Unruly Catholic Nuns: Faith & Feminism
Sister Jane Morrissey entered religious life 57 years ago, and is noted for her many achievements, leadership qualities, and successes. Sr. Jane has served as the site supervisor and co-founder of the Homework House of Hermano Pedro in Holyoke, Massachusetts, since 2006. She began her professional career as a professor at the College of Our Lady of the Elms in Chicopee, Massachusetts, in 1976, remaining in this position for 14 years before directing the Office of Justice and Peace in Holyoke from 1990 to 1993. She then served as a pastoral minister at Blessed Sacrament Parish in Springfield from 1993 to 1999 and president of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Springfield from 1999 to 2005. In addition to these ministries, Sr. Jane also served as chairperson of Pax Christi Massachusetts from 1994 to 1997. She also co-chaired the U.S. Federation of Sisters of St. Joseph from 2002 to 2005.
Sr. Jane pursued a formal education at the College of Our Lady of the Elms, earning a Bachelor of Arts in 1962. In 1963, a daily mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City inspired Sr. Jane to enter religious life. The Gospel reading that day was a call to help the poor and it stayed with her, leading her to the Sisters of St. Joseph of Springfield, who had taught her since she was a child, and her life-long passion to help people most in need. She obtained a Master of Arts in 1972 from the University of Massachusetts, and a Doctor of Philosophy in 1976. She went on to receive an honorary degree from the College of Our Lady of the Elms in 2007.
Active in her local community, Sr. Jane was a board member for the Mental Health Consortium in Springfield from 1980 to 1983. She founded the Police Chaplains-on-Call in Springfield in 1996 and has been a founding member of the board for Gray House, Inc., since 1982. A prolific writer, Sister Jane co-wrote the book “Gracias, Matiox, Thanks, Hermano Pedro: A Trilingual Anthology of Guatemalan Oral Tradition” in 1996. She has also contributed a number of articles to professional journals.
In light of her exceptional undertakings, Sr. Jane was named the Massachusetts Pax Christi Peacemaker in 1994 and the Pioneer Valley Notre Dame Club Exemplar for service to the church in 1997. Shortly after, she was honored with the Pynchon Award by the Advertising Club of Western Massachusetts in 2000 and the Distinguished Graduate Award by the University of Massachusetts English Department in 2001. In 2017, she was appointed Grand Marshall of the Holyoke St. Patrick’s Day Parade, a key highlight of her career. Sr. Jane was also selected for inclusion in the 24th and 25th editions of Who’s Who of American Women.