Janita Curoe, BVM died Friday, Feb. 10, 2017, at Marian Hall in Dubuque, Iowa. The Natural Burial Rite of Committal was held Feb. 11, 2017, in the Marian Hall Chapel. A memorial service will be held Monday, Feb. 13, 2017, with shared stories followed by liturgy. Burial was in the Mount Carmel cemetery.
She was born in Bernard, Iowa, on March 28, 1929, to William Edward and Marie Powers Curoe. She entered the BVM congregation Sept. 8, 1946, from Sacred Heart Parish, Fillmore, Iowa. She professed first vows on March 19, 1949, and final vows on Aug. 15, 1954.
Sister Janita taught elementary school and was principal in Davenport, Iowa; Chicago; Memphis and Chattanooga, Tenn.; and Clarksdale and Jackson, Miss. She served as county literacy coordinator and volunteer tutor in Canton, Miss.
She was preceded in death by her parents; sisters Mary Curoe, BVM (St. Richard) and Catherine Pfab; and brothers: Robert, Richard and John. She is survived by a sister-in-law, Janice Curoe, Dubuque; a brother-in-law, Irvin Pfab, Iowa City, Iowa; nieces; nephews; and the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, with whom she shared life for 70 years.
Sister Janita Curoe, BVM
Marian Hall, Feb. 13, 2017
Good morning and welcome to the celebration of life of our Sister Janita Curoe. Special welcome to Janine’s family present with us today, her friends, set members, and all joining us through electronic media.
Jane Therese Curoe was born on March 28, 1929, to William Edward and Marie Powers who farmed near Bernard, Iowa. She was the third of six children—three girls: Mary, Jane and Catherine, and three boys: Robert, Richard and John—all born at home. “I thought my parents were perfect,” commented Jane. “They gave me a wonderful start . . . They were very good people.”
During Jane’s senior year at Our Lady of the Angels Academy in Clinton, Iowa, a nagging thought began running through her head, especially during the quiet of prayer. To avoid it, she pretended to fall ill before every Holy Hour. Eventually, her senior teacher caught on and Jane confessed her attempt to dodge a call to religious life. Following her teacher’s suggestion, she decided to become a BVM because a Dubuque motherhouse would make family visits easier. She told no one about her plans except her mother, who was doubtful because Jane loved clothes too much. Jane stood firm against her mother’s doubt; nevertheless, she secretly spent the summer praying for a sign not to enter. None came.
So on Sept. 8, 1946, Jane entered the congregation, joining her older sister Mary, who entered in 1939 and died in 2010. The two sisters followed in the footsteps of their aunt, Sister Mary Norbertus Powers, and their grandaunt, Sister Mary Maxima Curoe. Jane received the name Janita upon her reception on March 19, 1947, professed her first vows on March 19, 1949, and lived 70 years as a BVM. Throughout her life, Janita sought God’s guidance by asking for a sign. “Some days God works in mysterious ways,” said Janita, “and other days He knocks you over the head.” However, the best thing that ever happened to her was the absence of a sign that brought her to Mount Carmel.
Janita’s first mission was at St. Paul ES in Davenport, Iowa, where she remained long enough to see her first graders graduate from eighth grade, calling it “a wonderful experience.” She also taught primary grades at St. Eugene in Chicago; Fr. Bertrand Elementary in Memphis, Tenn.; and Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Chattanooga, Tenn. Janita was an excellent teacher. She had a way of effectively handling even the youngest disruptive child. She listened to children and talked to them lovingly. She cared about them and they knew it. It was her great love that made her such an inspiring teacher.
Janita also served as principal at Sacred Heart and St. Paul in Davenport; Immaculate Conception in Clarksdale, Miss.; and Christ the King Elementary in Jackson, Miss. Immaculate Conception was an extremely poor school. In the absence of support staff, Janita filled many additional roles such as secretary and janitor. Despite these extra responsibilities, she was able to establish a government-funded hot lunch program for the children at the school.
Pope St. John Paul II called illiteracy “a hidden evil which deprives a great number of poor people of many possibilities for progress.” Janita wholeheartedly agreed. For eight years, she served as the coordinator for Madison County Literacy Program in Mississippi. She helped inmates at the state penitentiary and the county jail earn their GEDs and tutored children at the Madison County Library and at two Catholic schools. She was passionate about education and never tired of teaching children to read. Even after retiring, she remained in Mississippi to volunteer in a public school. She was invaluable and achieved marvelous results bringing the children up to grade level. Education truly was her gift to others.
Her 32 years serving the African American community in the South did come with a personal price. She wrote, “Leaving my family . . . seeing them only once or twice a year, was a loss I had not considered. [I was] not around to see my nieces and nephews grow up . . . . I barely know some of them and they barely know me.” Yet, she said, “Those were good years living and working in a warm and welcoming community.” Finally, after moving to Mount Carmel, Janita was pleased to reacquaint herself with her extended family.
During the summer of 2000, Janita spent a week building a home in Honduras with Habitat for Humanity International. She continued to be engaged in outreach activities here at Mount Carmel. She shared her personal story as a participant in the “Sisters Oral History Project” and served as a panelist for the Mission Integration and Orientation Program for Mount Carmel employees. She also volunteered at the Mount Carmel reception desks.
Janita had the sweetest nature, like a genteel southern woman, and a beautiful smile that radiated peace. With a heart of service and love, she joyfully accepted every mission. As an introvert, she enjoyed living alone with plenty of quiet time for praying and reading. Yet, she was a great person with whom to live—kind, considerate, generous and patient. One of her greatest joys was being a member of a community and making wonderful BVM friends.
Janita deeply embraced the vow of poverty. Yes, she loved nice clothes, but never bought anything new. She either sewed her own outfits or shopped at thrift stores. She also felt a responsibility to stay employed, not only to support herself, but to send more to Mount Carmel to support the novices and the infirmed. She even turned down opportunities to travel because the trips would not directly enhance her education or her work. This was the one decision that Janita regretted—but only a little bit. “My whole life was a blessing,” she remarked. “I’ve had a wonderful life.”
Janita chose the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats (Matthew 25:34-40) for today’s Gospel. Through her ministries, she fed those who hungered and thirsted for the rich fare of an education. She cared for the downtrodden and the imprisoned by giving them hope for a better life. She welcomed all and turned her back on no one. Friday, Jesus came to her and said, “Come, Janita, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kin-dom prepared for you.” We rejoice with you, our friend and sister, as you celebrate new life in kin-dom of God forever.
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