Meet Sister Phyllis (Philip Marie) D'Anna

The oldest 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 San Jose 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 convent and became Sr. 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 Sr. Bernadette Garcia. In the early ‘70s Sr. 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!

Sr. Phyllis (on the right) helps Sr. Marie Veronica exercise.

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.

In the late ‘80s and as part of her spiritual quest, Sr. 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 Sr. 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.”

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

Today you will see Sr. Phil zooming up to work on her carbon-free electric scooter (caring for the earth is of key importance) to joyfully serve as the administrative assistant for the Provincial Leadership Team. She also provides spiritual direction and teaches meditation awareness practices.

As Sister looks back on these 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,

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