Farewell to a beloved principal

August 10, 2011

Sr. Joyce Volpini obituaryBY SUSIE CURRIE AND PAULA MINAERT — Nearly 1,000 mourners turned out to pay final tribute to Sr. Joyce Volpini, SND, who was principal of St. Jerome School for 33 years.

Known to generations of Hyattsville children as “Sister Joyce,” Volpini, who had battled cancer for years, died on July 31 at Mercy Hospital in Baltimore. She was 67.

An August 6 memorial Mass at St. Jerome was standing room only; people of all ages filled the pews and the foyer and spilled over into the choir loft. During the offertory, dozens of people lined up with flowers that they put into vases on the altar.

The celebrant, Msgr. Joseph A. Ranieri, recalled that Sr. Joyce had been principal for 14 years when he arrived as St. Jerome’s pastor in 1990.

“We had a wonderful working relationship that developed into a lasting friendship,” he said.

Deacon Bert L’Homme, superintendent of schools for the Archdiocese of Washington, gave one of the eulogies. “It was never a decision – our girls would go to St. Jerome’s,” he told the congregation. “Last weekend, we moved back here so our grandsons could attend St. Jerome’s.”

The throngs of family, friends and former students crowded into the church’s Gold Room for a reception. Set up around the room were photo collages that showed her at weddings, graduations, parties – even playing pinball and doing the “chicken dance.” A bulletin board displayed commendations from the city of Hyattsville, the Archdiocese of Washington, the Governor and the Maryland General Assembly.

“Sr. Joyce was the heart of the school,” said Jen Sanderson, who graduated in 1991 and afterwards visited frequently. Her two sons also attended St. Jerome’s. “No matter how many years it had been, you could come back and she’d always remember your name and had time to talk. I felt like I never left.”

Her classmate, Michael Dice, said, “She had a soft spot for troublemakers.” Sanderson agreed. “She’d put on that face, and she’d say, ‘That wasn’t the smartest thing you’ll do today, was it?’ ”

Hyattsville resident Sue Lopresti, who went to St. Jerome and sent her six children there, said, “She [was] like an angel. She was so inspirational and always made everyone feel welcome, with open arms.”

The day before the funeral, her Facebook tribute page had 781 “likes” and dozens of postings from family members and former students, sharing memories of how she had touched their lives.

Joyce Volpini entered the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur in 1964. Her student teaching assignment, in 1968, was at St. Jerome. She later taught in Ridgewood, N.Y. and at St. Martin’s in Washington, D.C. In 1976, she became principal of St. Jerome.

A graduate of Trinity College, she also had a master’s degree in counseling from Loyola College in Baltimore and a doctorate of education from Nova University in Florida.

Volpini is survived by her mother, Trudy; a sister, former St. Jerome teacher Janice Volpini; three brothers and sisters-in-law; and a large extended family. The family has asked that in lieu of flowers, contributions be sent to the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur Development Fund, 1531 Greenspring Valley Road, Stevenson, Md., 21153.