Sister Irene Moeller
As unassuming as a single blossom in the wind, Sister Irene invites you into the Chapel at St. Teresa of Avila Convent to pray.  It doesn’t matter if you were expecting a meeting, with Sister there is always time for prayer, and always room for a story about the statues, the flower garden outside the window, or the history of the convent.  Theology is everywhere and in all things for Sister. A sense of calm or clarity seems to envelope her whenever she moves. There is little Sister shares without some recitation of a teaching of St. Benedict or without making a reference to scripture.  

In 1955, Hazel Moeller began living a monastic way of life as a postulant with the Benedictine Sisters of Pittsburgh.  Only 17 years old, she was the middle child of a close-knit family. She was born in Chicago, IL and then moved originally from Chicago before the family moved to Bellevue, PA. Hazel attended Assumption Grade School and in 8th grade became the President of the Vocation Club. Considered by those who knew her as a “free spirit,” Hazel had already been bearing witness to the “Calling.”  She was encouraged by the Sisters to listen to her heart, and was strongly influenced by her older sister (Sister Corinne Moeller) who entered the Order 2 years before.  Her sister Madelyn was 15 when Hazel entered the Order at the beginning of her senior year at St. Benedict Academy, Ross Township.  “I missed my family terribly.  I knew my Sister was in the Monastery also but, at that time, novices certainly didn’t speak to the Professed Sisters.” 

Vatican II would not occur for 7 more years.  Until then, with obedience, determination, and devotion, Hazel (to become Sister Irene) would face the challenges of a monastic “home” and unwavering daily schedule. In September of 1957, Sister Irene began her first teaching assignment (3rd grade) at St. Mary’s School, North Side, Pittsburgh. Until 1963 she taught grades 4 or 6 in five other schools.  In the Diocese of Greensburg Sister Irene taught at St Gertrude, and Conn-Area Catholic in Connellsville (grades 7 & 8) where she was also the Building Principal for the Upper Elementary Department.  In September 1963 Sister Irene began teaching at St Benedict Academy where she would teach for 11 years.  

In 1969 Sister became a Licensed Practical Nurse from the Pittsburgh Public School Practical Nurse Program.  She ministered to the Sisters in the monastery infirmary. In September of 1994 Sister began a third career at St. Teresa of Avila parish, North Hills,  

As the Pastoral Associate and Social Minister of St. Teresa of Avila in North Hills, Sister Irene manages to balance many important responsibilities from liturgy and faith formation to organizing resources for parishioners in need. Her responsibilities stem from the “Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy.”  One such ministry is bereavement. She formed a Bereavement Committee of professional and non-professional volunteers who sponsor a day of reflection called, “An afternoon of Reflection for the Bereaved; Grieving through the Holidays.”  During the year Sister encounters many individuals and families who are mourning a loved one.  Helping others see death and loss with a newer more positive and hopeful outlook, is perhaps Sister’s unique gift. 

The Benedictine Sisters place incredible value on hospitality.  True to the Rule of Benedict (CH53), the Sisters not only welcome guests with openness and Spirit, but without hesitation, invite them to rest, share a meal, join them in Chapel.  On a deeper level, the Sisters welcome and encourage each of us to gain an understanding of life and society simply by changing our viewpoint. If we are courageous enough to accept, we find greater value in ourselves and others, ultimately, we feel … welcomed.  Sister Irene’s gift for bringing comfort and understanding to the grieving, is one step further yet.  With her quiet voice and gentle persuasion, she challenges our fear of death, and perhaps for the first time, helps us see that those we have lost, may be in a much better place, that suffering has passed and they are reunited with God.      


Sister Raphael Frank

Alice Frank came from a loving family of five children.  Alice has 3 older sisters and 1 younger brother.  As a family they celebrated Tuesday novenas, May Crowning’s, Sunday confessions and attending Mass at the Nativity of Our Lord, (known today as Incarnation of Our Lord) parish. On Sunday evenings the family often gathered around the piano to sing, songs like:  Me and My Gal, You Are My Sunshine and many more are etched in memory. 

Alice’s desire to follow the Lord began at the age of fourteen.  As a child, she was touched by the goodness of the sisters who were her teachers.  “I was taught by the Sisters of St. Joseph.  I spent a lot of time with them, and I was so attracted to them and their way of life.” When she entered St. Benedict Academy – under the guidance of the Benedictine Sisters, this call grew even stronger. 

In December of her junior year at St. Benedict Academy Alice submitted her application to the Benedictine Sisters of Pittsburgh.  She received her acceptance letter in the summer and on August 29, 1955, she entered St. Benedict Monastery.  It was pre-Vatican II so the rules for the postulants were strict.  Life was orderly with formation instruction, Chapel stalls, and assigned seats. “At that time, we weren’t permitted to visit our families unless they came to the Monastery, and you never left the Monastery without a companion.  I remember I had to walk past my Grandmother’s house on the way to the dentist.  She must have known we would be walking by because she ran out of the house with a bag of fresh donuts.  She knew I loved them.”  

Sister Raphael began her teaching career in 1957 at St. Teresa of Avila School, Perrysville. Sister was 19 when she faced 50 first grade students.  She worked on her degree after school, on Saturdays and during the summer, it took Sister 6 years to complete her B.Ed. from Duquesne University, and 7 more to be awarded an M.A.Ed.  (Sister returned to school in the 1980s to also complete an MRE). Sister worked as a teacher and/or Principal for the next 55 years.  As Principal of the primary building and teacher at St. Philip Neri School, Donora PA, Sister was heavily involved in the merger of three Catholic schools becoming one faith community. 

Throughout her career, Sister Raphael was able to minister to God’s people in both the Pittsburgh and Greensburg Dioceses.  At various times she served as teacher, principal, and Director of Religious Education.  Sister Raphael returned to St. Teresa of Avila school in 1982 to teach.  In 1986 Sister became the Director of Religious Education as well.  During the next 30 years Sister was able to travel to Avila Spain where she was able to celebrate the liturgy in honor of the feast of St. Teresa of Avila, and several years later, accompanied others with Pastor Ted Maida to celebrate Father Maida’s brother’s investiture ceremony and papal liturgy in becoming a cardinal in Rome, Italy. 

Sister Raphael was the Benedictine Oblate Director for the Benedictine Sisters of Pittsburgh community from 2002-2012.  “It has been an honor to have ministered to others on their faith journey who are seeking to serve God and the people of God through living the Holy Rule of Benedict in the context of their family and everyday lives.” 

Today Sister Raphael is a volunteer at the St. Richard’s parish office, Schellhaas Funeral Home, and St. Barnabas Nursing Home.  Sister also serves the Community as Coordinator of the monastery chapel and daily liturgical services and celebrations.  Creating an environment in the chapel for community prayer, “lifts one’s heart to prayer.” Said Sister Raphael. 

Her many years in the community have been memories of deep peace and joy.  Sister is grateful to God for her Benedictine vocation, and the many spiritual experiences and educational opportunities that have been a part of her life.  She looks forward to the next 60 years chapter, and welcomes whatever plan God has ready for her.


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