Sisters of St. Joseph of CarondeletApril 10, 2021

In Remembrance

Sister Maria Joseph Cokely, CSJ


Sister Maria Joseph Cokely, CSJ, 93, died Saturday, December 5, 2020, at St. Joseph’s Provincial House, Latham. She had been a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet for the past 71 years.

Sister Maria, baptized Anne Jane Cokely, was born in Schenectady, NY, on October 5, 1927, daughter of the late Leland Joseph and Amalia Lindner Cokely. After graduating from Mont Pleasant High School in Schenectady, Sister Maria attended The College of Saint Rose for two years. On March 19, 1949, she entered the novitiate of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Troy, NY, and professed final vows on August 15, 1956.

Sister Maria received a bachelor’s degree in nursing from the College of Mt. St. Vincent, a master’s degree in nursing education from St. Louis University and a doctorate in health organization and research, also from St. Louis University.

Sister Maria served at St. Mary’s Hospital (now St. Mary’s Healthcare), Amsterdam, as an instructor in nursing and clinical supervision. In the early 1960s, Pope John XXIII called for all communities of women and men religious in the United States to send members for mission service in Latin America. Having completed her doctoral studies, Sister Maria responded to the call and went to Peru in 1964. She served as a nursing instructor and director of nursing service in Hospital Militar in Lima, as professor of nursing at Santa Maria University in Arequipa and as a staff nurse at Posta Medica del Pilar (out-patient clinic), also in Arequipa. After 15 years in Peru, Sister Maria returned to St. Joseph’s Provincial House in Latham where she served as supervisor of the infirmary floor and cared for the elderly and sick sisters.

In 1982, Sister Maria began her work in the city of Troy as a minister to the elderly and homeless in St. Anthony’s Parish. That experience gave her an opportunity to become acquainted with the particular needs of Troy, especially in the areas of emergency food and shelter, homeless outreach and rapid rehousing. In 1983, Sister Maria and Sister Rita Shawn McClaskey founded Joseph’s House in Troy to provide emergency shelter and support services. In 1985, Sisters Maria and Rita established Bethany Hospitality Center, also in Troy, a place where homeless persons could drop in and receive a lunch meal and wellness and hygiene services, and socialize in a safe and relaxing atmosphere.

In 1995, Sister Maria co-founded the Catholic Charities Transportation Program for the Sick to meet the needs of the ill and elderly who had no means of getting to medical appointments and treatments. The same year, she received the Edward H. Pattison Citizenship Award from Rensselaer County Chamber of Commerce for her commitment to improving the lives of individuals through community involvement. In 2016, Sister Maria received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Capital District Senior Issues Forum for her many years of faith-based service. In 2017, she was awarded the Centennial Medallion from the Albany Diocese in honor of her service to Catholic Charities.

As we Sisters of St. Joseph were called to do from our start nearly 400 years ago, Sister Maria responded in all her ministries to the ever-changing needs of the world and to our call to bring unity and reconciliation to God’s people. Sister Maria was impelled to reach out to advocate for those in need and she did so with passion, experience and hope. She leaves us a legacy of recognizing the crucial need for systemic change and of bringing unity to a divided world in a welcoming, loving and compassionate way; we will miss her dearly.

Sister Maria Joseph is survived by her nieces and nephews: John (Maribeth) Coughlin, Joan (Anthony) Sestito, Susan (John) Malone, and Carol (Brian) Van Vorst; their families; many friends; and the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, with special mention of her beloved friend, Sister Rita Shawn McClaskey. In addition to her parents, she was predeceased by her sister and brother-in-law, Doris and Dr. John Coughlin.

Due to the continued health concerns regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, there will be no public visitation or funeral services for Sister Maria at this time. A Memorial Mass will be scheduled at a later date