Jubilarian sisters from different orders in the diocese celebrate centuries of collective service

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Jubilarian sisters from different religious communities throughout the diocese gathered at the Diocesan Pastoral Center May 5 for an appreciation dinner hosted by the Serra Club. (Courtesy of the Office of Consecrated Life)
Jubilarian Sisters
  • Sr. Georgene Faust, SDS — 75 years
  • Sr. Elizabeth Carey, IBVM — 70 years
  • Sr. Lillian Lila, BVM — 70 years
  • Sr. Mary Lynn Heiser, SSND — 60 years
  • Sr. Kathleen Janiak, RSM — 60 years
  • Sr. Ann Marley, SSND — 60 years
  • Sr. Gabby Marry, IBVM — 60 years
  • Sr. Linda Campbell, OSB — 50 years
  • Sr. Sandra DeMann, FSPA — 50 years
  • Sr. Margaret McBride, RSM — 50 years
  • Sr. Cecilia Warner, SSND — 50 years
  • Sr. Maria Olivia Pacheco, SNDdeN — 45 years
  • Sr. Betty Banja, SHS — 25 years
  • Sr. Mary Gertrude Blankenhagan, OP — 25 years
  • Sr. Mary Brigid Burnham, OP — 25 years
  • Sr. Mary Jordan Hoover, OP — 25 years

When the Serra Club gathered religious jubilarians from across the diocese for an appreciation dinner on May 5, those honored represented a steadfast dedication to people in need and a constant, reliable flow of prayer for the people of Arizona and around the world.

Director of the diocesan Office of Consecrated Life Sr. Anthony Mary Diago, RSM, said she was grateful to celebrate with the jubilarians.

“We give thanks to God for all the graces of our vowed lives and the witness of the faithfulness of our Sisters and Brothers who have dedicated many years to being configured to the poor, chaste and obedient to Christ, our Savior and Redeemer,” Sr. Anthony Mary said.

Those celebrating jubilee years each had their own unique call from God to enter religious life, and they each took a different journey of service and love in answering the invitation from Christ to help others.

Sr. Georgene Faust, SDS, celebrating 75 years in the Sisters of the Divine Savior, said she was attracted to her order after visiting the convent of her two older sisters who were also Salvatorians.

“There was such an openness and everybody was so kind and welcoming that I really felt at home almost immediately,” Sr. Georgene said. She said she liked that they were also caring for the poor.

“It was in 1942 during World War II and they were helping out people in need,” Sr. Georgene said.

She entered in 1945 and served as a teacher, principal of several schools and later taught adults. Sr. Georgene arrived in Phoenix in 1988 and was a principal, then taught adults through Rio Salado Community College in Phoenix — a vocation she still faithfully serves. Sr. Georgene gets up early every morning to spend time in contemplative prayer, which she said, “sets the tone for the day.” She also swims for 30 minutes every day and walks regularly.

“I think if you are open and live your life as fully as you can, that makes more of a healthy living experience physically, mentally and spiritually,” Sr. Georgene said.

Sr. Gabrielle “Gabby” Marry, of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary, or the Loreto Sisters, was born in Ireland and is celebrating 60 years as a religious.

She said that when she was around 16, she felt the Lord was calling her, but she still enjoyed dancing and other “worldly” activities.

“There was a big tug between the world and Jesus, and He won,” she said.

She joined the Loreto Sisters in 1958 and came to the diocese in 1965. Sr. Gabby taught school and also trained extraordinary ministers of holy Communion, as well as served as a pastoral assistant in Flagstaff. Since her late 20s, she has had multiple sclerosis and is now in a wheelchair, but, though officially retired, she still brings holy Communion to the sick, has a prayer group and is in a book club.

“Each day, I ask the Lord, ‘What do you expect of me’ and I ask for the grace to accept whatever he wants,” she said.

Another Irish Loreto Sister, Sr. Elizabeth Carey, is celebrating 70 years as a religious.

She said she was impressed with the order because the sisters not only taught school, but went into the neighborhoods to visit and help families during World War II.

Sr. Elizabeth arrived in Phoenix in 1954 — a year after the first five sisters came to the diocese. She taught school in Phoenix and in Flagstaff. She also enjoyed serving in a variety of different capacities in parish life and still faithfully heeds the call to be of service.

She said her life has been a “wonderful journey” and that she is grateful to the religious women and men who have dedicated their lives to the Diocese of Phoenix and to all the faithful.

“We are standing on the shoulders of those wonderful people who went before us,” she said.