Sister Joan Allem, CSC
(Sister M. Christeta)
September 8, 1929 – July 11, 2020
Entered the Sisters of the Holy Cross from Salt Lake City, Utah on July 2, 1946
Initial Profession of Vows on February 2, 1949
The Allem family was a sprig from the lofty top of a Cedar of Lebanon, originally located in the southern bordertown of Rmeish, Lebanon, where Joseph M. Allem and Marie (Shibley) Allem were born in a Christian enclave near northern Israel. The couple eventually moved north to Beirut, a great commercial center along the Mediterranean Sea. Why they emigrated and settled in Salt Lake City, Utah is unclear, but this was the place where Joseph and Marie raised seven children, Joan being their first born in 1929. Sister Joan emulated her parents whom she remembered as “devoted, hard-working, honest people who modeled to their children the virtues of faith, integrity, loyalty.”
During the immigration process, the family name was anglicized and changed to Allen. Joan Allen first met the Sisters of the Holy Cross when she attended Judge Memorial Catholic High School in Salt Lake City, graduating in 1946. Soon after she entered the Congregation at Saint Mary’s, Notre Dame, Indiana. Upon reception of the holy habit on February 2, 1947, Miss Joan Allen became known as Sister Mary Christeta, placing her in the service of Christ the King, patron of her alma mater. By the time Sister returned to her baptismal name in the late 1960s, she and her siblings had discovered that her father’s U.S. citizenship papers recorded their surname more correctly as Allem. Sister Joan was always very proud of her Lebanese heritage, the “Alam” family reaching back to the seventeenth century in Rmeish. However, she was saddened by the numerous wars, upheavals, and displacements which devastated Lebanon in modern times.
Sister Joan Allem served 44 years in elementary education as a teacher or administrator in Catholic schools throughout California and Utah from 1949 to 1993. The native daughter of Utah gave the Diocese of Salt Lake City 23 years of ministry where she was assigned three different times, 10 of which she was the diocesan superintendent of education from 1980 to 1990. Many remember her having a no-nonsense, tough exterior, but soft heart. Her mission was to children because “the future of our country is in their hands.” She had wonderful bonds with the State of Utah public school system and was appointed to state boards and teams where she earned considerable respect for her unselfish dedication and relentless determination, offering her expertise and wisdom. In 1989 Sister Joan received, with Sister Elizabeth Marie (O’Connor), CSC and Sister M. Clarita (Stoffel), CSC, the Pro Ecclesiae Et Pontifice award in honor of the Congregation’s service to the Church and the papacy in Utah.
In 1993 Sister Joan transitioned to health care serving in various capacities at hospitals founded by the Sisters of the Holy Cross in Fresno, California; South Bend, Indiana; and Boise, Idaho, where she was the vice-president for mission at St. Alphonsus Regional Medical Center from 1994 to 1998. After administrating a facility for senior citizens, Madonna Manor in Salinas, California for three years, Sister Joan was an unselfish presence at Saint Agnes Medical Center in Fresno from 2001 to 2013 where she first worked the reception desk and then was the mission educator.
In 2013 Sister retired to Saint Catherine by the Sea in Ventura, California before moving to Saint Mary’s Convent in 2017 where she died in the first hours of July 11, 2020. Sister Joan always said that the major events of her life occurred on the feasts of the Blessed Mother from the time she was born on September 8th, the traditional observance of Mary’s birth. The matriarch of the Allem Family died on a Saturday when Catholics honor the Mother of God weekly. Sister Joan, a strong woman of faith devoted to Christ the King, now sings with us the Salve Regina. “Mother and Queen all merciful, our life, our sweetness and our hope,” show us Jesus as we continue our earthly journey.
Private services for Sister Joan Allem were held in the Church of Our Lady of Loretto Monday afternoon July 13, 2020 beginning with prayers in the Church of Our Lady of Loretto followed by interment at Our Lady of Peace Cemetery. Kaniewski Funeral Homes assisted. You are invited to donate in Sister’s name to the Sisters of the Holy Cross Ministry with the Poor Fund at www.cscsisters.org
--Sister Catherine Osimo, CSC
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