Give Marquette

Marquette University Alumni Association

Klingler College of Arts and Sciences Recipients

A Person for Others Award

Sister Joan M. Barina, MMSSISTER JOAN M. BARINA, MMS, ARTS '51

Albany, N.Y.

“Words to live by” — we all know the phrase. Many of us admire words of wisdom that provide guiding principles. But Sister Joan Barina truly embodies her favorite quote, articulated by priest and author Henri J.M. Nouwen: “Our greatest fulfillment lies in giving ourselves to others.”

As a medical technologist and member of the Medical Mission Sisters, Sister Joan has given of herself to meet the spiritual, medical and material needs of the poor for more than 50 years. After earning her Marquette degree, she pursued her aptitude for science, receiving certification as an MT at St. Luke’s Hospital in Milwaukee. She subsequently worked at the University of California before pursuing her desire to give to others — especially the underserved — by joining the Medical Mission Sisters in 1961.

Sister Joan’s first mission assignment was as chief technologist at Holy Family Hospital, Atlanta’s first integrated hospital. Her next mission took her to Patna, India, where she helped found a medical laboratory school. She returned to the U.S. in 1973 and earned a master of public health in microbiology from the University of California’s School of Public Health. Despite the range in assignments, she always focused on her personal mission to give to others.   

Sister Joan wrote a new chapter in giving when assigned to the Native Medical Center in Anchorage, Alaska, where she met Sister Joyce Ross, RSM. For the next 30 years, they partnered to minister to the spiritual and physical needs of Kenai’s Catholic community. When the Kenai parish lost its priest in 1980, Sister Joyce was appointed pastoral administrator and Sister Joan became pastoral associate.

Joan recalls: “Being with people in all situations of life brought fulfillment of another kind. It enhanced and deepened my own spiritual life.”

She and Sister Joyce retired from parish ministry in 2009 but felt the need to tell their story, so they co-authored A Journey with the Real Church: Faith in the Last Frontier, to be published in the near future.

Fun facts about Sister Barina:
Hometown: Racine, Wis.
Favorite quote: “If you love, you really want to serve and not just work. One does not spare oneself, if one loves.” — Anna Dengel, founder of the Medical Mission Sisters
Someone alive or dead she’d like to have dinner with: Her dear Marquette friends: Marie, Mercedes, Joan and Pat
Favorite Marquette memory: She will never forget how she felt being the subject example on a wisdom tooth extraction for the Dental School student class.
In grade school, Sister Barina wanted to do something in the medical field, perhaps a nurse.
Most influential people in Sister Joan’s life: Her parents, siblings, Sister Joyce Ross, RSM, and Anna Dengel