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Sister Monica Joan O.S.R.N (birth name, Antonia Keville) was one of the first to qualify as a nurse midwife in the United Kingdom. She is portrayed by Judy Parfitt.

Overview[]

Sister Monica Joan was born in a grand estate, and was born into a very well-to-do family who didn't approve of her pursuit of a midwifery career nor did they support her in her subsequent entry into the religious life. Her difficulties with her family have been referred to frequently throughout the series although she does reconcile with her nephew and his family in Series Two.

Young Antonia Keville

As a young girl. Sister Monica Joan, then named Antonia, was well educated and found solace in reading books, particularly the Bible. She also loved sweets very much. Antonia had a very difficult relationship with her mother, the reasons for which are not explained fully, but it is hinted that Antonia's interest in religion and desire to become a nurse contributed to the strain. Later in life, Sister Monica Joan recalled that her mother would call her "stupid" and say she was "too tall". She would go on to say that their tumultuous relationship "did not grieve" her when her mother was still alive, but once she died, she found that she missed her dearly, and still loved her deeply, despite their differences.

First vows-married to Christ

When Sister Monica Joan entered into the religious life she had not a penny to her name, perhaps because her family disowned her. In Series 5, she recalls that when she took her final vows and had to wear a wedding dress to commemorate the day, she was deemed too tall to have need of high heels. When her mother died she left her some of her jewellery which was given to the Order when she took her final vows in 1904. These were the jewels that Sister Monica Joan was accused of stealing in the Series One finale but Mother Jesu tells the court she gave her the jewels as "balm for an old wound". Later, during a time when the Sister was very confused and upset, Sister Julienne brought out the jewels and grounded Sister Monica Joan back to her surroundings, calming her greatly.

Biography[]

Sister Monica Joan has a love of literature, astrology, and sweets, particularly cake. When Jenny first arrives at Nonnatus House, she is quick to show off her love for astrology, and to insist that Jenny consume a whole cake with her. She has a habit of consuming any cake she can get her hands on, leading to the other nuns and midwives trying to hide them from her, but she somehow always manages to track one down, telling Jenny that she is "attuned to feel vibrations".

Jenny and sister MJ S1 E1

Due to her old age, Sister Monica Joan often gets confused. At the end of the first season, she is taken to court for theft, and during this time, some jewellery is found amongst her belongings, but it turns out the jewlery had belonged to her mother, and Mother Jesu told the court that Sister Monica Joan recogzised neither the jewels nor her petty thefts due to her fragility, and the charges were dropped.

Despite her poor memory, Sister Monica Joan has moments when she remembers things very clearly. One such instance was in S06E05 when she recognized Nonnatus House's newest midwife, Valerie Dyer, and remembered all the details of her birth as if it happened yesterday: Sister Monica Joan recalled that both she and Sister Evangelina attended to Valerie's mother, that Valerie was the second of three daughters, and she remembered cutting Valerie's umbilical cord.

In the 2013 Christmas Special when Shelagh prepares for her wedding to Dr. Turner, Sister Monica Joan expresses sorrow at having lost Sister Bernadette. She speculates that Shelagh threw away a life of religion for the pleasures of physical love, "confusing" what she was truly in need of. Sister Julienne calms her down, saying it is normal to miss their Sister, but that they must respect her choice. At the end of the episode, Sister Monica Joan gives Shelagh her prized hyacinth flowers to walk down the aisle with.

Sister Monica Joan often fears she is old and useless and expresses a desire to help. In one episode in S04E04 she

Sister Monica Joan assists at birth

gets her chance when expectant mother Eileen Bowe arrives at Nonnatus House in labour and looking for help. Since the only available midwife, Trixie, has passed out from drinking too much alcohol, Sister Monica Joan has to take matters into her own hands. She takes Eileen to Dr. Turner's surgery, where Shelagh helps to deliver the Eileen's child, and she shows the elderly nun her gratitude by naming her baby girl Monica, and the Sister is deeply moved by the gesture.

In Series 5, when Sister Evangelina passes away, Dr. Turner tells Sister Julienne that because the Sister died suddenly and unexpectedly, there will need to be an autopsy. Sister Monica Joan was devastated at the prospect, saying that to do an autopsy would "maim" Sister Evangelina for all eternity. Thankfully, the autopsy did not occur. At the funeral, Sister Monica Joan laid Sister Evangelina's shoes on the coffin, saying they deserved a rest, as their Sister does.

In Series 6, everybody, particularly Sister Monica Joan, is upset when the strict Sister Ursula gives away their television set. Sister Monica Joan begins going of frequent walks, and Sister Julienne worries she is becoming disorientated. One night, Sister Julienne spots Sister Monica Joan leaving just as she returns from a call-out. She follows her and discovers that their television set was given to the Seamans Mission, and they've set up a bench outside the window so Sister Monica Joan can watch.

When Fred goes to Linchmere Hospital to assess it as a potential new home for his cousin Reggie who has Down's Syndrome, Sister Monica Joan accompanies him. They find the place to be very bleak and prison-like, and Fred decides this is not the place for Reggie, and he and Sister Monica Joan decide to leave. However, on the way out, Sister Monica Joan spots a

Sister Monica Joan Linchmere

figure being led down a corridor by one of the nurses. Fred sees her going the wrong way and follows her, eventually finding her outside a cell door. Inside sits Sister Mary Cynthia, and Sister Monica Joan is devastated. Fred drives her back to Nonnatus House and explains the situation to Sister Julienne who swears him to secrecy. For some time afterward, Sister Monica Joan manages to find her way to Linchmere daily and prays outside the gates until Fred finds her and brings her home. Sister Monica Joan goes on hunger strike until she is certain Sister Cynthia is unharmed. Sister Julienne manages to get Sister Mary Cynthia released, but it soon becomes apparent she still needs treatment, so she is sent to a hospital called Northfield, where Dr. Turner had been treated after the war and is a much more therapeutic environment than Linchmere.

Sister Monica Joan cataracts

In Series 7, Sister Monica Joan begins to show worrying signs that her eyesight is failing such as squinting her eyes, relying on a very strong magnifying glass to read, and crouching down directly in front of the television. Sister Monica Joan is eventually diagnosed with cataracts and is warned that unless she has surgery she will go blind. Sister Monica Joan is afraid to undergo the procedure at first, but Fred manages to persuade her to agree to the surgery.

In the 2018 Christmas Special, Mother Jesu Emmanuel becomes terminally ill and asks for Sister Julienne to return to the Mother House with Sister Winifred and Sister Monica Joan. However, Sister Monica Joan is taken ill on the day they're due to leave and on the orders of Dr. Turner, Sister Julienne is forced to leave her behind - it is later hinted in a conversation with Nurse Crane that Sister Monica Joan faked her illness to avoid going to the Mother House because she's afraid they might keep her there till her dying day.

In the 2020 Christmas Special, Sister Monica Joan is hospitalized after a fall in which she breaks her leg. After coming home, Sister Monica Joan falls into a depression and experiences a crisis of faith. However, after an expectant mother in labour arrives at Nonnatus House, only Pupil Midwife Nancy Corrigan is available to help, and she asks Sister Monica Joan to get her bag for her. In the clinical room, Sister Monica Joan picks up a pinard stethoscope, and a smile creeps across her face. She sits by the bed as Nancy helps the woman, and instructs Nancy what to do when the baby's hand gets in the way slowing down the birth. The baby is delivered successfully, and after that, Sister Monica Joan comes out of her stupor.

For most of series 11 Sister Monica Joan is kept in the background and remains in her role but In S11 E06 a raven finds it’s way into Nonnatus house and Sister Monica Joan fears it means one will soon “meet our maker” but the only damage it does is break a photo of Nonnatus House. She speaks to spiritualist Miss Higgins who tells her to speak to a woman named Mrs Greenhalgh to find more information, unfortunately she is turned away, so she decides to go back with a cake which gets her access. When in there she is told that she considers her gift a curse as it cost her as the family her son married into disapproved of her gift and they no longer speak, she also notices that Mrs Greenhalgh covers most of her face. In the middle of this she meets Cyril Robinson who is grieving the loss of his unborn child and encourages him to speak to Lucille about it. She goes back to Mrs Greenhalgh and informs her it is not her own death she fears but the fdeath of her purpose in life, as she can longer nurse which was her calling. She brings back Dr Turner and she is diagnosed with a rodent ulcer a type of skin cancer but not the type that can kill you. In the end Sister Monica Joan tracks down the son and they reunite. In the end Sister Monica Joan gets her reading saying that something unfortunate will happen at Nonnatus house.

The great tragedy predicted came in November as Nancy Corrigan, Sister Julienne and Patrick Turner went to a midwifery conference by train. On their way back the train crashed with another train and was derailed, causing an explosion injuring many. When Fred, Violet, Reggie, Lucille, Miss Higgins and Cyril brought the injured to Nonnatus house she offered her services as they worry for their colleagues. Luckily Nancy was able to get off the train as she was in the bathroom at the time but the fate of the other two remain uncertain. Thankfully Sister Monica Joan retained her state of lucidity through the tragedy and helped the best she could with tending to the wounds of the injured, remembering her days nursing in similar circumstances during the war. In no time Nonnatus House becomes a catastrophic mess, Sister Julienne and Dr Turner, the two the team would look to in times of disaster are recovered from the train alive but no one knows if they will stay alive or not, Nancy Corrigan is at first sure the sister was right about the bird being a bad omen but she tells her that in times of disaster superstitions mean nothing. While most people are put up for the night in Nonnatus House the elderly sister spends her night in the chapel. Phyllis Crane returns from her holiday early to sail the ship while the captains are away the next day. Miraculously both Dr Turner and Sister Julienne will make full recoveries.

In series 12 she proves she is still capable as a nurse, helping out at the maternity home during a gastroenteritis outbreak despite fears for her age, she maintains her age and wisdom is beneficial not a complication, she later stands up for Nurse Crane when she fears the board of health might make her give up work. Sister Monica Joan feels lonely as everyone is very busy. When on a bench in the allotments she meets a small dog, after the dog returns she lets him in and calls him “Nothing” so she technically wouldn’t be lying if she was asked who she was with. Only Nancy’s daughter Colette is let in on the secret but she is found out when a painting Colette was doing for school had Nothing on it. Sister Julienne finds Nothing’s true owners and apologises for making her lonely assuring her she always has time for her. A few weeks before Trixie Franklins wedding the district faces a hepatitis outbreak and the elderly nun is infected, she is nursed in Nonnatus House but with her age everyone knows they may be nursing her through her final days. She is in a state of delirium throughout her illness talking of “going home” meaning one with her maker. Luckily she pulls through her illness in time to give a reading for the wedding, she was dissatisfied with the one chosen for her and decides to catch a taxi to the church and reads Robert Louis Stephenson’s words about marriage with her own addendum.

Quotes[]

"Venus and Saturn are now in alignment. It is entirely appropriate that you should appear."
- Sister Monica Joan's first words to Jenny
"My books have been in boxes for far too long. If they are not set straight, their contents will jumble and become deranged."
- Sister Monica Joan to Sister Julienne when she gets the wood from the pet shop to make bookshelves
"And I do not like my greens, yet they are very good for me."
- Sister Monica Joan's words of advice to Phyllis Crane

Frederick Buckle

"There is a time to mortify the flesh, and a time to cherish it and marvel at its strength."
- Sister Monica Joan while bathing Sister Mary Cynthia after she was assaulted.
"I find that two opinions are always better than one. Particularly if one is mine."
- Sister Monica Joan to Fred Buckle
"We only fail if we do not try."
- Sister Monica Joan to Patsy Mount
"We are the sisters of Saint Raymond Nonnatus, present at life's commencement and at its end."
- Sister Monica Joan in S01 E01 and S11 E08
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