Pint-size liturgy expert Sr. Anthony Poerio, IBVM, whose leadership in the diocesan Office of Worship spanned nearly three decades, died May 19. She was 75.
Crowning the Loreto Sister’s many achievements was planning the Mass celebrated by Blessed John Paul II at Arizona State University’s Sun Devil Stadium in 1987.
“Sr. Anthony was a great woman of faith, totally dedicated to liturgical renewal. She saw the liturgy as the very heart of our faith, as she loved the sacred liturgy, and promoted its reform with a spirit of authentic renewal, rooted in tradition and noble celebration,” said Auxiliary Bishop Edward M. Grosz of the Diocese of Buffalo.
Sr. Anthony and the bishop became friends when they both served as board and executive members of the national Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions. Sr. Anthony was also a longtime member of the Southwest Liturgical Conference.
“Short in stature, Sr. Anthony stood above the crowd in defense of beautiful liturgical celebrations, sharing her liturgical expertise to enrich the lives of so many,” Bishop Grosz said.
Sr. Anthony was often recognized for her love of the Church, and her desire to help faith communities celebrate meaningful liturgy.
Friend and colleague for the past 20 years, Fr. Scott Brubaker, pastor of St. Bridget Parish in Mesa, said Sr. Anthony was a strong and principled individual.
“She had a vision and a direction, and she was unwilling to back down,” he said. “She helped people love the liturgy, and it was a noble goal.”
Together, through the Office of Worship, they planned some of the largest liturgical celebrations in the diocese, like the Bank One Ballpark Confirmation in 1998, Chrism Masses and priest ordinations.
One of Fr. Brubaker’s favorite memories is the Italian dinners Sr. Anthony would make following a large diocesan liturgy.
“She was a fantastic cook, and she would put on a huge Italian meal after celebrating a large event,” he said. “She really enjoyed eating with people and throwing big dinner parties.”
For the first 25 years of her service, Sr. Anthony worked in elementary education in Chicago; Sacramento, Calif.; Carmichael, Calif.; and at St. Gregory’s Catholic School.
In 1977, Sr. Anthony was named diocesan director of the Office of Worship, where she served until 2005, when she joined the pastoral staff of St. Mary’s Basilica as the director of religious education and co-coordinator of the RCIA program.
“She was small in stature, but very large in her faith,” said Jerome Doris, parish manager of St. Mary’s Basilica. “She was a strong woman, a great communicator and teacher and a wonderful liturgist.”
Doris said the appeal of Sr. Anthony was her depth of knowledge in liturgical renewal generated by the Second Vatican Council, and her ability to be all-inclusive.
“She was a great interpreter of the Gospel, and wonderful in expressing how we should love one another,” he said. “She made the liturgy real for everyone.”
Sr. Anthony, a religious for 58 years, was preceded in death by her parents, Rose Benedict and Peter Poerio, Sr., and her brothers Joseph and Peter, Jr.
She is survived by her brother, Fr. John Poerio, her sisters-in-law Shirley and Adeline, many nieces and nephews, and her religious community of Loreto Sisters, especially Sr. Miriam Scanlon, IBVM.
A funeral liturgy was celebrated at St. Mary’s Basilica, May 24, followed by interment at St. Francis Cemetery.
Donations may be sent to the Loreto Sisters’ Retirement Fund, care of the IBVM Office of Development, P.O. Box 508, Wheaton, IL, 60187.