Mary while at school and joined in 1959. She chose the name Jean Clare at her Reception, a sign of her love for her parents.
She first trained as a dentist, graduating at the top of her class at Tufts School of Dental Medicine in Boston, Massachusetts in 1968. In 1970 she was assigned to Nigeria, where she served for nine years as a dentist in Eleta, Ibadan. She was also in MMM leadership for a year before being appointed MMM leader for the USA/Brazil Region for six years.
Jean then retrained as a social worker and in 1988 began eight years of service in Clinchco, Virginia. She was a volunteer at a women’s shelter, was a legal advocate, and worked with the United Mine Workers while they were on strike. She also worked with community and parish groups, employed by the Area Agency on Aging as a legal advocate for the elderly and as an ombudsman for long-term care.
In 1997 she was assigned to yet another continent, and spent six years in pastoral work and alternative health care in Capim Grosso, Brazil. In 2003, she was elected to MMM Congregational leadership and spent six years as Zonal Coordinator for Europe, based in Ireland. In 2009 she became MMM Area Leader for the Americas and was based in Salvador, Brazil. She was appointed leader for another three years at the end of 2012.
In recent months she returned to the USA for medical investigations and had surgery in March 2015. She died peacefully in New York on 9 April 2015.
In her eulogy at Jean’s Mass, Sister Kay Lawlor said that when people were asked about their memories of Jean, the most frequent word used of her was joy. “In her parish in Salvador, Brazil, she was known as Allegria, Portuguese for joy. She had the joy of living life to the full, the Joy of the Gospel….She loved life and shared this love whether it was for food, creation, justice, arts and crafts, poetry, or most of all for friends. Food was delicious, creation was amazing, friends were a gift to be cherished and nourished…. Each person was special and the relationship cherished.
“In leadership, she asked, ‘What is MMM asking of me; what do the Sisters want; what can I bring; and what is God asking? She said she was not at peace saying no. And so she said yes and then left it to the Spirit.’“
She shared her gifts generously and enthusiastically. She faced her illness as she faced life – with determination, strength, and trust in a loving God. Kay said that Jean asked to be remembered “as a woman who tried to be there for others.” This is her legacy and this is our challenge.