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Following her heroes

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When Hawaii native Rochelle Souza entered the convent, she followed in the footsteps of her childhood heroes – the Sisters of St. Francis and St. Joan of Arc.

The sisters were her teachers at what was then called St. Francis Convent School in Honolulu, and she was fascinated by the French saint whose name she took when she joined the sisters.

“The sisters looked like heroes, and I wanted to join them. I wanted to be one of them,” said Sister Joan of Arc. “And as a child, I was kind of tomboyish. Joan of Arc wore a suit of armor, rode a horse, and maybe she must’ve been a little bit of a tomboy. I just identified with her and her story.”

She started talking about entering religious life “probably in second or third grade.” Her grade school years were anything but saintly. She recalls being in the principal’s office often “getting dressed down for whatever.” In high school, she says she was a typical teenager.

“I dated. There were boys. But there was something missing, something nagging,” she said.

Sister Joan of Arc completed her novitiate in Syracuse and taught religious education in several New York and New Jersey parishes for several years. She returned to Hawaii and St. Francis School in 1973, leading the school through numerous changes as principal and head of school.

She recently completed writing a history of the school, which closed in 2019 after 95 years.

Sister Joan of Arc now heads a small army of her sisters living at the Plaza at Kaneohe. As a minister, she oversees their spiritual, physical and mental well-being, still serving.

“God calls,” she said. “It’s just that desire.

”National Vocation Awareness Week, celebrated Nov. 6-12, is an annual weeklong celebration of the Catholic Church in the United States dedicated to promoting vocations to the priesthood, diaconate and consecrated life through prayer and education, and to renew our prayers and support for those who are considering one of these particular vocations. If you feel a call to religious life contact the Vocation Office at 716-847-5535 or visit www.buffalodiocese.org/vocations/

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