While inspired by St. Julie Billiart’s simplicity and loving spirit, Phyllis Cook wasn't attracted to religious life, herself.. “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 real “type.” They were young and old, all with different personalities. During a Holy Thursday service in her sophomore year, she knew she was called to enter.
As a young Sister she taught in many schools, beginning with fourth grade at St. Lucy 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 at Holy Family School in Honolulu, HI, broadened her world to a new culture and climate! She then returned to the mainland to teach for seven years at St. Joseph Notre Dame High School in her hometown Alameda.
When Sister Phyllis responded to a call to serve in Kenya for two years, she became part of the teaching team for the Egoji Teacher Training College in Eastern Kenya. This experience meant revising teaching methods (forget about handouts!), learning Kiswahili and seeing extreme poverty first hand.
When she returned to the United States, Sr. Phyllis initiated the successful Writing to Read program at Nativity School in Los Angeles. A few years later, she became principal at St. Columbkille School in Los Angeles, a job she cherished for 11 years.
In 2007, Sister was invited by Notre Dame Sister Masheti Wangoyi in Kenya to work with postulants and Sisters in initial commitment. According to Sr. Phyllis, the job called for "lots of listening, learning, celebrating and exercising patience with myself and others!” She adds that “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 her 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.”
Sister Phyllis's Ministries
1963-64 St. Lucy School, Campbell, CA
1964-66 St. Joseph Elementary School, San Jose, CA
1966-69 St. Francis of Assisi School, Seahurst, WA
1969-73 Holy Family Catholic Academy, Pearl Harbor, HI
1973-74 St. Clare Elementary School, Santa Clara, CA
1974-81 Notre Dame High School, Alameda, CA
1981-83 Teacher Training College, Kenya
1987-88 Sacred Heart School, Salinas, CA
1988-90 Nativity Catholic School, Los Angeles, CA
1990-2001 St. Columbkille School, Los Angeles, CA (Principal)
2003-07 Sixty-Eighth Street Elementary School, Los Angeles, CA
Service to the Sisters
2007-13 Postulant Director, Kenya
2014-Present Community Support, Kenya
Caption for top photo: Sister Phyllis (center) with then-postulants Susan Libendi (left) and Sister Elizabeth Sichangi (right). Both are now responsible professed Sisters!