Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Photo by Michael Alexander
Sister Mary Jane Frances Williams, former mother superior of the Monastery of the Visitation of Holy Mary in Snellville, stands in a monastery corridor, in this 2009 file photo. She died Aug. 29. Like the foundress of her order, St. Jane Frances de Chantal, the sister entered religious life as a widow.


Sister Jane Frances Williams, VHM, former superior, remembered

Published September 7, 2021

SNELLVILLE—Sister Jane Frances Williams, VHM, the former superior of the Sisters of the Visitation of Holy Mary for nine years, died the morning of Aug. 29 at the Snellville monastery.  Sister Jane Frances had been bedridden for two months, and her death was peaceful.

Born Mary Patricia Spillman on Feb. 23, 1931 in Hartshorne, Oklahoma, she was the eldest child of Maurine Spillman, an opera singer and later teacher, and her husband Marvin Spillman, who owned a lumberyard. Sister Jane Frances’ uncle was the only doctor in the county. Her younger brother Jack became a famous artist, who resides in New York.

Patricia began the serious study of vocal music performance while in high school in Tulsa, and was still a teenager when her excellent soprano voice was heard on the opera stage, in church and on the radio. Patricia converted to Catholicism at 16, although she had to wait until age 18 to be baptized.

She married Dennis Huntley Williams, a Tulsa native, and he himself a convert to the faith. A graduate of Missouri Military Academy and Benedictine College at Atchinson, Dennis was an Army Colonel, then Army Reserve Colonel. He later became a lobbyist for NFIB. They were married for 42 years, having 10 children. A year after Dennis’ death, Patricia entered the Monastery of the Visitation of Holy Mary at Maryfield, in Snellville, in January 1994.

She made first vows on June 29, 1996, and her final vows on June 29, 1999. Sister Jane Frances was named after the order’s foundress, who was also a widow and religious. Sister was a model religious, always happy to do whatever was asked of her. She loved her family and children and  her community.

Sister Jane Frances worked in the host room, baking and cutting the altar breads, packing and shipping them for several years. She also worked in ceramics, creating beautiful Nativity scenes and statues. Sister became superior in 2008, being also at the same time the novice mistress, infirmarian and procuratrix (seeing to all the needs of the sisters and monastery). She was an amazingly gifted person of great intelligence and delightful character—a woman of great faith and great love.

The nuns of the Visitation are a cloistered community, spending at least five hours a day in prayer in the chapel. In a 2011 story on vocations in The Georgia Bulletin, Sister Jane Frances spoke about their work.

“A true contemplative isn’t so much what you do, but who you are,” she said, adding that the community’s charism is “gentleness toward our neighbor and humility toward our God.”

A rosary was Friday, Sept. 3. A funeral service was Saturday, Sept. 4 with interment following at the Monastery of the Visitation of Holy Mary.