This year, the Dominican Sisters of Peace are celebrating a year of Jubilee, commemorating milestone profession anniversaries of 70 Jubilarians, including Sister JoAnn Lamantia, a Toronto native who grew up in the St. Francis parish.
Recently reflecting on her 50 years in religious life, she stated simply, "When I was young and naive, I made a good decision."
Lamantia recalled the first time she saw a sister. "I was in the first grade, and a beautiful, tall sister walked into the room. It was at that moment I thought, 'that's what I'm going to be.'"
Throughout high school, she dated and participated in the usual high school fanfare, but she knew in her heart that she was meant to become a sister.
"My father wanted me to become a secretary, but I wanted to attend college," she recalled. She graduated from high school with a double diploma in college prep and commercial (now called business), but then eventually applied to join the Dominicans, without telling her parents.
"It wasn't until I received my formal acceptance letter that I finally told my parents I had applied," she explained. "They were not happy." In fact, when her parents dropped her off at the Motherhouse in Columbus, she recalled her father saying to her, "I'll give you two weeks before you come running home."
All in God's plan, Lamantia said she stayed, and once her father knew that she was happy, he changed his mind. She later went on to earn a bachelor's degree from the College of St. Mary of the Springs (now Ohio Dominican University in Columbus) and her master's from Marygrove College in Detroit.
For more than 32 years, Lamantia ministered as a teacher in grade schools, middle schools and junior high schools throughout Connecticut, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. As a young sister, she taught first grade for five years. "I didn't know a thing," she recalls. But as she gained experience, she said she came to love teaching.
"I especially enjoyed teaching middle school students," she said. "You have to have a sense of humor when working with older children, and they kept me laughing."
In 1999, Lamantia changed ministries, serving as a receptionist at Windsong Village in Worthington. She missed teaching, however, and a few years later, she began working as a tutor, first at the Salesian Boys and Girls Club in Columbus and then at Dominican Learning Center, also in Columbus, where she continues her ministry today.
At the center where she is known as a "grammar and essay writing guru," she has been charged with teaching students working to earn their GEDs.
In spite of the many twists and turns of life in the last 50 years, Lamantia said she has always been grateful for that fateful decision she made so many years ago without her parents' blessing and that they did finally come to see her vocation as a blessing as much as she does.