Sister M. Ellen Joan Duffy, SNJM

Josephine Duffy

March 28, 1928 – May 1, 2015

Sister Ellen Joan Duffy, SNJM departed this life on May 1, 2015, in Spokane, Washington.

Sister Ellen Joan celebrated 87 years of life and 64 years of religious profession.

She was an alum of HNA Spokane, ’46 and Fort Wright College, Spokane, WA, ’57.

Sister Ellen Joan Duffy, SNJM

March 28, 1928 – May 1, 2015

James Michael and Mary Elizabeth Bradley Duffy gave birth to their third child, Josephine, on March 28, 1928. She joined her sister Mary, always her best friend, and her brother Frank. They later welcomed brother Paul and twin sisters, Lee and Lou. 

All were born and educated in Spokane, members of St. Aloysius Parish. By 1938, both parents had died, and Josephine became a boarding student at Holy Names Academy from fifth grade until her junior year of high school when the three eldest rented an apartment together. After graduating from Holy Names, Josephine attended Business College and worked at American Automobile Association before joining the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary in 1947, making her vows in 1949 as Sister M. Ellen Joan.

Sister Ellen Joan’s career in education is a story of recognition by her superiors of her many gifts for teaching and for leadership. She began teaching middle grades, then upper grades, then Elementary School Principal, then Assistant Superintendent of Education for the Diocese of Spokane. Her years of ministry took her from St. Anne’s in Seattle to St. Frances Cabrini and St. Patrick’s in Tacoma to St. Francis of Assisi, Sacred Heart and St. Aloysius in Spokane and Christ the King in Richland, and finally Immaculate Conception School in Clarksdale, Mississippi. Over those years she earned an M.A. from Catholic University and Principal’s credentials from Gonzaga University.

In 1983, Sister Ellen Joan was chosen to be the Treasurer for the Province of Washington for her religious congregation. In 1990, having spent years in administration, she entered a Clinical Pastoral Education Program and discovered a deep love of chaplaincy, especially with the elderly. She filled that pastoral role at Mother Joseph Care Center in Olympia until 1997. She then moved to Spokane, living at Marian Hall offering spiritual care at St. Joseph Care Center in Spokane until 2004.

Health issues invited retirement, but Sister Ellen Joan’s mind and heart never stopped working. She maintained her interest in people, in her community and in the world around her. She was a voracious reader, always able to recommend a good book or have a conversation about several books or articles at a time. She enjoyed a well-played game of bridge or a good movie. She was a delightful storyteller, a great addition to the fun of any gathering. Most of all, Sister Ellen Joan was a true and loyal friend to many.

Her faith and trust in her God were her strength always, the source of her courage and hope. She died peacefully on May 1, 2015, at Hospice House of Spokane. Although her brothers and sisters have died, Sister Ellen Joan is survived by many nieces and nephews who love her dearly and whom she loved deeply, and by her religious Sisters of the Holy Names. 

Mass of the Resurrection will be celebrated on Saturday, May 9, 2015, at 10:00 a.m. at Convent of the Holy Names, Spokane, Washington.

Memorial gifts may be made to Sisters of the Holy Names Retirement Fund, PO Box 398, Marylhurst, OR, 97036, or online at