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2012 Jubilarians

A Jubilarian is a person observing 25 or more years of religious life, and a Jubliee is the celebration of their religious profession. Generally, 25 years of religious life and 50 years of religious life mark special Jubliees (anniversaries), as do those marking the decades beyond. This year, the following Benedictine Sisters of Pittsburgh are Jubilarians.


  Sister Mary Damian Thaner, OSB

Fidelity to the Rule of St. Benedict is a hallmark of the life of Sister Mary Damian Thaner who celebrated 75 years as a Benedictine Sister of Pittsburgh on June 16, 2012 in the Marian Chapel at St. Benedict Monastery with her Benedictine Community and members of her family.  Every morning, year in and year out, finds Sister Mary Damian beginning her day praying Morning Praise and celebrating the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass with her Benedictine Community.  As the most senior member of our community, she provides a strong witness to commitment and stability in the Benedictine way of life. 

All her life Sister Mary Damian has been a passionate educator serving in the dioceses of Pittsburgh, PA and Greensburg, PA as elementary and secondary teacher, principal, and supervisor of teachers.  In her later years she has been the quintessential tutor teaching adults math and English as a second language.  Her students praise her ability to help them master the intricacies of math and English grammar.  

That Sister Mary Damian is known for her honesty, fairness, and discipline comes as no surprise to those who know that her favorite quote from the Rule of St. Benedict, “The life of a monk ought to be a continuous Lent.”

At 97 Sister Mary Damian is still eager to read and learn new things.  She eagerly participates in the book discussion club and leads the Bible study group at Life Pittsburgh.

As the Benedictine Community prepares to move from the monastery at 4530 Perrysville Avenue which has served as home base for Sister Mary Damian for the past 75 years, she is hopeful and ready to continue living the Benedictine vows she professed seventy-five years ago.
  Sister Anne Lazar, OSB

As she marks 6o years as a Benedictine Sister of Pittsburgh, Sister Anne’s eyes twinkle with the same cheerfulness and kindness that have delighted the countless children and adults with whom she has ministered during these years.  Sister Anne has been a quintessential primary teacher in schools in the dioceses of Pittsburgh, PA, Greensburg, PA, Altoona-Johnstown, PA, and Youngstown, OH.   As a pastoral minister, she loved visiting the elderly and the sick.  She has been very dedicated to serving the people of God in a variety of ministries and in many different places.

This good hearted woman has a great love for her Benedictine community and now considers herself blessed to reside and work at the monastery.  As receptionist, Sister Anne greets visitors at the door and on the phone with a friendly smile and kind word.  She is often found helping Sister Marcia in the craft room with a variety of creative projects.

Each new day finds her living out her favorite quote from the Rule of St. Benedict which says, “If today you hear his voice, harden not your heart.”  Fidelity to prayer is the font from which her cheerful, welcoming spirit flows.

  Sister Marcia Koluder, OSB

When asked her favorite precept from the Rule of St. Benedict, Sister Marcia responds without a moment’s hesitation, “Prefer nothing to the love of Christ.”  She adds quickly, “To me, that sums up what Benedictine life is all about.”  These words have been formative of the daily life of this quiet, soft-spoken woman who always has a kind word and a cheerful smile for everyone she meets. 

Sister Marcia has served in a variety of ministries.  She enjoyed being part of the parochial school system in the Greensburg, Pittsburgh, and Altoona-Johnstown dioceses as an elementary and secondary teacher and principal.  Because of her strong organizational skills, her flexibility, and her creative talents, Sister Marcia has been able to succeed and find joy in diversity.  She has held administrative positions and been a strong support to life of her Benedictine community.

After living the monastic life for 60 years, Sister Marcia retains her first fervor and is still eager for prayer and for service.  She creates many beautiful and useful items for sale in the monastery gift shop.

Faithful to the Benedictine tradition, Sister Marcia is steadfast in daily communal prayer for the church and for the universe.
  Sister Estelle Svezeny, OSB

A favorite phrase of Sister Estelle that reflects her on-going desire to live the Rule of St. Benedict is, “To love what He loved and to practice what He taught.”  Faithfully living this precept for 60 years is the way Sister Estelle has preferred nothing to the love Christ.  She spent fourteen years teaching in parochial schools in the dioceses of Pittsburgh and Greensburg, PA.   Most of her life, Sister has lived in the shadow of the cross, humbling serving the church and her community in quiet, often unnoticed, but helpful ways. 

If you are looking for Sister Estelle, you will probably find her in one of the two chapels in the monastery reading and praying the Scriptures or performing one of her duties in service to others.

The twinkle in her eye, her gentle sense of humor, and her kind words to each person she encounters attest to a deep truth expressed by the great Benedictine Abbot Columba Marmion, “Joy is the echo of God’s life in the soul.”

  Sister Gemma Liberati, OSB

Sister Gemma has the wonderful ability to make people feel comfortable and at ease because she is comfortable and at home within herself.    Her friendly, easy going personality makes her a great choice to welcome guests to the monastery and to be the house coordinator for the Benedictine Sisters.   Being centered in the present moment, she is observant and aware of the needs and feelings of those around her and is swift to respond with kindness and understanding.

 Each and every day life, Sister Gemma exemplifies her favorite passage in the Prologue of St. Benedict’s Rule:  “Listen, my daughter and attend with the ear of your heart.  Once you have done this, the Lord will say to you, ‘Here I am.’”
For 50 years as a Benedictine Sister, Sister Gemma has served in a variety of ministries that meet the real and basic needs of people—food service director at the monastery and at Community mission houses, visiting the sick, information and referral services for seniors throughout Allegheny County, and administrator of the Benedictine Senior Center.

Sister Gemma has found life as a Benedictine Sister a perfect way to fulfill her desire to serve others and to be a woman of prayer for the church and her community.

  Sister Bridget Reilly, OSB

Listen, listen, listen!  For 50 years as a Benedictine Sister of Pittsburgh, Sister Bridget has been listening to God, to her prioress, to the people of God with whom she has been pouring out her life in service.  She has listened to the needs and concerns of elementary students as a teacher in the Catholic school system in the dioceses of Pittsburgh and Greensburg, PA.  For many years, as guidance counselor par excellence, first at St. Benedict Academy and then at Quigley Catholic High School in Baden, PA, Sister Bridget has provided information, responded to needs, and prodded students to become responsible for their actions and choices.   Like other jubilarians, Sister Bridget’s life has been shaped by the great Benedictine precept to listen carefully.

Her youthful appearance and vitality enhance her welcoming spirit which is a great asset in working with people of all ages.  Sister has served her Benedictine Community in administrative positions as director of novices and Sisters in temporary vows.  She has also served as a Delegate to the Federation of St. Scholastica.

This prayerful woman says she finds strength and motivation in St. Benedict’s teaching, “As we progress in this way of life and in faith, we shall run on the path of God’s commandments, our hearts overflowing with inexpressible delight of love.”

  Sister Dolores Conley, OSB

Artist, dancer, sculptor, author of children’s books, Sister Dolores Conley is a free spirit, playful and imaginative.  Her many gifts and talents have sparked artistic responses in her students at both the elementary and secondary level in catholic schools in the dioceses of Pittsburgh and Greensburg, PA and Youngstown, Ohio.

Much of Sister Dolores’s work flows from her prayer life.  Our Evening Vesper Prayer has, on many festal occasions, been enhanced as Sister Dolores reverently interprets the “Magnificat “or other hymn in dance.  She has created a unique depiction of the Stations of the Cross by sculpting in ceramic clay the hands of  Jesus, of his friends, and of his tormentors.  This powerful work of art has been used in Lenten services.   She is creative and prayerful in her care of the chapel as sacristan.

Sister’s latest project has been the creation of the “Bitsy and Big Leaf “Series.  She has written and illustrated these books to delight children of all ages.   Her hope is that these books will strengthen the bond between adults and the children in their lives as they together read and share the stories and art.

This energetic nun says that her favorite teaching from the Rule of Benedict is:  “As we go forward in our life and in faith we shall with hearts enlarged and unspeakable sweetness of love, run the way of God’s commandments.”

Together these women have given 405 years of Benedictine life to the service of God and their brothers and sisters.  To read more about the Jubilarians follow the link to “Benedictines Summer 2012.”



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