While inspired by St. Julie Billiart’s simplicity and loving spirit, Phyllis Cook found she wasn’t attracted to religious groups. “I’m not the type!” she exclaimed to people who thought she might be “Sister material.” But when Phyllis started looking more closely at the Sisters who taught at the College of Notre Dame where she was a student, it seemed there was no “type.” They were young and old. All different personalities. During a Holy Thursday service in her sophomore year, she knew she was called to enter.
As a young Sister she taught at many schools, starting with fourth grade at St. Lucy’s Elementary School in Campbell, CA. Later, while teaching sixth- and seventh-graders at St. Francis of Assisi School in Seahurst, WA, Sr. Phyllis also had the joy of discussing Vatican II teachings with adults. Three years in Holy Family School in Honolulu, HI, broadened her world to a new culture and climate! She then returned to the mainland to teach at St. Joseph’s Notre Dame High School in her hometown Alameda.
An opportunity to serve in Kenya called to Sr. Phyllis and she became part of the teaching team for the Egoji Teacher Training College, in Eastern Kenya, for two years. This meant revising teaching methods (forget about handouts!), learning Kiswahili and seeing extreme poverty first hand.
Back in the U.S., Sr. Phyllis initiated the Writing to Read program at Nativity School in Los Angeles. A few years later and she would become principal at St. Columbkille’s School also in Los Angeles, a job she cherished for 11 years.
In 2007 Sister was invited by Notre Dame Sr. Masheti Wangoyi in Kenya to work with postulants and Sisters in initial commitment. The job “calls for lots of listening, learning, celebrating and exercising patience with myself and others!” Sr. Phyllis adds, “Today those Postulants hold responsible positions in the Kenya Unit and are forming more young Kenyan women to become SNDdeN’s.”
“Truly God is good all the time. My early fascination with St. Julie has grown into a strong love and ever-growing appreciation of her wisdom and experience of the good God. I am grateful that over 50 years ago I was called to become an SNDdeN, a member of an international family. That call is ongoing with ever new horizons.”