Sister Phyllis (Philip Marie) D'Anna

The eldest of five, Phyllis enjoyed a lively home life with “a sweet and kind mother and a musical dad who loved gathering people together.” For a time the family lived in Alabama and it was there that a Sister told Phyllis’s mom, “Phyllis is going to become a Sister.” An avowed class cutup, Phyllis laughed at this idea and said, “She’s GOT to be kidding!” Later the family moved back to her hometown of San Jose, Cal. and Phyllis attended Notre Dame High School where, influenced by the Sisters who taught there, she realized that she, too, wanted to serve and make a difference in the world. She entered the SNDdeNs and became Sister Philip Marie.

Her first assignment brought her to Sacred Heart School in Salinas where as a brand new teacher she was happy to receive advice and help from more experienced teachers like Sister Bernadette Garcia. In the early ‘70s, Sister "Phil" taught at Mother of Sorrows School in Los Angeles. Though the Watts riots were over, it remained a turbulent time. It was not unusual to hear gunshots or see SWAT teams in the neighborhood. One day Sister remembers leading her first grade class down the street and a police helicopter overhead booming, “Get up against the wall.”  Within seconds her little ones were nervously clinging to the brick wall. But it didn’t take long to realize that the command was not meant for them!

Sister also taught at St. Francis of Assisi School, Seahurst, WA, and at Notre Dame School in San Francisco. Later Sr. Phil became certified in Montessori and taught at both the Early Learning Center in Belmont and at Creative Montessori in East Palo Alto, Cal.

In the late ‘80s and as part of her spiritual quest, Sister Phil helped build and staff a Zen Monastery and Interfaith Peace Center. Sister organized and directed retreats and became adept at carpentry and plumbing. Friend Cameron Sellar shares, “I met Sister Phil at a retreat center over 20 years ago. Through her gentle love and acceptance of all, she quietly lives her religion, rather than talking about it, and in doing so, she makes known God’s goodness.”

Sister Phil has a wonderful connection with the elderly and worked with infirm Sisters at both the Notre Dame Villa and the Mercy Retirement Center in Oakland.

Sister Phil also served as the administrative assistant for the Provincial Leadership Team, and she would zoom up to work on her carbon-free electric scooter (caring for the earth is of key importance). She currently serves as one of two coordinators for the Sisters in the West region of the U.S. East-West Province. She also provides spiritual direction, teaches meditation awareness practices, and volunteers at a women's jail.

SNDdeN co-coordinators Sister Georgi Coonis and Phyllis D'Anna.

As Sister looks back more than 50 years of as a Sister of Notre Dame, she says, “My whole life has been an energizing and renewing experience. I try to live each moment in the present and each day to the fullest. And I am grateful for every part of my life…for all the children I have taught and my Sisters, Sangha, family, co-workers and friends and all who have blessed my life in countless ways.”


  1. It's amazing that someone so young in spirit and physically healthy could have been a nun for 50 years and also a practitioner of meditation and awareness for 31 years. I bow deeply in love and respect to Sister Phil the other sisters celebrating their jubilees. Thank you for modeling such service and devotion.

  2. Happy, happy Golden Jubilee, Phil!!! Wish I could be there to sing and celebrate with you! Thank you so very much for all your kindness to me during my California sojourn and especially, just recently, in helping me get connected to a Browser!!!!
    Much love,

  3. She was my first grade teacher at Mother of Sorrows in Los Angeles. I hardly spoke any English and struggled so much that year in school. I am in my mid 50's now and have never forgotten how special she made me feel one day when I was able to read a book with my assigned 8th grader who would help us read. I want to thank you for your years of services in South Los Angeles. I am successful and thriving because of my catholic education. Thank you soo much Sister Phyllis! You are my superstar!! I will look for my first grade group pictures and post it if I find it.

    1. Thank you for this wonderful message to Sister Phyllis, Sagrario! I will send her a copy of it right now!

      (for the Sisters)

    2. Sagrario, I just spoke with Sister Phyllis and she remembers you fondly and sends you her best wishes!

      (for the Sisters)

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