Sister Jo Ann Showalter
Sister Jo Ann Showalter
Members of the Sisters of Providence, Mother Joseph Province, serve Alaska, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, California, El Salvador and the Philippines. This year, one sister with Oregon connections celebrates her 25th jubilee.

Sister Jo Ann Showalter was born in McMinnville, the eldest of four brothers and three sisters. Her family moved from the Willamette Valley to Rogue River, then back to Salem where she grew up and graduated from high school.

She first considered becoming a sister when she was 12. “It stuck with me until high school, but then I got sidetracked, married and had two boys,” she said.

She eventually divorced, and when the boys were raised and on their own, “the call kept coming back.”

“I talked to my pastor and expected him to say, ‘Oh Jo Ann, you can’t do that, you’re too old and you have kids.’”

Instead he referred her to a Sister of St. Mary of Oregon and she started serious discernment. “But it was a letter to then-vocations-director Sister Bea LaFramboise that set me on the way to becoming a Sister of Providence,” Jo Ann said. “She invited me to a retreat, and by the time I got back home again I knew where I was going to be.”

Jo Anne entered the novitiate in 1994 and during her second year worked in Portland as an ultrasound technologist for Providence Hospital. She made her first profession Dec. 29, 1996, the feast of the Holy Family.

Sister Jo Anne went back to school at Marylhurst University and earned a bachelor’s degree in religion and philosophy, with a core in pastoral care.

After professing final vows in 2000, Sister Jo Ann joined the formation team while studying for her master’s degree. In 2009, she was on the community life team for the sisters at Mount St. Joseph and was elected to councilor.

For the past few years, Sister Jo Ann has worked with the Reclaiming Earth Committee. “I come from generations of farmers, living from the land,” she said.

Jo Ann was drawn to the land as a high school student and eventually became an honorary member of the Future Farmers of America. “I chose a master’s degree in earth literacy,” she said.

She was able to attend the 2012 U.N. Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro, was grateful to have had February 2019 down under — a sabbatical in Australia and New Zealand where she spent time at a retreat center by the ocean.

Sister Jo Ann said she also feels blessed to be a great-grandmother of four boys. “As one of the few ‘sister moms’ in the community, I thoroughly enjoy time with my ‘greats.’”

As for what’s ahead, she said, “I believe deeply and sincerely in the call of discernment.” When times get tough, she reminds herself: “I am where I am called to be.”