See more of the story

Sister Joan Tuberty's life journey included periods as a cloistered nun, a university professor, a spiritual director for a downtown Minneapolis church and a live-in counselor for a transitional housing program for the homeless.

An academic with a master's degree in psychiatric and nursing education, Tuberty carried her book learning to the inner city of Minneapolis where she worked for nearly 25 years. That included moving, while in her 70s, into a low-income residence owned by St. Olaf Catholic Church and staying 15 years.

Tuberty, 92, died June 26 following a stroke at St. Francis Convent in Little Falls, where she had lived since 2016.

"She was a loving presence of God in the heart of the city," said the Rev. John Forliti, a former pastor at St. Olaf where Tuberty worked as spiritual director for years. "She heard a lot of things that were heartbreaking, but wasn't rattled. She remained a calm presence."

"She broke the mold," said Joe Selvaggio, founder of Project for Pride in Living and a longtime friend. "She was an independent thinker. She could be on the streets and in the suites."

Tuberty was born Dec. 27, 1928, in Albert Lea, one of three children of James and Beulah Tuberty. She earned a bachelor's degree in nursing from the then-College of St. Catherine in St. Paul and her master's degree from the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

She joined the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet community in St. Paul in 1948 and remained for 20 years, teaching nursing at St. Catherine's and the University of Minnesota. Seeking a contemplative life, she joined the Order of Saint Clare and lived as a cloistered nun at its Bloomington monastery from 1977 to 1986.

Tuberty then joined the Franciscan Sisters of Little Falls religious community and built a life centered around St. Olaf, where she provided spiritual guidance to both the downtown professionals who attended weekday masses and the lower-income people who stopped in for coffee, conversation and support.

"A lot of the people had troubles, and she had a background as a psychiatric nurse," said Forliti. "She was very thoughtful, eager to help."

Tuberty remained part of St. Olaf and its Exodus Residence community until five years ago. She was widely known for her "centering prayer" meditations held most mornings at the church. She had a special interest in women's spiritual formation and was among the founders of WomenSpirit, a group formed to nourish women's spirituality.

Katherine Leighton was among the downtown professionals who sought Tuberty's spiritual guidance and remained a good friend for decades. She said Tuberty had a knack for relating to very different people in her life. Once when Tuberty was flying to New York to visit her niece, she was escorted to the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport light rail station by men from the Exodus housing project and picked up in New York by a car and driver ordered by her niece's family.

"In both cases I'm sure she got to know [her escorts], asked them about themselves," said Leighton. "She was really interested in people, cared about people."

Sister Betty Berger, a fellow Franciscan sister, said that even in her 90s, Tuberty remained active and engaged with her religious community and friends around the country.

"She had a lot of guests and she talked to a lot of people on Zoom," Berger said. "She was so welcoming and warm. She was an inspiration to me and so many others."

Tuberty is survived by her sister-in-law, Beverly Tuberty, three nieces and a nephew. Services have been held.

Jean Hopfensperger • 612-673-4511