Sister Mary Joan (AKA Sister Mary Jo) Mike died on January 2, 2019 at Ochsner Medical Center in New Orleans, LA after a second battle with cancer. The daughter of William and Agnes Mike came to the Sisters of St. Francis of Sylvania, OH from Presentation Parish in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1965. She made her first profession of religious vows in 1972 and her final vows in 1975.
Sister Mary Jo earned a Bachelor’s degree from the former Mary Manse College, Toledo, Ohio; and her Master’s from the University of Detroit. She taught in schools in Ohio, Minnesota, Michigan and Louisiana and served as principal at schools in Ohio and Mississippi. She was a beloved principal at Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary elementary in Biloxi, MS for 27 years, until her death. Sister Mary Jo loved her ministry in education and brought new ideas and ways to educate students in the 21st century. Family was very important to her and she created a family atmosphere in the school among the students, staff, faculty and parents.
Sister Mary Jo was the Victims Assistance Coordinator for the Diocese of Biloxi and served on numerous committees and task forces over the years. She came to the aid of the city of Biloxi in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina when she opened her school to the city’s first responders, who operated out of the school in the immediate days following the catastrophe. Despite the chaos, Sister Mary Jo managed the school’s reopening for regular classes within only a few weeks after the storm.
In 2010, Sister Mary Jo received the Franciscan Federation award regarding her response to Passionately Embracing Gospel Living. She received the National Catholic Education Association’s 2015 Distinguished Principal Award. That same year, Sister Mary Jo served as a liaison to the Holy See in a symposium held for Catholic Education throughout the world. She was recognized for her 25 years of service at Nativity school in 2017 with a plaque and a ticket to the Saints/Vikings opening game (being both an avid Minnesota Vikings fan as well as a New Orleans Saints fan).
In addition to her work in education, Sister Mary Jo served as the chair of Sylvania Franciscan Health Board of Trustees and served on the Board of Catholic Health Initiatives, St. Joseph Health System, Bryan, TX.
To know Sister Mary Jo was to know someone who loved her vocation as a religious Sister and educator. She loved her God, her religious community, her students, co-workers and the many families she served. Her sense of humor, her ready smile, her bravery under duress (cancer and hurricanes) are just some of the characteristics of Sister Mary Jo Mike that will be dearly missed by the Sylvania Franciscans, her sister Judi Berger, her nieces and nephews, dear friends Margy and Dale VanLerberghe of Port Clinton, OH, as well as the beloved parish family of Nativity Cathedral in Biloxi, Mississippi.