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Sister Mary Vincentia Joseph

Sr. Mary Vincentia Joseph has advanced the social work profession into new territory in two major areas - ethics and spirituality. She published her first article in the field of ethics in 1983 and her first article in the area of spirituality in 1987.

Sr. Vincentia has been described as a natural born social worker. She was first introduced to the profession while still in high school, as part of a lay Apostolate group who did community service.

She entered the convent in 1946 and worked for 18 years as a social worker in Harrisburg, PA providing direct family and child services, supervision of branch offices, and later as Director of Professional Services. Her diocese sent her to The Catholic University of America (CUA) to study for an MSW which she received in 1958. She went on to get her PhD at CUA in 1974 and that same year she joined the faculty at the National Catholic School of Social Service (NCSSS). 

She was a member of the Catholic Charities USA Code of Ethics Committee which formulated one of the first organizational codes of ethics in 1983. Her forward thinking in ethics made her a key member of the NASW committee that revised the social work Code of Ethics in 1997. This was the first major revision of the social work Code in over a decade. Her commitment to ethics continued and she served on the most recent committee which revised and updated the Catholic Charities organizational code of ethics, promulgated in 2007.

At NCSSS, Sr. Vincentia has been an articulate advocate that ethics be taught as a discrete course in the MSW Program. Similarly, she identified the need to address spirituality in professional practice as well as to include it in the social work curriculum. As pointed out in the social work literature, NCSSS was the first school of social work in 1975 to offer a course in the religious/spiritual dimensions of social work practice (Russell, 1995), which Sr. Vincentia developed and taught. In the 1980's, Sr. Vincentia gave a lead paper at NASW on religion and spirituality in social work. She began meeting in small groups with other social work leaders, providing leadership to teams interested in these topics. This resulted in the establishment of the Society for Spirituality & Social Work.

Sr. Vincentia is a noteworthy scholar. She has authored 23 refereed journal articles and more than 26 refereed papers at conferences, a number of research monographs, and resources for faith-based social service outreach as well as for professional supervision. She has also taken her teaching of ethics and spirituality abroad to groups in Chile, Taiwan, Europe, Hong Kong and in the Philippines. In 2003, the NASW Metropolitan Chapter named her Social Work Educator of the Year as well as Social Worker of the Year.

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