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Remembering Sister Joanna Trapp, OSB

Sister Joanna Trapp, OSB, died peacefully on Friday, March 3, 2017. She is remembered for her gentle presence and her wise teaching. She influenced thousands of alumnae, due to her teaching at both the elementary and high school levels. We look back and thank God for her remarkable life. To learn more about her, we invite you to read her biography (below) written by Sister Benita Coffey, OSB.


Jean Ann Trapp was born in Detroit, Michigan, on February 16, 1927, the third of the six children of George A. and Noreen McCormick Trapp. Jean Ann was baptized on March 6 of that year. The family moved to Chicago to live in St. Ignatius Parish where the children attended the parish school. Their home was happy and supportive. All shared responsibilities and loved family celebrations.

After completing grade school, Jean Ann enrolled at St. Scholastica High School from which she graduated in 1945. While a student there she was part of the staff of the Raven, the school’s newspaper. During those years she came to recognize the place of common prayer in the lives of the Sisters and enjoyed listening to their chant in late afternoons when she and her companions were working late on the paper or, as she put it, just fooling around.

Jean Ann took opportunities to come to the chapel for liturgies such as Christmas Novena and Tenebrae on the last days of Holy Week. She was particularly influenced by Sister Laura Walker during those years.

Following graduation, she attended Mundelein College for a year. She then entered the Benedictine community on September 15, 1946 to begin her postulancy.

On June 29, 1947, she received the habit, was given her religious name, Sister Joanna, and entered the novitiate. On June 30, 1948, she professed triennial vows, and her final profession was on that same date in 1951.

For Sister Joanna’s entire active life she was a teacher, beginning on the elementary level and then becoming a high school instructor. While attending De Paul University in Chicago, she earned her Bachelor’s degree in Liberal Arts, with a history major. Her requirements for the Master’s degree were half-way completed when problems with her eyes forced her to discontinue. She went on to pursue appropriate teaching certification in both Illinois and Colorado and became known and respected as an outstanding teacher.

Sister Joanna’s first assignment was as second grade teacher at St. Hilary school in Chicago. During the three years there she also served as sacristan in the parish church. The next four years were at the newly opened St. Lambert school in Skokie, Illinois, where she was sacristan again.

That role in parishes seemed to be a good fit for her as she was sacristan again during her first Colorado assignment which was to teach at St. Mary’s in Pueblo.

In 1959, Sister Joanna was asked to move to the secondary level and took a new position in Colorado, at St. Scholastica Academy in Cañon City. There she was dorm prefect for freshmen girls and used her social studies background in teaching World History, U.S. History, and Social Problems. In addition she taught Latin and English. During her years in Colorado, she also spent many summers teaching religious education. Three times she taught in Las Animas. Other summers she served in Alamosa, Crested Butte, and at St. Leander in Pueblo.

When asked to return to Illinois in 1965, Sister Joanna began what would be the longest assignment and the most varied in her teaching career. For forty-two years she was a faculty member at St. Scholastica Academy (SSA) in Chicago. Over those years, she instructed the young women in World History, U.S. History, Geography, Theology and Latin. Summers were often spent teaching history, too.

For most of her years at SSA, Sister Joanna was a senior homeroom teacher in Room 108 and for three years she was the Student Council Moderator. Many of her classes were also scheduled in 108, where the north wall’s huge bulletin board was always kept current with attractive, informational, and seasonal displays. Since she customarily had a good supply of the Peanuts character posters from the Charles M. Schulz’s collection, these added to the entertainment which drew the students to read. Art was another teaching skill she had mastered.

The camaraderie of the faculty and staff was always important to Sister Joanna, likely because Benedictine community life as well as her own close family had formed her. She knew how to enjoy company, to accept differences, and to participate. Faculty parties and Christmas productions for the students were things she appreciated.

After Sister Joanna’s 71 years of membership in the Benedictine Sisters of Chicago, she will be remembered for her fidelity to common life and her quiet thoughtfulness. She had an unassuming way of making a difference. Every Christmas she adorned the long ground floor bulletin board with colorful angels. For a number of years she prepared centerpieces for feasts. She also had the practice of preparing hand-made birthday and name day cards for each Sister. To give was a joy for her.

After Sister Joanna retired, she was able to take the responsibility of sacristan for the Saint Scholastica Chapel and she became a member of the Council of Elders. She was an avid reader, something which she attributed to her father who used to read and to share stories about history with his children. Her fifth grade teacher she also remembered as nurturing her love of reading. Simple things were always pleasing to Sister Joanna, and good conversations were among those. In her final years when her sickness rendered it impossible for her to find words and finally even to speak at all, she seemed to relish the company of a visitor who would sit and talk with her.

At the time of her Golden Jubilee in 1998, Sister Joanna was asked what this anniversary meant to her. So typical for her, was this clear and direct response, “Gratitude! It’s a wonderful life. I have been blessed with peace and joy, a rich liturgical prayer life and many friends. I have also to be grateful for the many changes. Especially important to me is the freedom we now have to be a real part of our families. I really know my many nieces and nephews and even the next generation of Trapps as they come along. Family is very important to me and I to them.”

Sister Joanna died peacefully on March 3, 2017 in the St. Joseph Court of Saint Scholastica Monastery. She is now mourned by her monastic family, the Benedictine Sisters of Chicago, as well as by her sister Norene Mahoney, and the three generations of her Trapp family. Her siblings, George, Dorothy LaMere, John and Bill all preceded her in death. The Mass of Resurrection was celebrated on March 5 and she was interred in All Saints Cemetery in Des Plaines, Illinois.

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