February 27, 2014 at 11:56 pm

Sister Carol Juhasz, Monroe

Nun who inspired with 'wonderful example of life' dies

Sister Carol and tributes from her friends
Sister Carol and tributes from her friends: Terminally ill nun returns to Immaculate Heart of Mary in Monroe, MI for a visit.

Hey, St. Peter, did you hear the one about the nun who planned a wardrobe change for her funeral?

And, St. Michael, she modeled the clothes for friends by lying on a bed with eyes closed and mouth agape?

The chuckles are abounding in heaven today with its newest denizen, Sister Carol Juhasz, an irrepressible, joke-spewing pastoral associate at St. Joan of Arc in St. Clair Shores.

Sister Juhasz, 62, who waged an 11-month battle against inflammatory breast cancer, died Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014, at the Monroe motherhouse of her religious order, Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

“She was so happy and full of life,” said Patti Johnson, a church member and close friend. “You’ll do anything for her because you knew she’ll do it for you.”

Sister Juhasz’s bout with cancer was not a typical person’s experience with a terminal disease.

For one thing, she opened up her life to church members, encouraging them to ask about her illness.

She filled the 11 months with activities from a bucket list: riding in a fire truck, shopping in New York, flying in a two-seat plane, gambling in Vegas.

Call it The Year of Living Vigorously.

She wanted to show that her death sentence wasn’t a death sentence at all, that there was a whole other life waiting on the other side.

The church members were listening.

“She really wasn’t afraid,” said Jean Schrage, a fifth-grade teacher at St. Joan of Arc who became close friends with Sister Juhasz.

“She was a wonderful example of life and how to live it well. She was kind and caring and energetic and fun.”

Most of all, Sister Juhasz taught church members how to enjoy life, they said She showed it was OK to share a chuckle or two, even during the darkest periods of one’s life.

During the trip to New York in April, one of Sister Juhasz’s friends couldn’t make the trip so the nun attached a picture of the missing woman to a rubber doll and took photos of it all over the city.

It was all great fun until Sister Juhasz and four cohorts reached St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

At that august palace, the nun dunked the doll in the baptismal font. Her horrified friends, worried they would get into trouble, skittered out of the church.

Would it be blasphemy to call a sister irreverent?

“She will joke with anyone at any time,” said Johnson, one of the friends skittering out of the church.

Born in Monroe in 1951, Juhasz was a late bloomer, not joining the sisterhood until she was 33.

She was working as an ophthalmologist’s assistant in Monroe when she met a member of the Immaculate Heart of Mary order. She was so taken by the nun’s serenity she decided she needed it in her own life.

After receiving her training in 1985, she worked for Our Lady of Loretto in Redford Township for eight years, Our Lady of the Woods in Woodhaven for three years and St. Joan of Arc for 15 years.

She had a bachelor’s degree in teaching from Marygrove College in Detroit and a master’s in pastoral studies from Loyola University in Chicago.

She is survived by a sister, Cheryl; and two brothers, Mark and John.

A funeral service will be held 10 a.m. Monday at the motherhouse at 610 W. Elm Ave. in Monroe.

A memorial Mass will be held 7 p.m. Tuesday at St. Joan of Arc at 21620 Greater Mack Ave. in St. Clair Shores.

(313) 223-4186

Sister Carol Juhasz spent 11 months accomplishing some of her dreams while battling cancer. / Ankur Dholakia / The Detroit News