Sister Joan Cordis Westhues, MM,
Missioner-Educator to the Philippines, the Marshall Islands and Bangladesh,
Dies at 91
Maryknoll, NY — Sister Joan Cordis Westhues, MM, missionary educator and community health worker in the Philippines, Bangladesh and the Marshall Islands for over 50 years, died Saturday, June 13, 2015, at the Maryknoll Sisters Center, Ossining, NY. She was 91 years old and had been a Maryknoll Sister for 70 years.
Born on January 30, 1924 in Jefferson City, MO to Henry John Westhues and Helen Margaret Roer Westhues, Sister Joan Cordis was baptized Marjorie Ann Westhues, attended Immaculate Conception High School and graduated from St. Peter’s Interparish High School, Jefferson City, in 1942. She entered Maryknoll at its motherhouse on September 6, 1944, from Immaculate Conception Parish in Jefferson City, MO. and made her final vows on March 7, 1950, at the Maryknoll Sisters’ motherhouse. A 1965 graduate of the Asian Social Institute, Manila, Philippines, with an M.A. in socio-theological studies, she also held a B.S. in chemistry from Manhattanville College, Purchase, NY.
Sister Joan Cordis was first assigned to the Philippines, where she taught high school religion, English, math and science in Manila from 1951-1958. She was then sent to Yap in the Marshall Islands, where she taught grades 7-9 from 1958-1960.
In 1960, Sister Joan Cordis was appointed novice mistress of the Maryknoll Sisters Philippine Novitiate in Quezon City, a position she held for the next ten years.
Following a year working with the congregation’s retirement team in Valley Park, MO, Sister Joan Cordis was involved in catechetical education for the Diocese of Jefferson City, MO, then returned to the Philippines in 1972, where she taught theology and English in Lupon, Davao Oriental, from 1974-1976.
She then worked with the Community Extension Service Community-Based Health Program of Cotabato City, Philippines, from 1976-1977 and 1980-1981, during which time she also trained local health workers to use a microscope and setting up community laboratories in nine community-based health programs in the Kidapawan Prelature.
From 1981-1985, Sister Joan Cordis served as assistant coordinator of the Health and Development Program’s Mindanao Regional Office in Davao City, Philipppines. She then worked for the same program, this time in District III, serving five parishes in the Ipil Prelature, Philippines, from 1985-1992.
In 1993, Sister Joan Cordis was called to Bangladesh, where she worked at the Center for Women with Addictions in Dhaka, opening BACHA (the Bangladesh Alternative Course for Human Advancement) Education for Life Center in 1995. In 1997 she began working with youth in Dhaka, as well. Sister Joan Cordis also served as principal of BACHA English Medium School from 2001-2006. She returned from Bangladesh to the Maryknoll Sisters Center in 2013.
Sister Joan Cordis is survived by three of her sisters: Jane Schmidt of Phoenix, AZ, Marilyn Evans of St. Louis, MO, and Elaine Westhues of Mesa, AZ. Her sister Rosemary, Bebe and her one brother Msgr. John Westhues have predeceased her.
A vespers service was held June 14, 2015, at the Maryknoll Sisters Center, Ossining, NY. A Mass of Christian Burial followed on June 15, 2015, also at the Center. Interment was in the Maryknoll Sisters Cemetery on the Center grounds.