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Mother Josephine Howley

Superior 1895-1898

Mother Josephine (Alice) Howley, third superior of the community and one of the original foundresses, was the first elected leader of the Dubuque Presentation community. Mother Josephine, great aunt of the Howley sisters, Sisters Alicia and Anna, deceased members of the Dubuque Presentation community, was a sister of their grandfather. Young Alice Howley was the first of the three women to volunteer her services, traveling with Mother Vincent to a new land for the sake of the Gospel.

From the very beginning of the Dubuque foundation, there had always been a member of the Howley family in the Dubuque Presentation community, and there had always been native-born Irish sisters. When Sister Anna died on November 8, 2009, the 135 year-Howley tradition ended as well as the long line of native Irish-born sisters.

Born in Mooncoin, Ireland, Alice attended the local Presentation school. An excellent student, she prepared her assignments quickly and easily, leaving her free time to make mischief. Her innocent pranks offered entertainment for her classmates, leading the teachers to assign her additional tasks to assist other students with their learning. Subsequently she devoted her talents to teaching, unwittingly preparing herself for the professional leadership needed in faraway Iowa mission land.

With her experience as a teacher in the National Schools of Ireland, Sister Josephine was the first teacher of the first Presentation school in Key West – in the convent parlor. Later she took the required exam and became the first certified teacher of the pioneer group. She was the first to establish a Presentation school outside Dubuque, in Ackley, Iowa. During her leadership of the congregation, before summer schools came to be, she arranged for home courses for the sisters, and secured qualified teachers to direct them. Hers was a significant contribution toward launching the Dubuque foundation’s long-term ministry focus on education.

In the Annals (1933) Sister Mary Rosalia Plamondon described Mother Josephine as “quick in repartee and lively in movement, seeming always to have a heart dancing with mirth.” What a gift for any community!

At one point in her life Mother Josephine spent some weeks at the motherhouse. In the evenings she played Irish music on the Mount Loretto chapel organ to the delight of the retired sisters. Weaving song into the early Presentation story, she “made melody,” which has characterized the community throughout its history. Lots of music and lots of parties distinguish Dubuque Presentation sisters.

The last of the original Key West group to receive her heavenly reward, we honor Mother Josephine Howley as one who instructed others to justice and who shines in our hearts as a star for all eternity.

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