Sister Frances Rochette (Irene Marie Joyce) was a Sister of Mercy for 66 years. After graduating from Mercy High School, Detroit, she entered the Sisters of Mercy in September 1955.
Her life was devoted to healthcare ministry. She first completed a Bachelor of Science in Nursing at Mercy College of Detroit, then ministered as a staff nurse at Mercy Hospital, Muskegon, Michigan, and was a psychiatric supervisor at Mercy Sanitarium, Dyer, Indiana. Following three years of hospital experience, she was assigned to pursue a Master of Science in Nursing, which she completed at Wayne State University, Detroit. She taught for five years at Mercy College of Detroit, interspersed with pre-doctoral studies at Boston University during the summer session. Sister Fran received her Doctor of Nursing Science from the Catholic University of America in Washington DC. She rejoined the faculty at Mercy College of Detroit as Associate Professor and also served as a personal counselor to students.
In 2000, when Mercy College of Detroit partnered with Aquinas College and Saint Mary’s Mercy Hospital in Grand Rapids to offer a newly designed RN to BSN program, she was appointed to serve as Director of this innovative program. Her legacy of ministering to the sick is carried on by the many nursing students who continue to serve throughout West Michigan and beyond. Markay Rippa, Clinical Nurse Leader at Trinity Health Saint Mary’s in Grand Rapids, remembers Fran as one of the best teachers she ever had. She said that Sister Fran was a creative teacher and prepared all her students to excel in their nursing roles. Mary Harnish, Mercy Associate, as a student in the Aquinas BSN program, noted that Sister Fran was the first Sister of Mercy she had ever met. It was through an assignment that Mary completed about Catherine McAuley and Fran’s example and mentorship that led her to become an Associate.
In semi-retirement, Sister Fran volunteered at Heartside Ministries, which serves the homeless in downtown Grand Rapids and God’s Kitchen, serving nourishing meals to those in need. During the past five months, she continued her ministry to the sick. When her long-time housemate, Sister Karen Werra, was stricken with a stroke and a brain tumor that left her paralyzed, Sister Fran provided complete and compassionate care until Karen’s death on March 12, 2022. Both, now in heaven, enjoy each other’s company again.