For the better part of three decades, BVM Sister Joyce Cox has served in leadership roles in the Archdiocese of Seattle, including in Catholic schools, religious life, interfaith and ecumenical issues, retreats and spirituality.
As she retires from official archdiocesan work this summer, the words of her order’s foundress, BVM Sister Mary Frances Clarke, are resounding a little louder: “Leave the future to God.”
“That to me is so important, that we live in the present to carry the good news in discipleship and in witness,” Sister Joyce said.
She has been a religious sister for almost 67 years and has spent the last 28 years as the archbishop’s delegate for religious, acting as a liaison for the religious communities of women and men within the archdiocese. She has been the archdiocesan ecumenical/interfaith delegate for 25 years.
Sister Joyce previously served as the Archdiocese of Seattle’s vice chancellor and delegate for religious under Archbishop Emeritus Raymond G. Hunthausen and assistant to late Seattle Archbishop Thomas J. Murphy. She spent eight years in the archdiocesan Office of Priest Personnel.
“I just truly love the relationships of the church here,” Sister Joyce said, noting the joyful connections she has made with local religious communities, parishes, chancery staff and the four Seattle archbishops for whom she’s worked. “All of it is the presence of God with us and the Gospel good news.”
Passion for education
Born in Butte, Montana, and raised Mormon, Sister Joyce converted to Catholicism in high school. She entered the novitiate when she was 18.
She earned a bachelor’s degree in English and master’s degrees in educational administration, counseling psychology and applied theology. She also has a doctorate in clinical and developmental psychology.
Sister Joyce taught and was an administrator at schools and universities in Chicago, San Francisco, Sacramento and Council Bluffs, Iowa, among other places. She moved out west to study for her doctorate and worked on the administrative team at Bellarmine Prep in Tacoma for 10 years, five of them as principal.
She was Seattle’s Catholic schools superintendent for four years and later served as director of spirituality at what is now the Archbishop Brunett Retreat Center at the Palisades.
Education, faith formation and retreats are her passion, Sister Joyce said. But she also has been deeply involved in ecumenical and interfaith issues, serving in many interreligious coalitions with the goal of showing “what we share in common.”
She co-founded the “Children of Abraham,” a local interfaith discussion group among Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders, just before 9/11. In addition, she helped start an interfaith anti-human-trafficking coalition that is now overseen by the archdiocesan Missions Office and the Intercommunity Peace & Justice Center.
After retiring, Sister Joyce said, she plans to “take it easy” this summer. Then she will volunteer with the Office for Catholic Schools and get more involved with mental health ministry through the archdiocese and St. James Cathedral. Sister Joyce also hopes to work on her Spanish fluency and photography.
While she has witnessed the decline over the years in religious vocations, Sister Joyce does not see consecrated religious life disappearing.
“I believe there will always be men and women who will be committed to religious life, to a way of life whose primary purpose is the Gospel good news and serving the current needs,” she said.
“It’s a wonderful life with its demands and its blessings and its struggles. It’s human life.”
Celebrating Sister Joyce
The archdiocese will hold an ice cream social and open house in honor of Sister Joyce Cox’s retirement from 1-5 p.m. June 30. Well-wishers can greet her at the Isaac Orr Conference Center, 910 Marion St., Seattle.