Remembering Joan Levy Earle


Remembering Joan Levy Earle

A frequent and popular contributor to igNation,  Joan Levy Earle author and artist, died on November 28 in the Ottawa Civic Hospital. 

She wrote a regular column for the Canadian Messenger of the Sacred Heart Magazine for over 20 years and worked as the publication’s Associate Editor from 2007 to 2014 when the magazine ceased publication.

A brief biography can be found on line –

The more than 60 articles and poems which she wrote for igNation reflected her deep faith and love of people. She had so much to share and she loved sharing through her articles.

To access Joan”s igNation articles, click on her name  on the left hand side under the photo of the church near the top banner of this article.

When she was asked to write a Christmas piece,  she replied: “Of course. I loved being asked. Lucky me to be able to write for this blog.” And lucky us to have had Joan writing for igNation.

In memory of Joan, we have two posts. The first are reflections on Joan by Father Philip Shano, SJ – a good friend of Joan. 

 Following Fr. Shano’s post is a reprint of one of Joan’s posts for igNation. – “So Many Goodbyes” – an article that speaks to us especially at this time.


Reflections on Joan Levy Earle

by Philip Shano, SJ

I’m sitting in my usual chair, reading and glancing over at a painting across the room. The afghan draped across the chair and the painting were both produced by Joan Levy Earle. She was also a gifted and prolific writer. Joan died on November 28, 2020. She had surgery a few weeks before and all went well, but there were complications afterwards.

I first met Joan many years ago. She worked with Fr Fred Power, SJ, as Assistant Editor of the Sacred Heart Messenger. A couple of years before the periodical ceased publication, I was assigned to work alongside Fr Power and Joan. That was the beginning of a friendship with Joan and the cast of characters who were associated with the Messenger.

There’s a long story about the decision to end publication and the intermediate step of preparing to go digital. That can be told some other time. Joan was a tremendous help in easing the difficulties faced by Fr Power. While working on the Messenger, she probably wrote hundreds of articles and edited the many articles from regular writers that Fr Power had agreed to publish.

As far as I know, the last major writing project that Joan was working on was a book about an obscure Canadian poet whom she admired. There had been other books, her visual art, her many blog posts for igNation and the other creative work she produced.

Joan had a strong faith. She was devout and befriended bishops. I believe that Archbishop Terrence Prendergast, SJ in Ottawa offered a blessing at the opening of one of her art shows. She was generous with her time and resources, especially for matters involving her faith. She was not afraid to challenge the leadership of the Church if she had a sense that it was veering from the right path. She was prepared to intervene with the Pope and Jesuit leadership in her efforts to keep the Messenger alive.

Joan’s now-deceased husband had worked for the train. She had inherited his pass. Joan made ample use of it in travels wherever the train would take her. My last visit with her was in Kingston just over a year ago. I had been invited to offer a weekend retreat. I mentioned it to Joan in one of our email exchanges.

She arranged to travel to Kingston from her home. While I gave the retreat, she did research at Queen’s on the book she was writing. We had a great visit and reminisced about Fr Power and the Messenger. I had no idea that it would be our final in-person visit, though I was aware of certain health concerns.

Joan’s faith had prepared her for the day she would face God. I’m sure that she is enjoying her heavenly interactions with all she loved in life. I suspect that she is telling God a few things about his own writing, suggesting edits and additions to clarify what he meant. Well done, good and faithful servant!



So  Many Goodbyes.

by Joan Levy Earle

Each morning, I open our local daily paper to the inside back page; that is where the obituaries are published. This morning, another familiar face was there. A Victorian Order Nurse who was a member of my church community and a woman of deep faith. Lois O’Reilly and I had been casually acquainted for many years and I knew her health had been failing, but every encounter was treasured. It had been quite a few months since I had last seen her, and now, I would be attending her wake and funeral.

Lois was a woman who encouraged many people in her quiet, steadfast way. How fortunate for me that I was one of those who received the gift of her friendship. That is one of the gifts we receive by being a regular member of a parish; support and encouragement from other parishioners.

As we age, we will naturally have to attend many wakes and funerals. Most of us who have reached the seventh decade have already said our good-byes to grandparents, parents and even, some of our siblings. Now we are losing many of our close friends.

For believers, we trust that those who are graduating to a new life on the “other side” will be gifted by reunions with other family members and friends in spirit. We are happy to pray for them as they transition from this life through to eternity; prayer is the final gift we can give to them.

Let us be grateful for our parish community. In smaller cities, we can more easily become acquainted with our neighbours, and the list of people we know can be extensive. How wonderful for their grieving families when people take the time to visit the funeral home as well as attend the funeral. One of the blessings of retirement is the availability of time to make this important gesture of friendship.

I did not know the children of Lois, but I am looking forward to telling them what a wonderful friend she was to my life. No doubt they will hear this from many friends, and it will help to heal their grieving hearts.

One way that God provides His love for us is through the people who brighten our days, encourage our dreams and offer their friendship. Let us all try harder to take the time to thank them while they are still with us, and especially, make the effort for that final farewell through the prayers that we will say on their behalf once they have passed.


May Joan and all the faithful departed rest in peace!


Joan Levy Earle was an author and artist living in Cornwall, Ontario. She was the former Associate Editor of the Canadian Messenger of the Sacred Heart magazine.

  • Lorella D'Cruz
    Posted at 03:48h, 06 May Reply

    This is a beautiful piece on the mutual blessings of friendship. Lois’s children will be grateful to hear how she brightened your day when you met. As you also remind us, the world is a happier place when we take the opportunity to show our appreciation to family and friends while we still have them with us. Thank you, Joan.

  • Peggy Spencer
    Posted at 05:54h, 06 May Reply

    A beautiful, thoughtful and a gentle reminder for me to ‘keep in touch’ with old friends, those who have moved away or who are no longer able to keep in touch themselves. I guess we can at least keep them all in our thoughts and prayers.

  • darcy Mann
    Posted at 08:33h, 06 May Reply

    I offer my condolences Joan, on the passing of your friend Lois.. Sounds like she was a very nice lady. I,m not sure if you were aware that Shelley was a V.O.N. for several years. She always said it was a very fulfilling job….. Take care.

  • Caroline Maloney
    Posted at 13:27h, 07 May Reply

    Thank you so much for this rich reflection, Joan; reminding us of the importance and special gift those people in our small parishes really are.
    That has become so real now that there are no services, or gatherings in our parish with Covid, or opportunities to meet and greet.
    Being in the parish choir, when asked to be present at funerals for those in the parish, we truly realize what a great gift these people are, and the strong influence they have on our day to day life. Thank you!

  • Dennis McCloskey
    Posted at 09:34h, 02 December Reply

    My mother was a huge fan of the writing and art of Joan, as I was. Sadly, my mother died a week before Joan did.
    Joan was a close friend and colleague of mine for many years. My wife and I will miss our regular summertime visits with Joan in Cornwall, as we passed by from Toronto on our way to PEI. We are so thankful that we have all of her books in our home as well as one of her original paintings.

  • suzanne renaud
    Posted at 10:31h, 02 December Reply

    I will miss Joan’s posts on Ignation … her essays were always beautifully written and inspiring for me. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Fr. Shano and Joan’s lovely reflection on friendship.

  • peg wilson
    Posted at 10:36h, 02 December Reply

    Thank you very much for the lovely tribute you paid Joan. Loosing her leaves a terrible hole in my life. Who will pray for me now. She was a dear friend, an ardent prayer and a lover of our lady and her church. She will be greatly missed by all whose lives she touched and there were so many. I am very grateful that I was one of them.

  • Peter Bisson
    Posted at 18:53h, 02 December Reply

    Thank you so much Philip! I will miss Joan and I am grateful for her life and your testimony. May she see her beloved Jesus face-to-face, and remember us there.

  • Carol Kyte
    Posted at 20:07h, 02 December Reply

    Thank you for this special remembrance of my big sister Joan. Father Shano, it was so kind of you to take the time and your words and observations were so perfect. Father Pungente, you know it meant a great deal to Joan to be a contributor to igNation. She truly loved her life, and cherished all of the people and experiences that made it so full and rewarding. Missing her already!

  • Philip Shano
    Posted at 15:36h, 07 December Reply

    Thanks so much for your words. Dennis, sorry to hear about your mom and her death. When I first heard of the seriousness of Joan’s hospitalization, I searched through my contacts to find your address. No luck. I was also thinking of Maureen, who was Fr Power secretary.

  • Dodzi Amemado
    Posted at 19:36h, 07 February Reply

    Joan’s pieces have always enlightened my days. Rest in peace, Joan, and pray for us!

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