By Sister Jeanne Hildenbrand, SSND
Joseph M. and Mary Thecla Simon Bocklet, good Catholics and residents of Philadelphia, Penn., welcomed the birth of their youngest child, a daughter, on December 27, 1932. Joan Julia completed the Bocklet family of five children. She had two sisters and two brothers. Joan was baptized at St. Peter’s Church, Philadelphia on the first day of the new year, 1933.
“School life” began for Joan in September 1938, at St. Peter’s School, where she was taught by the School Sisters of Notre Dame. It was a “happy day” in May, 1939 when Joan received her first Holy Communion at St. Peter’s Church. She was confirmed at St. Peter’s two years later by Bishop Hugh Lamb.
Joan was a grammar school student during the years of World War II. She told the following in her autobiography. “Having been taught a great devotion to the Blessed Mother by my parents, I made a promise to Our Lady that I would give my life to God if she would bring my brothers home safely from the war. My brothers did return safely, and although I still had devotion to our Lady I gave little thought to the promise I had made.”
Joan graduated from St. Peter’s School in June 1946 and spent her high school years at Immaculate Conception Academy, Philadelphia, where she was taught by the Religious of the Good Shepherd.
As a sophomore, Joan “began to think of the promise I had made to Our Lady. Determined to keep it, I started to pray daily for the grace of a vocation.” At her high school graduation on June 9, 1950, Joan had “only one aim for the future, that of entering the convent.”
Joan received the bonnet at St. Peter’s Convent on August 28, 1950. As a candidate, she taught third grade at St. John’s School, Bergenfield, N.J. She entered the novitiate on July 16, 1952 and was given the name, Sister Thecla Marie. Sister Thecla Marie professed her first vows on July 24, 1953.
Joan received a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education with a minor in English from St. John’s University, Jamaica, N.Y. in 1962. She earned a Master of Arts degree in Education with a minor in Mathematics from Villanova University in 1970.
As Sister Thecla Marie, Joan continued her teaching career at St. Anthony of Padua School, South Ozone Park, N.Y. (1953-58) and St. Boniface School, Philadelphia (1958-61). Called to Florida, she taught at St. John’s School, St. Petersburg Beach (1961-66) before becoming principal at Corpus Christi, Temple Terrace (1966-67) and St. John’s (1967-70). In Baltimore, she was administrator of schools at Our Lady of Fatima (1970-74) and St. Pius X (1974-80).
In 1980, she took time for personal renewal at St. Mary of the Pines, Chatawa, Miss., and completed the year teaching at St. Peter School, Philadelphia. Next she was principal at Resurrection School, Ellicott City, Md. (1981-87), then went to Sacred Heart parish in Tampa, Fla., where she was program director of parish social services (1987-89) and principal of Sacred Heart School (1989-94). Joan became assistant administrator (1994-2002), then director of education, at St. Vincent’s Orphanage, Tacony, Philadelphia (2002-05). She also ministered as a volunteer at Aid for Friends for more than 10 years. Aid for Friends is a Philadelphia program devoted to alleviating the hunger and loneliness of homebound individuals. Joan cooked and delivered meals to the elderly and disabled homebound; she listened to their problems and made a difference in their lives.
Sister Joan Bocklet rejoiced in her sisterhood and was proud to be a School Sister of Notre Dame. She was a woman who allowed God’s grace to touch her life and to keep the flame of love alive in her heart. In her quiet way, she woke the love of God through her service to others. She had a dedication to young and old, understood their dignity, and shared with them in a deep and loving way.
As Joan took leave of the children of Sacred Heart School in 1994, they expressed their appreciation of her efforts to better their school, but they especially cherished the love she gave them, as she listened to their problems, worried about them, and gave them guidance and support.
Joan embraced God’s grace and there was peace about her as she approached the end of life with confidence, love and gratitude. Joan died at Villa Assumpta in Baltimore on April 17, 2019.
The Liturgy of Christian Burial was celebrated by Rev. Paul M. Kennedy, pastor of St. Katherine of Siena Church, Philadelphia, Joan’s parish church. Joan’s cremains were buried at Villa Maria Cemetery, Glen Arm Rd., Glen Arm, Md. Sister Joan Bocklet is survived by nieces and nephews.