From County Cork in Ireland, Sister Joan has spent her missionary life assigned in China, Hong Kong,
Ireland, Peru and Chile. She has recently retired to the Columban Sisters’ Motherhouse in Ireland
where she continues to live a active life.
Sister Joan O’Donovan was born in Clonakilty, County Cork, Ireland. She joined the Columban Sisters in 1944 and by 1947 she was on her way to China. She celebrated her 21st birthday in Shanghai where she was missioned to work in a school that the Columban Sisters had opened for Russian immigrants who had fled from Russia because of religious persecution. However, her time in Shanghai was cut short when Communist China outlawed Catholic schools.
Her next mission was Hong Kong, where she worked for a short time in Ruttonjee Hospital run by the Columban Sisters, but soon she was on her way again, this time to Dublin, Ireland to study and University College Dublin. This was followed by an assignment to Magheramore, Wicklow where she was appointed as Assistant Novice Directress.
In 1962, she was chosen with four others to start the Columban Sisters mission to Peru. There she spent fourteen happy years, working in the school which the Sisters opened for the poor children of the shanty town where the Sisters lived. During this time she also did pastoral work in a local parish run by the Columban Fathers.
From Lima Peru, to Santiago, Chile – this was Joan’s next mission assignment. In Chile she continued to give herself to the spreading of the Kingdom among the poor and suffering people of a marginated shanty town in Santiago. When Joan arrived in Chile, the country had been under military dictatorship for two years, a situation which lasted for nineteen years, and which made life very difficult for the nation in general, but particularly for the poor. During these years the Church was continually under surveillance, especially in its work among the poor, but the work went on – Basic Christian Communities, catechetics, solidarity groups, etc.
In November, 2004, Joan retired to Ireland. Many tributes were paid to her during the ‘despedidas’ (farewell parties) that were held in the different parishes of Santiago where Joan had worked. Joan is now living at the Motherhouse in Magheramore, Wicklow.