Joan Hopkins, RSCJ

Joan Hopkins, RSCJ

Birth: January 16, 1929
Profession: Feb. 10, 1958
Death: August 25, 2014

Religious of the Sacred Heart Joan Leone Hopkins, died Monday, August 25 in Atherton, California, after a prolonged illness. Remembered as an inspired teacher and an ardent defender of the marginalized, she will be remembered in a Mass of Christian Burial at Oakwood, the Society of the Sacred Heart’s retirement community in Atherton, California on Funeral is at 10:00 am on Saturday, Sept. 13th. Burial will be at the cemetery at Oakwood.

Joan Leone Elizabeth Hopkins was born January 16, 1929 to John and Alice Dellone Hopkins in Omaha, Nebraska, the fourth of five daughters. The five Hopkins girls—Mary Alyce, Marjorie, Patricia, Joan, and Grace—were born within a span of nine years. In addition to her parents, Joan was preceded in death by her sisters Mary Alyce Griffith, Marjorie Wear and Patricia Hopkins. She is survived by her younger sister, Grace (Mrs. Thomas C.) Smith of Portland, Oregon, numerous nieces and nephews and her sisters in the Society of the Sacred Heart.

Young Joan transferred to Duchesne Academy of the Sacred Heart for her second year of high school, following her three older sisters. It was there that she met the Society of the Sacred Heart. After high school graduation, Joan began her college career at Duchesne College in Omaha and began to discern a call to be a missionary. She entered the Society of the Sacred Heart at Kenwood Convent in Albany in 1949. She had been, she said, “very impressed with the loving attitude of the nuns who taught at Duchesne and admired them while they were at prayer in the chapel.” 

After first vows in 1952, Sister Hopkins returned to Duchesne Academy to teach high school biology and work with the middle school students. She served in the same capacity at the Sacred Heart school in Lake Forest, Illinois, 1954-57, before returning to Omaha for four more years. During these years, she completed her Bachelor’s Degree, with a major in biology and a minor in sociology, and a Master’s degree in education from Creighton University.

In 1962, she went to the new Sacred Heart school in Lake Forest: Woodlands Academy of the Sacred Heart, which had opened just two years before, where she continued to teach biology. Five years later, she went to Clifton Academy of the Sacred Heart in Cincinnati, which had recently been added to what was then the Chicago Province. After one happy year there, she began her ministry at Barat College where she was director of services, head of the community infirmary, and, for one semester, taught botany.

In the mid-1970s, Sister Hopkins took courses in nursing, followed by pastoral care training. This course work would prepare her to work with elder sisters. In 1978, she became coordinator of the Caritas Christi community in Omaha, working with twelve Religious of the Sacred Heart living in retirement. She continued this ministry until 1982.

In 1986, Sister Hopkins worked at New Covenant Justice and Peace Center in Omaha, an inter-congregational organization that provided community outreach with programs on justice and peace issues. She would continue this focus of working for justice for the rest of her life. She was the researcher and author of two corporate stances by the former United States Province, the first on opposition to the death penalty, the second on the opposition to the war in Iraq. She became an ardent peace activist, protesting or participating in actions or prayer vigils against U.S. intervention in Central America, the death penalty and the wars in Iraq. She was arrested twice for her part in peaceful protests.

While living in San Francisco’s Mission District, Sister Hopkins began Programa de Ingles, an ESL program for refugees from various Central American countries. With the help of volunteer teachers, the program educated several hundred local residents, teaching them how to read and speak English, and she wrote grants to support the work of this program. 

After Programa de Ingles ended in 1995, Sister Hopkins began volunteering at Oakwood, the Society of the Sacred Heart retirement center in Atherton, California. She had been director of Oakwood for two years, 1987-89, so it was like coming home for her to volunteer here, visiting the nuns or accompanying them to medical appointments. She was loved by the sisters and staff at Oakwood—and she loved them. 

In late August, 2013, Sister Hopkins was diagnosed with lung cancer. After being cared for lovingly by her community for many months, she moved to Oakwood in July of this year where her sisters in the Society accompanied her in her final days and the staff took excellent care of her.


Submitted by Steve and Ellie... on

We are so sad to hear Aunt Joan passed away. She was a very kind person, she will be missed.

Submitted by Susan Evans on

She was an incredible person to meet and interact with. I am so happy to have known her and still can feel what it was like to be in her warm, caring and playful presence. Some people leave quite the impression, and she left a memorable one.