Sister Joyce Horbach, OSF

Sister Jocye Horbach, OSF, died on March 5, 2015.

In life’s journey, there may be moments when we sense that God is calling us into the unknown. Sr. Joyce would experience this often in her long life.

On March 23, 1916, John and Gertrude (Fuchs) Horbach gave birth to their seventh child, whom they named Colettta Margaret. At that time the family lived four miles south of Templeton, Iowa, but after the birth of their next child they moved to a nearby 120-acre farm.

Coletta spent a happy childhood surrounded by love from her parents, three older sisters, and four brothers. On the farm, the children developed a deep love of the land, along with an understanding of the importance of hard work.

Coletta’s parents were determined to provide a Catholic education for their children, even when this caused temporary disruptions in the family. During the winter months, Coletta’s Mother and the school-age children would move to town to ensure that snow and ice would not disrupt their attendance at Sacred Heart School. It was there that Coletta made the acquaintance of the Dubuque Franciscans.

After graduating in 1932, Coletta stayed home to help on the farm.   In 1936 she entered Mount St. Francis, but left two months later. Her spirit was not at peace, however. She said “The Hound of Heaven kept pursuing me.” In January, 1938, she returned to the congregation. At reception on August 12 of the same year she took the name, Sr. Mary Joyce.

Following her novitiate, Sr. Joyce began a 38-year career as a teacher of kindergarten through fifth grade in the congregation’s schools at Sacred Heart, Dubuque: Riverside, Sioux City; and Luxemburg, Iowa; Melrose Park and Niles in Illinois; and Portland, Oregon.   Upon retiring from teaching she moved back to Dubuque and began domestic work at Holy Family Hall.

But the Hound of Heaven was not finished with Joyce. She became sensitized to the devastating threat of nuclear war, and the many attendant social injustices. She began by writing letters, and then felt herself called to take action. In 1981 she accepted the invitation of her nephew, Father Darrell, to open a Nuclear Freeze Office in Omaha. While there, she participated in peace actions at SAC. Her protests resulted in court action and she was given a 35 day jail sentence. She retired to Mount St. Francis in 1988, but Fr. Darrell was again the voice of the Spirit drawing her out. The next year she accepted his invitation to move to Chicago, committing herself to a month’s trial basis. The month turned into seven years, during which she lived in a peaceful community, taught English to recent immigrants, and gave service at a 250-bed homeless shelter.

After many demonstrations and six arrests, Joyce’s return to Mount St. Francis in 1995 was final. As long as her health permitted she continued her involvement in peace and justice issues, attending the annual gathering of peace activists at the School of the Americas in Fort Benning, GA. She constantly read and educated herself and her companions, and wrote many letters to newspapers both religious and secular.   She moved to Holy Family Hall in 2008.

Sister is survived by nieces, nephews and her Franciscan sisters with whom she shared over 76 years of her life.

Sister was preceded in death by her parents and her brothers and their wives, Jack (Lou Retta), Nick (Lou), Joe, (Mildred) and Bill (Leona); her sisters and their husbands, Mayme and Ambrose Bierl, Margaret and Frank Muhlbauer and Rita (Norbert) Rupiper.