Longtime Vocations Office admin dies

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Joan Ensley, longtime administrative assistant in the diocesan Office of Vocations and unofficial godmother to countless diocesan priests, died Jan. 14 at age 83, following a long battle with ovarian cancer.

She was born Oct. 27, 1934, at the U.S. Marine base in Quantico, the daughter of Lt. Commander Paul J. Halloran, a civil engineer in the U.S. Navy, and Catherine Lenihan Halloran. She grew up at naval bases in American Samoa, Portsmouth, Va., Newport, R.I., and Norfolk.

After her father retired from the Navy, she lived in Yorktown Heights, N.Y., earned an associate degree from Briarcliff College in 1954, and worked as a technical drawing associate and cartographer.

She married Sheridan Bruce Ensley, a Navy lieutenant and later a civilian official with the Navy Department in Washington, June 27, 1959. They had six children and 12 grandchildren.

She was an interior decorator, artist, dedicated Right-to-Life advocate, avid tennis player, and an original soccer mom. She loved to travel with family and friends. 

Ensley worked as an administrative assistant in the diocesan Office of Vocations from 1989 until her retirement in 2001. Father James R. Gould, vocations director from 1985 to 2000 and currently pastor of St. John the Evangelist Church in Warrenton, remembers her fondly.

“Joan Ensley was the true godmother to so many of the young priests of the diocese,” he said. “Eighty-three were ordained on her watch as secretary in the Office of Vocations. She met them when they first walked in the door. She assisted them in the applications and kept their files during the formation program.

“She cried when a candidate resigned and absolutely sobbed when four of the parents died just before their sons would be ordained,” he said. “And in the end, she organized their ordination receptions on the day they each became a priest. She was the first to meet them as candidates and last to say goodbye as they left the cathedral. God bless the godmother as she was a blessing to the Diocese of Arlington.”

Ensley was preceded in death by her first-born son, Shaun Eliot Ensley; her daughter, Gretchen Deidre Ensley Hills, and her daughter-in-law, Patti Brooks Ensley. She is survived by her husband, four sons, and her son-in-law: Timothy, of Tuscon; Patrick (Anna), of Virginia Beach; Bruce (Louise), of Richmond; Daniel (Dana), of Lexington. Ky.; and Greg Hills (Heather).  She is also survived by two brothers, Richard Halloran, of Honolulu, and David Halloran, of Orlando.

Visitation will be Jan. 26 at Fairfax Memorial Funeral Home, 9902 Braddock Rd., Fairfax, from 2-4 p.m. and 6-8 p.m. The Mass of Christian Burial will be offered Jan. 27 at Holy Spirit Church, 5121 Woodland Way, Annandale, at noon, followed by burial at Fairfax Memorial Park, 9900 Braddock Rd., Fairfax.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Divine Mercy Care,11096-A Lee Highway, Suite 101 Fairfax, VA 22030-5039.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018