Life with Mercy Adds Up to Joy
January 19, 2017
By Beth Rogers Thompson
Although Sister Joann Ury grew up Catholic and had only one lay teacher during 12 years of Catholic school in Ottawa, Ohio, she didn’t seriously consider religious vocation until later in life.
“The sisters [Sisters of the Most Precious Blood] talked to us in high school about vocations, and I thought about it,” she says, “but the term ‘discernment’ was never used back then; it was all about sacrificing. Where’s the joy?”
Instead, she began a career in accounting and married a broadcast journalist. After he died 17 years later at age 43, she overheard someone at a prayer meeting talking about vocations. “I thought, if not now, it’s going to be too late.”
By then, she had held several accounting positions and even had started her own bookkeeping business in Charlotte, North Carolina, where the couple had moved from Ohio, hoping the warmer climate would be better for her husband’s health.
Not too old after all
“I called the vocation director and I wanted her to tell me I was too old so I could tell God to stop bugging me. But she didn’t, so here I am,” Sister Joann recalls with a chuckle.
At the novitiate in St. Louis, Missouri, everything felt strange, and she missed all her friends in North Carolina. “Religious life is a culture of its own, and when you enter as an older woman, it’s a big adjustment,” she says. A turning point came at Thanksgiving, when the novices expressed their gratitude during morning prayers. “I said I was grateful I was at the novitiate, and everybody cheered.”
Back to North Carolina
In 2000 Sister Joann returned to North Carolina, where she made her perpetual vows three years later. She ministered in pastoral care, visiting parishioners’ homes and patients in hospice, as well as the sisters at Marian Center in Belmont. Today she continues to visit shut-ins in their homes and at nursing homes, as well as hospice patients.
From the basement of her home in Gastonia, Sister Joann also operates a food pantry, stocked with canned goods donated by St. Matthew Catholic Church in Charlotte. She also helps provide food and gifts for 20 to 25 needy local families each year at Christmas.
Although she was “burned out” on accounting when she entered the Community, Sister Joann has resumed that type of work, processing all checks received at Mercy Administration Center and handling payroll, budget reports and other accounting tasks at St. Gabriel Catholic Church in Charlotte.
Sisters’ joyfulness attracted her
And there’s joy. In fact, Sister Joann declares, “If you’re not joyful in your vocation, you’re in the wrong vocation.” That was one quality that attracted her to the Sisters of Mercy: “I got to know some of the sisters after my husband died and I went to a lot of their workshops. I was struck by their joy, and I didn’t even think about looking at another order.”
Besides the joy and peace derived from her life in the Community, Sister Joann—true to her accounting background—strives for balance. She stays in shape by lifting light weights and riding a stationary bike, and she enjoys attending plays at the Flat Rock Playhouse in western North Carolina and Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte.
She matter-of-factly sums up her life experience, with a shrug of her shoulders and this sage advice: “Work with what you’ve got.”