Sister Johanna was born in 1924 to a farming family in Blackwater, Co. Wexford. She had a twin brother who died at birth. She did her early education with the Loreto Sisters in Wexford and joined MMM in 1944. After profession Johanna trained as a nurse-midwife. In 1952 she was assigned to Angola, where she served for two years. Then she was a staff nurse and night superintendent for eight years in the IMTH and the maternity hospital in Drogheda.
When Cardinal Cushing brought a group of children with disabilities to Lourdes in the early sixties, they stayed overnight in the IMTH. Sister Johanna accompanied them on this pilgrimage. When Cardinal Cushing needed a nurse himself, Johanna was chosen to look after him, which she did with her usual dedication and care. It was said that nobody got to see the Cardinal unless she gave her approval!
In 1963, she was assigned to the USA and worked as a nurse in Pope John XXIII Seminary in Weston, MA, for three years. In 1967 she went to Nigeria, where she did nursing for five years, with a two-year stint in between helping with mission awareness in the USA. After a period of ill health in 1976 she was back doing fundraising in Ireland, followed by two years working in the guest department in Drogheda.
Joanna returned to the US in 1981 as the Sister-in-charge of a nursing home in New Orleans. She also did nursing and chaplaincy work for seventeen years in the Boston area. She was chosen as nurse to Rose Kennedy, mother of John F. Kennedy, former president of the USA. She often spoke of how kind and appreciative the Kennedy family were. She was like one of the family and they took her with them on holidays.
Sister Johanna returned to Ireland in 2003 and lived in the MMM community in Mell, Drogheda until she moved to the Motherhouse in 2011. Her health began to deteriorate later that year and she moved to the nursing facility in Áras Mhuire for additional care. She died there peacefully on 24 June 2015.
Joanna was the last remaining member of her immediate family, her four sisters and two brothers having all predeceased her. She was very close to her nieces and nephews, who visited her often, especially Moira and Phyllis. They always brought her a lovely bouquet of flowers, which she never kept for herself. They were placed in the oratory before the Blessed Sacrament, where Joanna came first thing in the morning and many times during the day.
Father Scott, a Salesian priest who celebrated her funeral Mass, spoke of the inscription over the triple doorways of the Cathedral of Milan on which he loved to reflect.
All that which pleases is but for a moment.
All that which troubles is but for a moment.
That only is important which is eternal.