Sister Donna Jo Loeper died on August 18, 2023, in Savannah Georgia and was buried on September 15, 2023, at Saint Joseph Villa. Donna Jo began her apostolate at Archbishop Ryan Memorial Institute for the Deaf in 1983 and from there assumed the position of speech therapist at St. Edmund’s Home for Crippled Children. Donna Jo remained in this position at various locations in the Philadelphia area until 1999. Eventually, this dedicated therapist moved to Savannah, Georgia, and began her work there. Donna Jo also assumed the role of teacher in Notre Dame Academy in Savannah for seven years. In 2017, she returned to her first love of speech therapy serving as a speech language pathologist for the Chatham County Public School System.
Donna Jo began another chapter of her life in 2016 when she was diagnosed with cancer. She did not want to die, she wanted to live, and so she did for seven year through various stages of wellness and suffering. She increased her ministry of general correspondence with emails, text messages, letters, and phone calls to people with cancer and caregivers of these patients, friends from her home town of Bally, college days at Clarion, coworkers, colleagues, parishioners, committee workers, and many of our own SSJs on a similar cancer journey. Her zeal even reached out to a woman on death row. Donna Jo’s relentless and indomitable spirit kept her moving forward, her heart wide open and vulnerable. This spirit led her to start planning last year for a trip to Arizona. She wanted a retreat in the desert and to see the Grand Canyon before she was too sick to travel. Consequently, she achieved both goals by retreating in Tucson and a visit to the Grand Canyon.
Donna Jo had the ability to connect, organize, and foster a love of community in her daily life. As we remember this courageous Sister of Saint Joseph let us rejoice in her life and remember,
“O people of the Earth, lift up your heart with song and dance…You are the heart of my heart.” Rest in Peace, Donna Jo, and let your song fill the halls of Paradise.