Sister Joan Metzner, MM
Born: July 15, 1936
Entered: September 2, 1954
Died: January 3, 2005
Today we gather to celebrate the earthly life and the beginning of the eternal and everlasting life of our dear Sister Joan Frances Metzner, a gentle woman of simplicity, sensitivity and creativity, who so often blessed each of us with her poetic words of insight, wisdom and playfulness.
We now believe that Joan, in her uniquely subtle and unobtrusive way, slipped off the bonds holding her to this earth probably sometime on New Year’s Eve, December 31, 2004 while she was asleep, and then awakened in God’s welcoming embrace. Her leaving was so swift, peaceful and quiet, that no one was aware of it until the morning of January 3, 2005. By then, Joan was surely already “at play” in the fields of her Lord. Joan died in her new home at the Rook Retirement Community in Cromwell, CT – a home which she loved and had relocated to on September 4, 2004 after twenty years in her family home in Hartford, CT. Joan was sixty-eight years old and had been a Maryknoll Sister for fifty years.
We have many wonderful memories of Joan: her ability to listen and compassionate others in their trials and sufferings, her humorous remarks that lightened the seriousness of our conversations, her playful reminders that interrupted our busyness, her radiant smile that warmed our hearts, her simple prayers that touched our souls, and her gentle words of caring and support. She came to see her mission, her path in life as “strewing daffodils, a shower of daffy daffodils,” along the way.
Joan’s many creative gifts, people-centered talents and God-centered life focus were refined during her years of personal suffering. Joan came to accept her limitations, and even celebrate them, as well as her giftedness, and she offered all of these freely and without restriction to those whose lives she touched each day.
In her ever-thoughtful way, Joan took the time to write her own letter of remembrance, so that we would have her perspective on her life to share and treasure this day. Joan tended to be somewhat self-effacing, and was often reluctant to proclaim her accomplishments. So, with apologies for mentioning some of these, as well as for making some minor editorial changes and factual additions, this is Joan’s final message to us, written February 10, 2002.
“My dearest Sisters and friends,
Before waking up to the glory of heaven, I would like to share with you something of my life on earth.
I was born in Hartford, CT on July 15, 1936 to Marion Foley Metzner and Louis Joseph Metzner. My brother, Louis, had already appeared on the scene four years earlier and another brother, Eugene, had died at birth. My grandmother lived with us for as long as I can remember.
Dad was ambitious and hard-working, holding down two full time jobs for about thirty years. He was active in Hartford neighborhood projects, but in his free time was truly present to my brother and me, taking us on trips to the Bronx Zoo, baseball and football games, and bike rides to the local, small airport, as well as to Point o’ Woods for vacations with my mother.
My mother was the quiet one, a wonderful listener and an avid reader. She provided many poetry books for our small library shelves, and as soon as I was able to read, I memorized poems and recited them by heart for her. I still love “By the Shores of Gichigumie.”
I went to a public elementary and middle school in Hartford, CT and St. Luke’s was our local parish (where Joan was president of the Catholic Youth Organization). I went on to Mount Saint Joseph Academy in West Hartford, CT for high school, and graduated in 1954. (Joan was class president and valedictorian of her graduating class). I loved the Mount and as a sophomore, began writing poetry – a punishment to the class for being noisy! My poem later appeared on the front page of the school newspaper.
The Maryknoll Magazine, as well as books on mission stirred my soul to engage in mission. I chose March 25th as the day to come to a final decision, and a picture of Sr. Margaret Rose Winklemann, M.M. with a little lad from Africa in the Maryknoll Magazine provided the clincher. Maryknoll it was! I entered on September 2, 1954 at the Motherhouse in Maryknoll, NY.
It was difficult for me to adjust to the numbers of people and all the rules, since I was intense, sensitive and conscientious, but the Spirit of Maryknoll caught hold of my heart. I attended Maryknoll Teachers’ College while I was in the novitiate. I loved the expanded horizons which the classes gave me. And I was grateful to Sr. Helen Phillips, M.M. when we did our practice teaching at Our Lady of Mercy in the Bronx. I had fifty-two second grade boys.
At Reception, I received the name Sister Maret. I made my first profession at Maryknoll, NY on March 7, 1957. In 1960, I graduated with a B.S. in Education, and was assigned to Maryknoll Primary School, a Japanese school in Los Angeles, CA – somewhat disappointed that it wasn’t overseas. I taught second and seventh grades during the six years I was there. I found teaching a big challenge, as it stirred creativity in me, and opened me to the beauty of the Japanese culture, history, traditions and people. I made my final profession in Los Angeles, CA on March 7, 1963.
In 1966, I received an assignment to study at the Catholic Institute in Paris, and graduated with an M.A. in Religious Education in 1968. Much of the Second Vatican Council thinking came from and returned to this institution. New light on scripture, religious studies and teaching, as well as the French ambience were part of this special time in my life.
After teaching catechetics at Mary Rogers College for six months, mission in Japan for me began in 1969. While studying the Japanese language in Kamakura, I began working with an international, ecumenical team, the National Christian Council of Japan, in preparing and carrying out the Asian Ecumenical Conference on Development, held in Tokyo in 1971. During this time, I also taught English and studied Zen asceticism.
I returned to the Center in 1973 after suffering a breakdown. I worked in the Direct Mail office as a creative writer for ten years, crossing paths with many unique Maryknoll Sisters from here and there. I suffered further breakdowns during this period and turned to poetry to get me through. My first book, “Seasons of Life,” was printed by Maryknoll in 1974. This was the first of thirteen books which have come off different presses.
My mother died in 1983, and in 1984 I moved home to care for my father, who died in 1985. I am very grateful that I could be with my parents during their illnesses.
I was assigned to the Eastern United States Region in 1986, and found ministry for a year at “My Sister’s Place”, a shelter for homeless women and children in Hartford. All the while I kept writing away, and meeting people, like Sr. Richard Marie McKinney, M.M. who helped me to become lighter and more playful. Gradually, writing and reading poetry in nursing homes and for other gatherings evolved into doing workshops on poetry and psalm-making in prisons, shelters, schools and for parish groups.
Poetry has become mission for me, a way of connecting with myself, others and Mary of Nazareth, who has held a special place in my heart for years. I have been surprised by the messages that come through, and I would encourage anyone who feels inclined to walk this path, to pursue it. I am grateful that I have been able to be a steward of the word.
And now, ‘Thank you’ for your support, compassion, challenges and forgiveness throughout my life.
In closing, I would like to share the following poem with you, as a grateful remembrance.”
Nothing is left but a blessing.
A blessing that passes not away,
A blessing that has purified the past
Of everything that hid its radiance
A blessing that embraces you
In your loneliness,
That caresses you in your grief,
That heals you in your brokenness.
Nothing is left but a blessing.
A blessing that looks upon your mistakes
As silly, and gently smiles,
That sees only the brightness of your Spirit,
the yearnings of your heart,
a blessing that breathes the very life of God
into your being.
Nothing is left but a blessing.
A blessing that extends
To every daughter and son
In every nook and cranny of the cosmos,
A blessing that sees beyond the body,
Beyond ethnic, religious, institutional,
to the common Oneness of our inheritance.
Nothing is left but a blessing.
A blessing that is a promise
Of one joyful awakening
To the imperishable Reality,
The nameless, compassionate
Pulsing Source of Life,
we call God.”
We in turn, thank Joan, for her creative, healing presence with us. She contributed so much to the warmth and cohesiveness of our Eastern United States Region, particularly the New England area, both as an area member for eighteen years and as our Contact Person for the past four years. We often marveled at Joan’s ability to relate so genuinely with an extraordinarily diverse group of people including a Mothers’ Circle, a Wellness Group, her parish prayer group, a local Sisters’ reflection group, and our area cluster group, to mention just a few. Joan also maintained an extensive written correspondence and telephone ministry, provided companionship and support to shut-ins and neighbors, and edited a quarterly prison newsletter.
Like a wandering, free-spirited bard, Joan sought out opportunities to share her poetry, wisdom and wit with others in the ordinariness of their daily lives. She blossomed in her local community, and we in
turn were the recipients of the brightly colored flowers of her love and life among us. Joan will be dearly missed by many, many people.
We join together today with all Maryknoll Sisters around our globe, especially those of the Eastern United States Region, the Japan Region and the Center communities, and with her many friends and acquaintances from the Hartford area, in rejoicing with Joan on her joyful entrance into the eternal “playground” in heaven of our all-accepting and all-loving God.
We welcome Father Carl Meulemans, M.M. and Father Edward McLean who will con-celebrate this Eucharistic Liturgy of Christian Burial.