Alumni Profile

Sister Virginia Joy Cotter, SV

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Alumni Profile

Sister Virginia Joy Cotter, SV

Sister Viginia Joy Cotter, SV, is dedicated to fostering a culture of life.

Winter 2023 | Melissa Zifzal

In This Article

Sister Virginia Joy Cotter, SV ’03, says she chose to major in business administration at Franciscan University because it was a broad field that allowed her to explore many possibilities after graduation. She was particularly drawn to work in education after doing mission work with troubled teens.

A member of the Sisters of Life and director of the Respect Life Office for the Archdiocese of New York, Sister Virginia Joy has helped develop and implement a curriculum that honors life by joining original research, resources from other dioceses, and her order’s charism to counteract society’s culture of death.

“We know the destructive power our culture and the media have on young people and the crucial need to give them truth, beauty, and goodness,” she says.

Approximately 62,000 students throughout the archdiocese use the sisters’ K-12 curriculum that focuses on the gift of the students’ own lives while covering topics such as abortion, immigration, and suicide.

“You cannot reverence life or recognize the infinite worth of the human person unless you can first see it in yourself,” she explains.

Excited by this curriculum, school officials throughout the archdiocese have invited the sisters to talk about their message of life and love, and the sisters have seen early fruits of their labors.

Most recently, Sister Virginia Joy collaborated with Notre Dame’s McGrath Institute for Church Life to create a 12-part educational video series and study guide called Into Life ( based on the sisters’ work in serving pregnant women. She was a content writer for the series and is featured in several of the episodes. The series, website, and study guide launched in 2022 and invites others to journey with the Sisters of Life as they explain what it means to walk with a woman who is pregnant and vulnerable.

Sister Virginia Joy recognizes how pivotal her time at Franciscan University was in her life’s work.

“So much of my formation happened at Franciscan. It gave me a thirst and a desire for God’s will in my life—not just in my vocation but in every detail of my life,” she says.

Sister Virginia Joy Cotter, SV, received the 2022 Dr. John J. Carrigg Alumni Award in recognition of her success in the field of education.

Melisssa Zifzal writes from Wintersville, Ohio.

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