Every Voice – Sr. Joan Chatfield, M.M. Ph.D

11 March 2019, 10:03 AM
Every Voice – Sr. Joan Chatfield, M.M. Ph.D

By words and actions, people all over the world give voice to URI. Their voices remind us what URI means and inspire even more of us to speak out and spread URI’s message.

“Just like we’re perfectly tolerant of people having different food likes, why aren’t we tolerant of people having different religious likes? We should be!” - Sr. Joan Chatfield

Sr. Joan Chatfield, an esteemed educator and Maryknoll sister, participated in the first URI Planning Summit in San Francisco in 1996. Participants were invited to create a skit as part of a “future search” process that asked participants to imagine and act out possible futures supportive of URI values and purpose. Sr. Joan, with great good humor, presented herself as “Pope Joan” and by “papal decree” declared a positive role for the church in interfaith work. 

At the same gathering, when 10-year-old Walter Gray presented his hand-crafted origami star to the participants, Sr. Joan listened to Walter tell his “star story, ”Once the religions were far apart. Then they came together and they started talking. Before long, there was something in the world that was never there before – a star!  At the end of Walter’s story, Sr. Joan proclaimed that Walter’s colorful star should become the logo for URI. And, so it did!

Sister Joan passed away in Hawaii March 1, 2019.  Her life was devoted to interfaith values. A colleague remembered her with these words:

“Known for her compassion and altruism, Chatfield was named a “Living Treasure of Hawaii.” She was executive director of the Institute for Religion and Social Change, helped lead The Interfaith Alliance and chaired the All Believers Network. “What she always brought to the table was heartfelt sincerity,” said Merritt Sakata, co-facilitator of the network. “She was a treasure.” Her goal was to bridge differences and promote a universal love for humankind.  “Just like we’re perfectly tolerant of people having different food likes, why aren’t we tolerant of people having different religious likes?” she asked at a recent gathering of the network. “We should be!”

URI is indebted to Sr. Joan as one of its founding visionaries and praise her for a lifetime devoted to bringing people from all cultural, socioeconomic and religious backgrounds together.


Read more posts in the Every Voice series, which presents thought-provoking quotes showing how people all over the world give voice to URI.