Ernest L. Kernen and Pauline Taylor Kernen were the parents of Jean, Ernie, Leonard, Joyce, and Estelle Kernen. They lived in Frankfort, Kentucky just a few blocks from the State Capitol.
While a child, Sister Mary Joyce experienced the great flood of 1937. “One cold January morning in 1937, I remember being awakened at 4:00 am and told by our mother to get up and dress quickly for it had been raining all night and water was rising in the basement. I was six years old at the time but remember it as if it were yesterday. An aunt and uncle picked us up and drove us to another aunt’s home in the country. We stayed for over a week with two other families including six other children. Daddy stayed behind and, unfortunately, had to watch the water rise in our house. He worked at the U.S. Post Office and it too was flooded.”
A happier childhood memory is Ernest Kernen’s skill with carpentry. “My father took up the hobby of tinkering with wood and set up a shop in the basement. We were a family of seven and the kitchen table was quite small. He made a beautiful drop leaf table that we could all sit around at the same time. (It is now in my room at Nazareth). As years went by, he made a cherry Grandfather clock that was a masterpiece. (It is now in one of my great niece’s home). It went over so well that he made a number of smaller ones for several of my mother’s sisters that are still cherished by many in the family. He called these Grandmother clocks. A corner cabinet that was in Nativity Hall at Nazareth was another work of his.”
Mary Joyce’s siblings felt called to many different vocations. Jean got married to Franklin S. Moses and they reared two boys together. Ernie enlisted in the U.S. Marines during World War II and was killed at the age of nineteen in the invasion of Guam in July 1944. He is buried in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii. Leonard married Mary McCord Dunlap and they had two girls.
Joyce and Estelle both entered the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth – Joyce in 1948 and Estelle in 1949. Joyce was given the name Sister Mary Joyce and Estelle was known as Sister Anthony until such time as she became Sister Ann.
Joyce was missioned at St. Peter’s Orphanage in Memphis, Tennessee for sixteen and a half years; then went to St. Mary Villa in Nashville as a child care worker for one year and as administrator for ten years.
The next year found her at Nazareth as Secretary for Pastoral Ministry at SCN Center. The following year she headed back to Memphis to the Provincial House as Secretary for Sister Dorothy MacDougall, Provincial of the Southern Region. After one year Dorothy was elected as Superior General and she and Joyce moved to SCN Center at Nazareth. Joyce served as her secretary for the next eight years. Among her other duties was playing the organ at the Motherhouse for the next twenty-six years.
From 1988 to 1998 Joyce worked at SCN Center in the office and was Office Manager after the death of Sister Mary Robert Becker. In between times, she was Director of Vincent Cottage and Casa Maria (both old and new) for twenty years while living with Sister Judy Raley at SCN Center from 1988 to 1996. She then moved to the Motherhouse until renovation at which time she moved to Vincent Hut for the next two years (1997 to 1999). While there, Joyce continued to work at SCN Center.
In January 1999, Joyce moved to the Guest House as Director for the next two years and at the same time was asked to work at the Switchboard at the Motherhouse.
After heart surgery Sister made another move; this time to David Hall with her sister, Ann. They were there seven months when they were asked to move to O’Connell Hall (trying to fill the apartments after renovation). Ann and Joyce remained at O’Connell Hall for thirteen years. Ann moved to Carrico Hall in August of 2015 and Joyce moved to the Motherhouse in September 2015. Joyce retired from the Switchboard in April of 2015 after sixteen years.
“I have loved all of my missions but I think the highlight was the two years that I lived at Vincent Hut while working at SCN Center. The peace, tranquility, and beauty of the surroundings will always be remembered.”