Sr. Joel Sperier
Born in New Orleans on March 3, 1932, Joel was the daughter of Paul Sperier and Aline Reaney of Algiers. Having been educated by the Marianites both at Holy Angels and at St. John Academy in Franklin, Joel entered the congregation of the Marianites of Holy Cross in New Orleans on August 3, 1950. When she received the habit in 1951, Joel was given the name Sister Mary Magdalene. She pronounced temporary vows on August 15, 1952 and made her perpetual profession on August 15, 1955.
Sister earned a Master’s degree in English literature from Xavier University in New Orleans and was involved in both elementary and secondary education. She taught grammar school at St. Cecilia, New Orleans; Sacred Heart, Morgan City; St. Basil, Plaquemine; St Charles, Lake Charles; St. Alphonsus, Ocean Springs; and St. John, Franklin.
Moving to secondary teaching, Sr. Mary Magdalene returned to her baptismal name of Joel and taught English at Holy Angels, New Orleans; St. Francis de Sales, Houma; Sacred Heart, Ville Platte (where she also served in administration as principal); Vandebilt, Houma; Holy Cross High School, New Orleans; and finally at St. Joseph High School in Plaucheville. There she ministered for over fifteen years, sometimes as teacher, sometimes as librarian. Sister Joel was a big help to the brothers who served as principals: Brother Anthony Dugas, FSE, and Brother André Lucio, FSE. Both counted on Sr. Joel’s support at the school.
In addition to her experiences in American schools, Joel also taught, during the 1970s, in the British School System in Yorkshire, England, and at Taymouth Castle School in Perthshire, Scotland. In the mid-1980s, Sister spent some months at the motherhouse in France doing research in preparation for the writing of the Marianite annals.
Intelligent and well-read, Joel was personable and easy to be with. According to Sr. Mary David Hecker who lived with her for eighteen years, “Sister Joel had an engaging personality and was kind and helpful, willing to assist others with spelling, grammar, and composition. If anyone wanted a letter written, they had only to give her the idea and she would compose a perfect letter.”
Sister Joel’s only sister, Muriel Dittmer, had died quite young, and Muriel’s two children, Charles and Susie, were Joel’s family. She was also especially close to her dear friends, L.O. and Scotty Broussard of New Iberia.
Suffering from severe heart problems, Joel entered Prompt Succor Nursing Home in early 2011 and died there on Friday, April 22, 2011. Her last words were prayers to St. Joseph to whom she was greatly devoted and whom she called “Poppa Joe”. Her favorite picture of St. Joseph graced her walls, and by her example, she promoted devotion to him.
A wake service was held on Monday evening, April 25, 2011, and the Mass of the Resurrection was celebrated in the chapel of Prompt Succor Nursing Home on Tuesday morning. A number of friends from Plaucheville, family members, many Marianites and others were in attendance. Sister’s body was taken to New Orleans where she was buried that afternoon in the Marianite mausoleum at Our Lady of Holy Cross.
May Sister Joel’s soul rest in peace!