Sister Joanna Ohlandt

Jun 5, 2024

Joanna Ohlandt A

Sister Joanna was happily teaching her elementary school class at St. Teresa  Avila parish in Ozone Park  when a phone call changed the course of her life. It was Mother Immaculata, the General superior (president) at the time who asked, “ Sister, would you consider going to Puerto Rico?” Startled because she had never considered this nor had she volunteered to go,S. Joanna couldn’t think of a reason to say no. So, in August of 1960, she took the plane to Puerto Rico.

She arrived in a small town called Lajas knowing no Spanish and began teaching math in Academia San Luis. This began a ministry in Puerto Rico and Colombia that would span more than 20 years.

From 1960 -1981 S. Joanna ministered in San Luis in Lajas. Collegio San Jose in San German, Academia Santa Maria in Ponce and Catholic University of Puerto Rico in Ponce. In 1971. she was elected Vicar of Puerto Rico, a position in which she represented the General Superior of the Congregation.

In 1977, she and S. Teresa de la Cruz responded to the call to train leaders in the camp of Colombia. It was a tropical region on the border of Venezuela newly opened to colonization. They were welcomed by beautiful people living in extremely primitive conditions. There was no electricity, no running water, people cooked over open fires, no available medical care for those who were injured, mass every few months and no other formal religious practices.  There was a need to train leaders in religious practice and in how to improve their lives. S. Joanna and S. Teresa became part of the community and began to work. They worked with the local clergy and eventually, a center was built where leaders could be trained. These were fruitful and happy years. S. Joanna says, “I learned in Colombia what you can do and how you can live with very little.”

In 1982, S. Joanna returned to the United States. She was elected to leadership and served as a Councillor until 1986. During that time she not only served in the ministry office, but she also taught Spanish in the Diocesan Spanish Institute. She was re-elected Councillor in 1986 and during that period she also served as administrator of Maria Regina healthcare facility. After leaving Maria Regina she became Director of the Catechumenate for Spanish Speaking Persons and Outreach Coordinator at St. Francis de Sales, a parish in Patchogue with a significant Hispanic population..

After a full life of ministry, S. Joanna is now retired. She says; ”The best thing that happened to me was to go to Puerto Rico and to meet people who opened my eyes to what it means to be poor and to understand what Christ meant by the poor. That’s why I went to Colombia and that opened my eyes to blessed are the poor in spirit.” 

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