Joan Panella, SNDdeN, was a native of San Francisco who entered the Sisters of Notre Dame in 1958, and took the name Sister Marie Angele. She taught in Notre Dame elementary schools in Salinas (Sacred Heart and Madonna del Sasso), Campbell, Folsom and at Notre Dame High School, Alameda.
After receiving a Master’s of Social Work and a license as a clinical social worker from Santa Clara University, she used her natural empathy for others at Notre Dame High School in San Jose, and then in campus ministry at San Jose State.
While there, Sister Joan recognized the pain and unmet needs of gay and lesbian Catholics and their families, and encouraged diocesan support in addressing their needs. She continued to serve on the committee to network and provide resources for individuals, parishes and priests ministering to the LGBT community. Sister Joan was also a medical social worker for fifteen years at the Community Hospital in Los Gatos, ensuring that those being discharged were able to access the care and services they needed.
When the Notre Dame de Namur Province Center opened in 2003, Sr. Joan was asked to serve as the residence administrator. Recently, she was enjoying her ministry at St. Nicholas and St. William Parish in Los Altos, and her service on the Board of Directors for Notre Dame High School, San Jose.
In May 2018, when Sister Joan celebrated 60 years as a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur, long-time friend Ellen MacLeod Mahon thanked her “for a lifetime of knowing your teasing humor, your dedication and generosity, your steadfast determination and your solid loyalty to friends and anyone in need.” Sr. Joan referred at that Jubilee time to a favorite passage from Scripture: “I know the plans I have in mind for you; they are plans for peace, to give you a future filled with hope.” (Jeremiah 29). We are confident that she is now enjoying God’s loving plans for her.
Preceded in death by her parents, John and Lucile Panella, Sr. Joan will be greatly missed by her cousins, Donald R. Stephens (San Francisco), Brian R. O’Leary (Modesto), Mary-Kevin Willey (Elk Grove), and Jeanie Jenks (Redmond, OR), many former students and friends, and her Sisters of Notre Dame.
Mass was celebrated on Friday, January 11th at 11:00 a.m. at the Province Center in Belmont and Sr. Joan is interred at Santa Clara Mission Cemetery. Click here to read the eulogy offered by Sister Sharon McMillan.