In Your Midst
The Pew Next To You
Summer 99

Sr. Joyce Cox
Golden Jubilarian. Joyce Cox
On a snowy Sunday morning in Butte, Montana (late 1930's), this parishioner began her journey to a pew in St. James Cathedral. She and her father were in a car edging slowly along a slippery road while several nuns in habits were walking on their way to Mass.

As they passed, the young girl told her Mormon father, "Some day I'm going to be one of them." The father just shook his head. That young girl was Sister Joyce M. Cox, B.V.M. perhaps better known throughout the Archdiocese as Archbishop Alexander J. Brunett's Vicar for Religious and Ecumenical Interfaith officer.

The journey from a snowy day in Butte, Montana to a celebration Mass in a Roman Catholic cathedral was not as swiftly achieved as that young girl might have wished. Her family was Mormon, but not fully involved in the Mormon way of life. Her neighborhood was Catholic and she would tag along with some of the kids as they went to confession. As her interest continued to grow, she wrote the pastor, stating she would like to become Catholic. When the pastor called, her father answered the phone. That was the end of that.

Two things occurred later that changed her life. Her mother died during World War II leaving a letter giving her daughter permission to convert, and her father remarried a wonderful Catholic woman who had been Joyce's eighth-grade teacher. Finally a Catholic, Joyce attended Central High (Catholic girls school) later entering the order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Dubuque, Iowa, the same order as the nuns in Butte.

Her field was education and she received assignments in San Francisco, Sacramento, Council Bluffs, Iowa, Chicago, back for a master's degree at University of San Francisco and principal at St. Thomas More Park, Merced while teaching at USF. Then back to Chicago as dean at Mundelein College. She was the first woman pastoral associate at St. Symphorosa and Seven Sons Parish, Chicago. She did doctoral studies at Saybrook Institute, San Francisco after completing a master's in theology at the Jesuit School of Theology, Berkeley, Calif.

After Berkeley, Sister Joyce was principal of Bellarmine Preparatory School in Tacoma for 10 years. She was the first woman principal of any Jesuit High School. In 1988, Archbishop Raymond G. Hunthausen appointed her the first woman, Vice Chancellor of the Seattle Archdiocese.

Sister Joyce will celebrate her golden jubilee of 50 years September 8th at St. James Cathedral. She says, "the event will honor all women religious for their fidelity and faithfulness for years past and to come."

You won't often find this parishioner in a pew near you, but the incredible results of her talents fill the Cathedral with the sound of children's voices. You'll see Kelly Foster Griffin in a magenta cassock and white surplice as she directs one or all of the St. James Children's Choirs. They will be singing at the noon Masses on Sundays, beginning again in September and at special holy days and Cathedral events.

Eighty-five boys and girls from 6 to 16 participate in the three children's choirs: St. Gregory Choir, St. Cecilia Singers and the Schola Cantorum. A note on their Christmas CD tells us "The Schola Cantorum was founded in the early days of the Cathedral nearly a century ago." Four years ago, the Schola was reestablished when Kelly, after serving as cantor one Sunday for the children's liturgy, told the liturgy and music director Dr. James Savage that she wished St. James had a children's choir.

Dr. Savage fulfilled her wish that day when he told Kelly she could start a choir. He also said a children's choir had been one of Father Ryan's dreams for the Cathedral for years. Father Ryan and Dr. Savage both knew Kelly was a widely recognized music educator and taught music in an elementary school. Their hope that Kelly would want to develop a music-training program was well founded.

Kelly is a graduate of Pacific Lutheran University with a master's from Holy Names College, Oakland, California. When she and her husband Tom returned to Seattle, her PLU friends in the St. James Choir, convinced Kelly to join them. In addition to her St. James duties, Kelly teaches music at Moor-lands School in the Northshore School District. She directed the Columbia Boys Choir for eight years.

Kelly and Sister Margaret Evenson, liturgical artist, began the first year with a combination of music, art and dance for children ages 4 to 12 years. Other professional music teachers working with the children's choirs are Ella Rosana, Christopher Roberts and Frank Lewis. Nancy Zylstra is the music program coordinator. Joan McDonell is a St. James Cathedral parishioner, a member of the Development Board and a retired Seattle Times editor.

Back To Summer 1999 Issue