Sister M. Thomas (Joan/Johanna) Norris was a Sister of Mercy for 78 years. Sister Thomas held degrees in education – a Bachelor of Arts from Mount St. Mary College in Hooksett, New Hampshire, and a Master of Arts from Loyola University in Los Angeles, California.
For fifty years, Sister Thomas’s ministry as a Sister of Mercy was in education, teaching in elementary schools in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and California. In New Hampshire, Sister Thomas taught primary grades at St. Joseph School, Blessed Sacrament School, St. Anthony School, and St. Catherine School, all in Manchester; St. Mary Schools in Franklin and Dover; and St. Peter School in Concord. In Massachusetts, she taught at St. Ann School in Gloucester and California at Mary Immaculate School in Pacoima.
Sister Thomas was known as a strong primary grade teacher who brought out the best in all students under her care. A second grader once said, ‘Sister, you are like a mother chick for the class.” After that, she thought of her students as her chickadees. A former student captured her influence when Sister Thomas received an anonymous donation of fifteen $100 bills with a note that said, “[You} never gave up on slow kids, you always kept telling them with love and devotion to try harder… [You] were no pushover! I own my own business and am very successful in work.”
Sister Thomas was gifted in storytelling and writing poetry. As part of her Christmas–themed curriculum, she engaged her students in reading her spiritual adaptation of the classic poem “Twas the Night before Christmas,” entitled “The Savior Arrives.” On December 24, 1999, the poem was published in the Manchester Union Leader newspaper.
Retiring from teaching after fifty years, Sister Thomas volunteered at St. Catherine School in Manchester as a tutor, at Warde Rehabilitation and Nursing Center as an assistant in mailings and a helper in the care of the elderly and infirmed, and at New Horizons for New Hampshire as a cook for seven years.