Sister Joan Hentges, OSB, died peacefully on Sunday, May 14, 2017. She was Co-Director of the Oblates and served as the Chicago formation coordinator. Prior to this, she ministered with the Colorado Oblates, served in parishes, and taught for many years. We give thanks to God for her life. To learn more about her, we invite you to read her biography (below) written by Sister Benita Coffey, OSB.
Joan Marie Hentges was born November 28, 1931, in Mitchell, South Dakota, daughter of Theodore Frank and Gertrude Mary (nee George) Hentges and was baptized on December 9th of that year. Her early education was begun in the country school there, but the family moved to Cañon City, CO, where Joan and her younger sister, Jean, could go to Catholic schools. Joan finished elementary school at St. Michael where she met the Benedictines, and then went to St. Scholastica Academy in Cañon City.
After finishing her junior year, Joan entered the Benedictine Sisters of Chicago on September 5, 1948. Joan and Jean were taught the value of family life and the importance of relationships, so she “found the transition to community an easy one.” As a postulant she was a senior at St. Scholastica High School and graduated shortly before becoming a novice on June 26, 1949. Her request to receive her father’s name was honored, and she became known as Sister Theodore. Later, in 1968, along with many other community members, she chose to be known by her baptismal name.
Completing the novitiate, she pronounced her triennial vows on June 27, 1950, and made her final commitment on that date in 1953. A lover of celebration, Sister Joan’s silver and golden jubilees were memorable but her 60th anniversary was very special.
Having served at Christ the King Parish in Pueblo for over thirty years, she had a public celebration there in June, 2010. During that liturgy, she presented to Sister Patricia Crowley, then Prioress, the twelve candidates wishing to become Oblate members. It had been her joy to share Benedictine values with them as she initiated our first Colorado Oblate group. On July 10th of that year, Sister Joan was in Chicago to join with the other jubilarians and renew her vows in the presence of the community.
Sister Joan earned the Bachelor of Philosophy degree at DePaul University in Chicago and the Master of Ministry at Seattle University, in addition to studying at the Mexican American Cultural Center in San Antonio, Texas.
Her first ministry was as an elementary teacher in Chicago, at St. Symphorosa and Queen of All Saints. She was then at St. Joseph in Salida, CO, and Sacred Heart in Tucson, AZ. Then, after three years back in Chicago at St. John Nepomucene, in 1962 she was asked to be both the principal and a teacher in Salida and served in those dual roles for six years.
The next three years Sister Joan ministered in Capulin and La Jara doing pastoral work and serving as Director of Religious Education. In 1977 she became Director of Religious Education and was a pastoral assistant at Christ the King Parish in Pueblo, CO.
For the following 38 years, she gave of herself to the people there in multiple ways, never sparing herself in serving where she found need. After about 20 years directing the Religious Education program, she focused on other ministries: engaging with the sick and elderly, arranging senior citizen outings to Cripple Creek, encouraging and modelling social action, and becoming known as the “white tornado” for her energy and zeal.
A community member at heart, she placed value on common prayer and, over the years, gathered a praying community of people who joined her each morning for Liturgy of the Hours.
Sister Joan was active in the political and civic scene. In 1992 she became a member of the Pueblo Democratic Assembly and in 2008 she was nominated as one of the Outstanding Women in Pueblo County. In 2009, one of the acts at “Senior Moments” (an original theater performance portraying Pueblo and its people) was a dramatic monologue where an actress portrayed Sister Joan talking about her life. The script was all quotes from Sister Joan.
In November of 2007, when she was just retiring from her ministry position at Christ the King, the new section of the Parish Formation Center was blessed and dedicated in honor of Sister Joan for her years of service. From that time on, hers was a Ministry of Presence and she excelled in that.
As a Benedictine Sister of Chicago, she served generously in community affairs. She served on the St. Scholastica Academy (Cañon City) Board of Directors, On-Going Formation and Finance Committees, Monastic Council, and as Associate Director of the Oblates of St. Scholastica Monastery. In 1977, she initiated for the community the Social Concerns newsletter. Sister Johnette typed and edited it.
As a person, Sister Joan loved nature, reading, adventure, and travel. She made it a goal to travel to all our country’s National Parks and toured Europe with her sister, Jean.
She always faced life with a positive attitude even through her last illness. She loved God,
and the Catholic Church and gave her life in its service. She was a person of wisdom and insight.
Sister Joan valued the rich experience of living during the 1960’s, envisioning with Bishop Charles Buswell the Church’s future as the documents of Vatican Council II were implemented in the Diocese of Pueblo. In 1999, representing the Sisters of the diocese, she wrote the tribute to him given in August of that year.
Known for her love of sunflowers, it was not until later in life that she learned somewhere that this flower was traditionally held as symbol of love and friendship, both divine and human. In her note of gratitude to the Sisters after her 60th jubilee, Sister Joan wrote: “When I look upon a sunflower, I see the face of God and the faces of all of you who love me.” The sunflowers in her room as she moved to glory were most appropriate.
Sister Joan died peacefully in the late evening of Sunday, May 14, 2017. She is preceded in death by her sister Jean (the late Phillip) Greenwood, her infant brother Dale Hentges, and a niece and a nephew. She is mourned by her monastic Sisters, Oblates, students, parishioners, and friends.
To read the reflection given at her funeral by Sister Judith Murphy, Prioress, click here.