Growing up in Redwood Falls, Joanna Buckley would say she lived a pretty normal life.
The youngest child, and only daughter, of John and Caroline Buckley was involved in various activities as a Redwood Falls High School student. She worked at the local Dairy Queen, took piano lessons from Carolyn Laufenburger and had plenty of friends.
Yet, after graduating from RFHS in 1988, Buckley’s life took a more non-traditional path, but it has been one that Buckley feels has blessed her and has given her the opportunity to bless many others along the way.
Now Sister Joanna Buckley, the Redwood Falls native, calls Waukesha, Wis. home. There she lives as part of the Shoenstatt Sisters of Mary community with 40 other sisters ages 20-95.
A life of service to others and to God called to Sister Joanna, and for that life of commitment she was nominated for and has been selected to be inducted into the Redwood Valley Hall of Fame this year.
“Overall, I felt my years in Redwood Falls were very positive,” said Buckley. “I always felt I was part of a very supportive environment. I enjoyed life in Redwood Falls – growing up there was a wonderful experience.”
Education was stressed in the Buckley household, and Sister Joanna said she has fond memories of her time at Lincoln High School.
Buckley added she feels very honored to be inducted at the same time as one of the teachers, Jan Ellingworth, who had a very positive influence on her life, as well as Dr. Tom Gross – who is the dad of her best friend from high school.
“I was raised to have good moral values, and faith was always an important part of my life,” said Buckley.
So, when she announced she wanted to give her life in service of God, the rest of her family was very supportive of that decision.
Like other high-school students, Buckley said she thought about different career options, such as teaching or nursing, but in the end she felt called to live a life of service to God.
Buckley attended the College of St. Benedict for one year where she studied music and theology, and the following year she entered the Catholic religious community that has been part of her life ever since.
“I was 19 when I chose that path,” Buckley said, adding she moved to Wisconsin in 1990.
Buckley said as she considered her future nothing really seemed to click, adding every career option just did not seem to suit her. She just didn’t feel there was any job that could give her the fulfillment she was searching for.
It was when she decided on a life devoted to God and service to humanity that Buckley said she truly found peace.
Throughout her life of service and ministry, Buckley has served in various roles and in different locations from doing youth ministry in Sleepy Eye and working as the formation director for the young women joining the community to her current role as provincial superior for the community. The process of joining a community is a long one.
After submitting an application to become part of the community and then being accepted, each individual spends eight-and-a-half years preparing themselves for that role. That provides them with the time needed to ensure that this really is what they are called to do.
Over the years, Buckley has also earned a degree from Marquette University in theology and religious education. That she uses to enhance the roles she has had in ministry. Buckley made her final and full commitment to God and her community in 1998.
“I said yes to God and my community forever at that time,” she said.
In her current role as provincial superior, Buckley serves all of the Shoenstatt houses in the United States, as well as those in Mexico, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.
“I visit each of the houses at least once each year,” she said, adding she also has made visits to the Shoenstatt community in Germany which is where her community got its start.
Buckley was first appointed to her current role as provincial superior in 2009, and she was reappointed to serve another six-year term in 2015.
Living a life of service in humility, Buckley said the idea of being inducted into the Redwood Valley Hall of Fame would never have crossed her mind.
“I am incredibly honored by it,” she said. “It is never something I would have expected. I always appreciated the community where I grew up and the school system where I was taught.”
Buckley said she considers it her greatest honor to be able to serve God and people, adding her life is a continuous experience of growth in faith, ministry, humility and compassion for others.
While Buckley grew up in a house with three brothers, she has found many sisters in her family today as she continues to answer her call.