Faith-Justice Outreach Lecture Renamed for Founder

Monday, April 11, 2011

Thirty years after its beginning, the Outreach Lecture Series of the Faith-Justice Institute was renamed this winter in honor of the series’ founder, Sister Francis Joseph, R.A. Now called the Sister Francis Joseph, R.A., Lecture Series, the re-naming came in recognition of her commitment to Saint Joseph’s University and contributions to the Greater Philadelphia area.

Virginia Goulding Johnson, Ph.D., assistant professor of education and director of the Faith-Justice Institute, proposed the name change in recognition of Sister Francis’ efforts. “Sister has been the driving force in bringing outstanding speakers and cultural topics to the University and community's attention for thirty years,” says Johnson. “To recognize her efforts highlights the impact she has had on thousands of lives in the Faith-Justice Institute, Saint Joseph's University, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and beyond."

Each semester, the series presents a lecture that highlights contemporary issues related to Christian faith and social justice. When she first organized the lectures in 1981, Sr. Francis Joseph’s goal was to challenge her audience to take what they learned into their communities. This spring’s lecture is entitled, “I Know It’s Wrong, But So What?: Examining Society’s Responsibility in Shaping Youth’s Moral Values,” and will be given by Joan Goodman, Ph.D., professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education, on April 14 in the Wolfington Teletorium of Mandeville Hall, 7 p.m.

Born 91 years ago and raised Rachel Scarpello in Germantown, Sr. Francis Joseph, R.A., has been an educator for 77 years, and currently teaches peace classes at St. Francis DeSales School in Philadelphia. Before she became a Sister of the Assumption, she worked for the Federal Bureau of Investigation – her first job following graduation from Chestnut Hill College. Later, she took a job teaching French and English at Ravenhill Academy, a private Catholic school for girls in Philadelphia. After only three years, she became principal. But as much as she loved her work, Sr. Francis Joseph felt drawn to change, and at 33 she entered the sisterhood, taking her vows only one year later. She chose her religious name in honor of her own educators: Francis for the Franciscans at her elementary school, and Joseph for the Sisters of St. Joseph at Chestnut Hill College.

Since taking her vows in 1955, Sr. Francis Joseph has committed her life to helping and supporting the lives and faith of others. Following a year spent studying at Gregorian University in Rome, she returned to Ravenhill Academy as principal, then spent time in the Philippines teaching theology. While in the Philippines, Joseph helped to establish the Maryville Housing Project in Manila, for which the Filipino government has honored her. After her vocation took her to Japan and Paris, Sr. Francis Joseph was called back to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in 1980 to become part of the Peace and Justice ministry, where she was asked to organize the Outreach Lecture Series for the Faith-Justice Institute at SJU as a way to connect the University with the wider Philadelphia Catholic community. She continued to work with SJU for 30 years. During that time she provided the University and the larger Philadelphia faith-based communities with many opportunities for dialogue around important socially conscious topics.

--Nicole Katze

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