2015 Jubilarian – Joy (Marie Michael) Halpin


Halpin, Joy

Sister Joy Halpin grew up in Marine City, Mich., watching the tanker ships on the St. Clair River. Her older brother eventually worked on one of those ships and she would stand on the banks and wave to him as he passed by. Each night, her family said the rosary and on nights when her older siblings (she was the youngest of seven) wanted to go out with friends, her older brother paid her a quarter to “zip” through the rosary. She used her earnings to buy presents for her parents.

Her mother wanted to be a nun but fell in love with Sister Joy’s father. Once they married and had children, her mother hoped one of her daughters would become a sister. That was the farthest thing from Sister Joy’s mind though. She enjoyed the activities typical of a young woman. A friend insisted she consider a vocation, but Sister Joy told her in no uncertain terms that she “did NOT want to be a nun.” Her introduction to the IHM Sisters had not been favorable; after she was expelled from the public school, she transferred to Holy Cross in eighth grade, and the sisters were hard on her.

Her friends continued to urge her to consider a vocation, until finally she relented and decided to “try it out.” She recalls crying through her entire novitiate years because she was so homesick. To distract her and ease her homesickness, the community sent Sister Joy to teach first and second grades at St. Joseph in Monroe. She fell in love with the children.

Sister Joy spent 16 years teaching first- and second-graders in the Detroit area (as well as three years at St. Philip in Battle Creek, Mich.) She considers these the most important grades to teach. “It’s when the students need to learn so much to get a good start to their educations.”

Sister Joy had received her master’s degree in biology, and after teaching grades four, five and eight for four years at Holy Name, Birmingham, Mich., and grade six at Our Lady of Good Counsel in Detroit for three years, she made the switch to teaching high school biology, first at Lorain Catholic (Lorain, Ohio), and then at St. Mary Academy. She spent a number of years teaching religious education in Michigan and North Dakota; engaged in parish ministry at St. Stephen’s Mission in Wyoming; taught adult education and GED classes in Texas and Montana and served as a driver for other IHM Sisters back in Michigan.

One of her greatest joys in the community was taking part in Sister Mary Ellen Keyes’ 30-day retreat, which deepened her relationship with God, her “very best friend in all the world.” She recalls hearing God’s voice once while she was at St. Patrick in Detroit. She heard God say, “Don’t be afraid, I am with you.” Those words have encouraged Sister Joy and have stayed with her ever since.