Sister of Charity Joyce Brehm Celebrates Golden Jubilee
Born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, Sister Joyce Brehm was educated by the Sisters of Charity at St. William School and Seton High School, both in Price Hill. While she admired the Sisters she came to know at the school and in the parish, Sister Joyce was adamant that she would forge her own path. She attended Thomas More College in Fort Mitchell, Kentucky, and providentially found herself doing a work study program with Santa Maria Community Services, back in the Price Hill neighborhood.
There she met Sister Kateri Maureen Koverman, a dynamic Sister of Charity, who would soon be leaving for ministry in Vietnam. While Sister Kateri always saw the possibility, it wasn’t until Sister Joyce visited a former Santa Maria coworker that the question finally came up: ‘Have you ever thought about becoming a Sister of Charity? Sister Kateri always thought you would be a good Sister.’ In that moment Sister Joyce reached out to Sister Kateri and the rest fell into place. She entered the Community on Sept. 1, 1972. This year she celebrates 50 years as a Sister of Charity.
Upon entering the Community, Sister Joyce spent eight years ministering in Cincinnati’s inner city, doing home visits to the elderly in the West End and Over-the-Rhine neighborhoods of Cincinnati. From 1982 until 1991, she served as a pastoral minister in Georgia and Tennessee.
Her five years in Cumberland City, Tennessee (population 276 at the time), serving with the late Sister Jean Therese Durbin, were the highlight of her ministry years. “We formed good communities in the parishes, offered Communion services and Bible studies, began parish councils and finance boards, and did all of the things that parish life involves,” she recalled. “We sometimes led the Sunday service as there were no priests available to travel to us. Sister Jean and I had great community together and had numbers of Sisters of Charity to come to visit us.
In 1991, both Sisters moved to Dayton, Ohio. In those nine years Sister Joyce served as a spiritual director, volunteered at a homeless clinic and was active in the Sisters of Charity Associate program. She and Sister Jean Therese would bring the Associates together monthly in their home for reflection and fellowship. In 2001, they returned to the Cincinnati area and lived and volunteered at St. Joseph Home in Sharonville, a sponsored ministry of the Sisters of Charity.
Soon after Sister Joyce made the decision to move to the Sisters of Charity Motherhouse to live. With the Motherhouse as her home base, she became involved in various volunteer ministries. At first she was asked to help in Medical Records in Mother Margaret Hall. Later she taught computer to preschoolers at Peaslee Daycare in Over-the-Rhine. Realizing the limitations of her Multiple Sclerosis, she resigned from the position.
In 2003, Sister Joyce began her work in the Sisters of Charity Archives. “My interest was not in history,” she explains, “but I could do the basic technology they needed to computerize records. My first job had to do with typing files into the computer. At one point I became aware of the audio (cassettes) and video (VHS tapes) that we had stored. I offered to copy them to the computer. There were hundreds of them.”
As things evolved, Sister Joyce began organizing the Archives inventory and artifacts. Currently she is working on photos, and enjoys finding ways to share the heritage and bring both information and fun into the lives of others. This has involved showing video in Mother Margaret Hall, posting video on Vimeo, and using the Community listserv to share photos.
Looking back over her years of living in the Motherhouse, Sister Joyce says, “I can see that I’ve done a ministry to employees. Being a ‘west-sider’, some were neighbors, classmates, even distant relatives. I was involved in a fundraiser for a former classmate who lost both legs to diabetes. I spent time with two boys dropped off from school until their mom was finished working. At Christmas I wrote letters from Santa for their kids and grandkids. I’ve been out to dinner with some retired employees.”
In her free time she enjoys the outdoors and maintains a very social schedule, with guests visiting the Motherhouse frequently for lunch or other activities.