Sister Shirley Tousignant, CSJ
(Sister Elizabeth Marie)
Sister Shirley Tousignant was raised in Lincoln Park, Michigan, one of three children born to Leona and Harry Tousignant. She attended St. Henry’s School where the Sisters of St. Joseph of Nazareth, Michigan were her first teachers. As a teenager, the Tousignants moved to Oklee, Minnesota, a small town about 50 miles from Crookston, Minnesota, where she met the Sisters of St. Joseph of Bourg; she decided to enter the community at the age of 16. After professing vows, she moved to St. Paul, Minnesota to enroll in St. Catherine’s College, where she earned a BA in elementary education.
For twenty-five years, Sister Shirley instructed students at all elementary levels, from kindergarten to eighth grade, although she especially loved working with sixth graders. She was an innovator in the classroom, often writing special programs and revamping religious instruction to engage and enrich her students. This experience served her well; she was invited to be the city-wide coordinator of religious education in Grand Forks, North Dakota, which allowed her to work with youth in the city’s three parishes.
Sister Shirley stepped into a new role as the pastoral associate at St. Michael’s Church in Grand Forks. She walked with parishioners as they experienced all kinds of challenges, including poverty, addiction, and caring for aged family members. She remembers this time as an education in living the human condition and was blessed by both the challenges and rewards of this ministry.
When her mother passed away suddenly, Sister Shirley relocated to St. Petersburg, Florida, to care for her father. During this time, she worked once again in pastoral ministry and in teaching, until she returned to the north for retirement. She rediscovered her love of creating handmade pottery at “Pottery House,” a ministry of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Returning to Minnesota brought her nearly full circle. She visited a place where many of her former students lived to find a beautiful flower garden planted years before. The circle was completed when the Sisters of St. Joseph of Medaille, Sister Shirley’s founding community, joined with others in 2007 to create the current Congregation of St. Joseph. This included the Sisters of St. Joseph of Nazareth, whom Sister Shirley first met in grade school. Today, Sister Shirley lives at Nazareth Center in Kalamazoo and is grateful for all the blessings of the last 75 years.
Sister Joan LaPlace, CSJ
(Sister Mary Paul)
Sister Joan LaPlace was born in Almirante, Panama, the first of four children of Leo Paul and Julia Foye Laplace. She was introduced to the Sisters of St. Joseph in New Orleans at Our Lady of the Rosary parochial school, and later at St. Joseph Academy. After her freshman year at Loyola University New Orleans, Sister Joan entered the novitiate in New Orleans, professing first vows in 1963. She earned a B.S. in Secondary Education in English and French at Loyola University New Orleans and began teaching at St. Joseph’s Academy in Baton Rouge. In 1968, she earned an M.Ed. in Counseling and Administration at Louisiana State University.
Many years of Sister Joan’s ministry have been in service to St. Joseph’s Academy in Baton Rouge where she has held various positions beginning as teacher, counselor, and administrator. In the 1980’s, she began the school’s first development program, now known as an advancement program. In 1991, Sister Joan began to work closely with the Brothers of the Sacred Heart and their colleagues on the development team at Brother Martin High School in New Orleans. She returned to SJA in 2006 after Hurricane Katrina to continue working in the mission advancement office.
Sister Joan retired in 2019 and resides at Hundred Oaks Center in Baton Rouge where she enjoys volunteering weekly at the St. Vincent dePaul Pharmacy and the archives department of the Diocese of Baton Rouge. She also serves as the diocesan liaison for consecrated men and women. She enjoys keeping close to family – her sister Peggy and husband Phil and brother Paul and wife Mary along with 8 nieces, one nephew, and one great nephew – reading, sharing meals, visits with friends, and gardening.
Reflecting on her 60 years as a Sister of St. Joseph, Joan says, “I am in awe of the God who called me to this life and grateful every day for the unfailing support and encouragement of my family and my CSJ sisters.”
Sister Sharon Marie McCauley, CSJ
Sister Sharon Marie McCauley was one of three children born to Florence and Jerry McCauley. She was introduced to the sisters early on as a student at St. Rose Elementary School and St. Joseph Academy in New Orleans, from which she graduated in 1960. After entering the community, Sister Sharon Marie earned her teaching certificate at St. Joseph Junior College, and went on to earn a B.A. in Elementary Education at St. Mary’s Dominican College.
Sister Sharon Marie taught in parochial schools for fourteen years in the New Orleans Diocese at Our Lady of the Rosary, St. Pius X, St. Rose de Lima, and Sacred Heart. After serving three years in parish ministry, she transitioned to working in admissions at Southern Baptist Hospital. It was during this time that Sister Sharon Marie took up a new interest—running! Between 1979 and 1986, she completed three marathons in New York and New Orleans.
Today Sister Sharon Marie lives at Mt. St. Mary in Wichita, Kansas, where she moved following Hurricane Katrina. Although she found relocating difficult initially, she says being in Wichita has “been a complete blessing.” She enjoys visiting with the sisters in Joseph and Marian Halls, reading at daily Mass, and receiving the sacraments. She is faithful to her primary ministry: corresponding to friends, family, and employees with handwritten cards in recognition of birthdays, deaths, celebrations, and other life events.