Religious of the Sacred Heart Joan Kirby died Wednesday, September 9, 2015 in her community in New York City. Remembered for her inclusivity and generosity of spirit, her life was celebrated in a Mass of Christian Burial on September 17th at Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in New York City. Sister Joan was NGO/DPI Executive Committee Chair, 2006-2008.
It is my honor to recognize the historic work of the person that mentored me and made me effective at the United Nations. Sister Joan Kirby, Religious of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, has worked with the Temple of Understanding since 1994 at the United Nations. In 2010, she received the Interfaith Visionary Lifetime Achievement Award. The award was given “In dedication to Sister Joan Kirby for promoting interreligious values at the United Nations, her lifelong commitment to addressing human rights and ecological issues, and her passionate devotion to the development of young leaders.”
UN Secretary General BAN Ki-Moon wrote to Sister Joan: “We are especially mindful of the special role you have played in advancing the Millennium Development Goals and interfaith and intercultural dialogue, as well as confronting climate change. I am also thankful that you have taken the time to nurture young global citizens from all parts of the world. Your leadership has been exemplary,your influence profound. I thank you.”
I came to the UN in the midst of planning for the 2008 NGO/DPI Conference on Human Rights in Paris and I was determined to end murder and oppression based on sexual orientation/gender identity. Sister Joan was chair of the Outreach Committee and she scared me. I was convinced that as a Catholic nun, she would never help me get this issue onto the conference agenda. Soon however, she was assisting and guiding me. With her support, I hosted the first workshop on sexual orientation/gender identity oppression in the 60-year history of NGO/DPI conferences.
I have no words to adequately thank Sister Joan for her help and advice. What she did for me, she has done for more people, young and old, than I will ever know. I do know that she has worked with very large groups of young people for years and inspired them to endeavors and lives they never would have imagined without her help and guidance. Sister Joan is the best Christian and Buddhist and person of faith and humanitarian that I know. The best way we can honor her life is to live by her example in all that we do.
Bruce Knotts, Chair
NGO/DPI Executive Committee