Sister Joyce Candidi Embraces More Than 50 Years in Religious Life, New Mission in Rome

Sister Joyce Candidi has spent more than 50 years in religious life as an Oblate Sister of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. She’s traveled the globe as a missionary and was the Director of the Office of Vowed Religious for the Diocese of Youngstown. I had the chance to speak with Sister Joyce about her life, her mentor Sister Teresina Rosa and new calling this spring in Rome, where she will spend the next six years as General Counselor of Female Religious for her order.

Sister Joyce began to follow God’s call as a teenager living in Philadelphia.

“It wasn’t actually like words, but it was a thought you know. You really want to show me how appreciative you are, why don’t you do the same thing to me as I did for you. Why don’t you give your entire life for me. Each Summer I would come for one week, and each time I came here, I was just more and more convinced that this is where I belong, this is where God was calling me,” says Sister Joyce.

And at the age of 18, Sister Joyce joined the Oblate Sisters in the Catholic Diocese of Youngstown. Her order was founded by Blessed Mother Maria Teresa Casini.

“She was like a daughter to me at one time,” says fellow Oblate Sister Teresina Rosa.

Sister Joyce has shared that bond with one time mentor, long-time friend, and fellow Oblate Sister Teresina Rosa, dating back to 1968.

“We laughed together, sometimes we even cried together. We shared the joys of our life,” says Sister Teresina.

“My biggest impression of Sister is just very, very generous, and very hard working. Sister had and still has a great love for the community, for the congregation and I admire that,” says Sister Joyce.

Sister Joyce earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Youngstown State University. She’s worked as a schoolteacher, Director of Religious Education at St. Anthony’s parish in Youngstown and earned a Master’s Degree from Duquesne in Theology and Catechetics. Her mission trips have taken her to Italy, and India, where she started a school for children.

In the early 2000’s Sr. Joyce became the Director of the Office of Vowed Religious for the Diocese of Youngstown and decades later she continues her service to founder Blessed Mother Maria Teresa Casini, an inspirational figure she is hopeful one day she can call a saint.

“I think that the Lord reveals this very unique charism to her shows that she’s very special in his eyes. To offer ourselves in complete love, to support priests, you know we say to help them, because their vocation is very challenging,” says Sister Joyce.

2024 brings Sister Joyce a new challenge, in Italy, where she will spend the rest of the decade as general counselor of female religious for her order. The Oblate sisters have communities in Italy, Brazil, India, Africa, Peru, and the US. Although she admits she was nervous at first, Sister Joyce is accepting the role-and says God’s grace continues to keep her faithful to her call as an Oblate Sister. She also continues to inspire along the way.

“To be where she’s at in her state in life, and to answer the call, to go and serve in leadership for her community, that’s very, very inspiring and humbling. She would often say things and she would say ‘God willing, God willing,’ which just reflects that, you know, like our Blessed Mother, she surrenders herself to God and his plan,” says Bishop David J. Bonnar.

seven Oblate sisters in white habits stand beneath a painting of Mother Maria Theresa Cassini
Sister Joyce Candidi, OSHJ, D.Min., Director of the Office for Vowed Religious, was recently elected as a general councilor for her order—the Oblate Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus—at the community’s recent chapter meeting in Rome. Above, she is pictured (second from right) with Mother Marilurde (center) and the other general councilors. Photo courtesy of the Oblate Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Facebook page. Congratulations, Sister Joyce!

And as for her advice to young women wanting to enter religious life;

“Ask the Lord, where do you want me? And don’t be afraid because he’ll guide you,” says Sister Joyce.

When times do get challenging, Sister Joyce looks to the comfort of one of her favorite prayers.

“One of the things that St. Ignatius says, ‘Take Lord, receive my memory, my will, my entire self. You’ve given everything to me, now I will give it back to you.’ And the final words are, ‘give me only your love and your grace, that’s enough for me.’ So when I have something that’s challenging, I just repeat that, ‘oh Lord just give me your love, and your grace, that’s enough for me.’ And I just get that energy, you know just to keep moving forward, and that joy, that joy,” says Sister Joyce.

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Dennis Biviano

Dennis Biviano serves as the Public Relations and Media Specialist for the Diocese of Youngstown as the diocese’s chief point of contact with journalists. Biviano brings 20 years of TV News reporting experience to the Communications Department. He is a graduate of John F. Kennedy Catholic School in Warren and Kent State University, with a Bachelor of Science in Broadcast Journalism. He has worked as a Multimedia Journalist in the Mahoning Valley for WKBN & WYTV, as well as Charter Communications (Spectrum News 1) for seven years. Biviano is an active member of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish in Niles with his family.
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