Celebrating Our Jubilarians – S. Joan Elizabeth Cook
Born in Washington, D.C., Sister Joan Elizabeth grew up in Kensington, Maryland, attending Holy Redeemer School. “The Sisters who taught me were happy women who loved God, one another and us students; and they were excellent teachers. Their example, and their interest in me, convinced me I wanted to be one of them,” she said.
Sister Joan Elizabeth entered the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati on Sept. 8, 1960, and four years later, received her bachelor’s degree in French from the College of Mount St. Joseph (Cincinnati). She taught in high schools in Colorado, Illinois and Ohio, including Holy Trinity, Trinidad, Colorado (1964-’66); Elizabeth Seton, South Holland, Illinois (1966-’70); Marian, Cincinnati (1970-’72, 1979-’81); St. Xavier, Cincinnati (1972-’73); McNicholas, Cincinnati (1973-’74); and Purcell Marian, Cincinnati (1981-’83).
Sister went on to earn a master’s degree from Middlebury College in Middlebury, Vermont; a master’s in theology from Xavier University in Cincinnati; and a doctorate in religion from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.
Sister Joan Elizabeth transitioned to higher education in 1989, ministering as assistant professor of theology at St. Bonaventure University in St. Bonaventure, New York, until 1997, associate professor of sacred scripture at the Washington Theological Union in Washington, D.C. from 1997 until 2005, and professorial lecturer at Georgetown University 2006-2011.
She has published numerous scholarly works, including Hannah’s Desire, God’s Design: Early Interpretations of the Story of Hannah; Hear O Heavens and Listen O Earth: An Introduction to the Prophets, for which she received a first-place award from the Catholic Press Association for “Best Book in Scripture;” and the Genesis volume in the New Collegeville Bible Commentary. Sister Joan Elizabeth served as Old Testament book review editor for the Catholic Biblical Quarterly, and is the 2005 recipient of the College of Mount St. Joseph’s St. Elizabeth Seton Medal for exceptional contributions in theology.
In spring 2009, Sister Joan Elizabeth was the Catholic Biblical Association visiting professor at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome – one of the highlights of her professional life. “It was a humbling and gratifying experience to contribute to the preparation of the next generation of world-wide biblical scholars,” she said.
From 2011 to 2019 Sister served as president of the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati, and from 2017 to 2019 was president of the Sisters of Charity Federation. Of this ministry she observed, “It was an amazing gift to lead our Sisters and those who serve with us in carrying forward the charism of St. Elizabeth Seton.”
Sister Joan Elizabeth loves music, swimming, and sharing meals with Sisters and friends.