Born in Yonkers, NY, Sister Joan moved with her family to Bridgeport, CT. After graduating from Albertus Magnus College with a degree in sociology and economics, she joined Maryknoll in l952 from Milford CT. Her first mission assignment was to Hong Kong where she served in education and research for 20 years. After teaching at Maryknoll Convent School for 8 years, she went on to teach in the sociology department and the graduate school of education at Chinese University. During her time at the Chinese university, she was involved in the planning a new hall of residence which was staffed by the Maryknoll Sisters and the members of the Society of Jesus. In 1974, she went to teach at Holy Spirit Seminary and to do research for the diocese of Hong Kong. During this time she received from Diploma in Education from the University of Hong Kong and her M.A. in Comparative Education from London University.
In 1976, she left Hong Kong to travel to Rome where she became Director of SEDOS, a mission documentation and study center serving forty-five Catholic missionary communities. During this time, she was a Vatican delegate to the WCC Mission Conference in Melbourne, Australia (1980). In 1981 she took a six-month assignment to Poona, India in order to set up the documentation department for Ishvani Kendra, a mission center founded by the Missionaries of the Divine Word. She returned to Washington D.C. where she worked at the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA).
In 1983, Sister Joan was appointed by the Vatican as the first Roman Catholic consultant on mission to World Council of Churches. She became a member of the staff of the Council’s Commission on World Mission and Evangelism (CWME). She served 6 years in Geneva, Switzerland. During this time she was appointed to the Joint Working Group, a committee of representatives appointed by the Vatican and by the World Council, designed to promote ecumenism. In 1983 she was a Vatican delegate to the General Assembly of the WCC held in Vancouver, Canada. In l989 she attended the WCC Mission Conference in San Antonio, TX.
In l990, after attending the Global Forum on the Environment in Moscow, she returned to the Maryknoll Center to work in the Department of Research and Planning. During this four year term, she facilitated meetings in Rome, Guatemala, Ecuador and Peru. She continued her ecumenical involvement by giving talks and becoming a member of the Anglican–Roman Catholic Dialogue for the Archdiocese of New York. Her last task in the department in 1894 was to go to Albania to research a short term commitment for Maryknoll sisters. This was an invaluable experience and resulted in Maryknoll sisters serving in Albania for more than twelve years.
In 1995, Sister Joan went to the Ecumenical Institute at St. John’s University, Collegeville Minnesota where she spent a semester as a scholar in residence. During this time she completed a report on Ecumenical Formation. This was later published in the Ecumenical Review. She went on to spend a year at the Overseas Ministries Study Center where she completed two projects: a history of the Georgian mansion housing the Center and a study of Catholic and Protestant Models of Mission (a joint project of the Mission Committee of the U. S. Catholic Conference of Bishops.) During the 1990’s she was a participant in the Catholic—Southern Baptist Conversations. In 1999 she attended the Missionary Congress for the Americas in Argentina.
In 2001, she moved from West Haven CT to Chicago, IL in order to take up the position of Administration of the Global Center for Ministries at Catholic Theological Union. While the program was housed at CTU, it was jointly sponsored by CTU, the Lutheran School of Theology and McCormick Seminary. During this time Sister Joan was involved in discussion about a wider national organization which would include Catholics and Evangelicals. This resulted in the founding of Christian Churches Together in the U.S and included five families: Orthodox, Historic Protestants, Catholics, Evangelical and Pentecostals, Black and Ethnic Churches. After the US Catholic Conference of Bishops formally joined the new organization, Sister Joan served as a delegate from the Conference for several years. In 2006, she was a Vatican delegate to the 40th Anniversary of the Joint working Group in Geneva. From 2008 – 2012 she served on the Catholic –Evangelical Committee for Los Angeles. During this decade she completed a research project on Bishop Bonomelli who made a contribution to the Missionary Conference of 1910. The work was published in the Ecumenical Review and in the Catholic Historian.
Sister Joan received an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from her Alma mater, Albertus Magnus College, New Haven, CT in 1989 “for her fine contribution to the universal mission of the church and to the ecumenical movement at the international level”. In 2000, she received the Fitzgerald Award from the National Association of Diocesan Ecumenical Offices for “outstanding work and service to Christian Unity”. In 2007, Cardinal Francis George presented her with the Chicago archdiocesan medal for her significant contribution to the mission and to Christian unity.
At present, Sister Joan is stationed at the Maryknoll Center in New York where she continues her contacts with Hong Kong former students and ecumenical friends from around the world. She recently contributed a comment on the significance of the visit of Pope Francis to the 70th anniversary of the World Council of Churches.