Sister Joan Curtin Named Vicar for Religious 


Sister Joan Curtin, C.N.D., the longtime director of the archdiocesan Catechetical Office, has been named vicar for religious for the Archdiocese of New York, effective Sept. 1.

She will succeed Sister Catherine Cleary, P.B.V.M., who has served as vicar for religious since 2009.

In his Aug. 4 letter of appointment to Sister Joan, Cardinal Dolan said that he “was deeply grateful for your dedicated service to the Church in New York over the past 37 years, most recently as director of the Catechetical Office, and look forward to working with you as we continue to serve the Lord and His people in the archdiocese.”

Sister Joan’s new appointment is for a three-year term. As vicar, she will serve as liaison between the archdiocese and the religious institutes and other forms of consecrated life within the archdiocese.

While she was “surprised” to be called to a new ministry, Sister Joan said she loves religious life as a professed member of the Congregation de Notre Dame for more than half a century and looks forward to building on the history of “tremendous work and service” by religious sisters and brothers in the Archdiocese of New York.

“God continues to call people to religious life,” she said.

Sister Joan cited the need to reach out to new communities of women religious, including several Hispanic congregations whose members serve as directors and coordinators of religious education in parishes

Joining Sister Joan in the Vicar for Religious office will be Sister Teresita Morse, R.J.M., a longtime associate in the Catechetical Office, who has served as director of formation for directors and coordinators of religious education for many years.

In 1985, Cardinal John O’Connor appointed Sister Joan as director of the Catechetical Office. From 1983 to 1985, she was director of catechist formation in the archdiocese.

Sister Joan received honors on the national and local levels for her catechetical leadership. In 2004, she received the C. Albert Koob Award from the National Catholic Educational Association for her “significant contributions to Catholic education at all levels, from early childhood through the stages of adult formation, by her outstanding leadership at the national level as well as the archdiocesan level.” In 2009, she was cited with an award for 25 years of leadership in archdiocesan catechetical ministry.

During Sister Joan’s tenure, the Catechetical Office developed and revised guidelines for catechesis for grades 1 to 6 and grades 7 and 8. Programs were also developed for DRE and CRE certification as well as three levels of catechist formation.  

“For over three decades it’s been a joy and a privilege to serve in this ministry while working with extraordinary men and women religious and laity who are witnesses of the Gospel,” Sister Joan told Catholic New York.

“The DREs and CREs and catechists are unsung heroes,” she said.

Sister Catherine’s appointment as vicar for religious came in 2009, Cardinal Dolan’s first year as archbishop of New York. She called her service as vicar “a great ministry” in which she “learned a lot.”

Though many traditional religious congregations are aging, members continue to carry out their missions either as volunteers or by serving within their religious communities themselves, Sister Catherine said.

She told CNY that religious life itself is in the midst of “a teachable moment.”

“What it is going to be, we don’t know. We have to look at ways to introduce men and women to religious life,” Sister Catherine said.

One possible way may be by broadening outreach and recruitment beyond their local areas, she said.