Sister Phyllis (Philip Marie) D'Anna

The eldest of five, Phyllis D'Anna, SNDdeN, enjoyed a lively home life with “a sweet, kind mother and a musical dad who loved gathering people together.” She grew up in San Jose, California, her dad’s hometown and was taught by the Sisters of Notre Dame at St. Claires in Santa Clara until the 4th grade. It was then the family moved to Huntsville, Alabama, her mom’s hometown. At the end of her 9th grade, the family moved back to San Jose where she spent 3 years in Notre Dame San Jose High School.

She says when she was very young, she felt a strong call to serve God. She was very taken by the Sisters of Notre Dame’s sincerity and their joy and love of Life. She felt a call to serve with them. She entered the SNDdeN novitiate in Saratoga in 1963 and became known as Sister Philip Marie.

She likes to be called Sister Phil, since it is a Greek word for love. The word “Love” reminds her of who she intrinsically is and how she wants to live in the world. She says the ministry that she brings to everything is the practice of living in lovingkindness with unconditional love, seeing all of creation as God’s gift of Love. She responds to these gifts with joy, treating everything with respect while living in a spirit of unending gratitude.

Sr. Phil enjoys teaching small children. In 1966 her first assignment brought her to Sacred Heart School in Salinas, Calif., where she taught 2nd grade then “graduated to teaching first graders for the next 2 years. She continued with first grade at Mother of Sorrows School in Los Angeles, St. Francis of Assisi School in Seahurst, Washington, then on to Notre Dame School in San Francisco. Later Sister Phil became certified in Montessori and taught at both the Early Learning Center in Belmont, Calif., and at Creative Montessori in East Palo Alto, Calif.

In the late ‘80s as part of her spiritual quest, Sister Phil helped build and staff a Zen Monastery Interfaith Peace Center. Here she lived in the woods and practiced awareness and meditation. She organized and directed retreats. She became adept at cooking, carpentry, plumbing as she supervised, managed, and worked with retreatants to construct a rammed earth building, complete with Meditation Hall, kitchen, bathrooms, and dormitory.

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. Being a “Jill” of all trades, Sister Phil also served as the administrative assistant for the California Provincial Leadership Team where she would zoom up to work on her carbon-free electric scooter (caring for the earth is of key importance to her).

For one month in 2012 and again in 2013 Sr. Phil volunteered to go to the Zen Center’s Living Compassion Compound in Kantolomba, one of the largest slums in Zambia. There she taught willing local women in the compound who spoke English how to teach it to their young children. The program worked and many of those children have graduated college and now have good jobs. 

She also provides spiritual direction and teaches meditation and awareness practices. She has volunteered to teach meditation and spirituality to groups of women at a local women's jail.

She has served as one of two Support Coordinators for the Sisters in the West regions of the U.S. East-West Province.

As Sister Phil looks back on 60 years 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. I am grateful for every part of my life…for all the children I have taught, for my SND Sisters, Zen Sangha, family, co-workers, and friends and all who have blessed my life in countless ways.”

Watch this video reflection taken at the time of Sister Phil's 60th Jubilee:

Sacred Heart Salinas, Calif. Second grade/First grade (3 years)

St. Frances Sea Hearst, Wash. First Grade (2 years)

Notre Dame Elementary Belmont Substitute Teacher, First Grade (2 months)

Mother of Sorrows, Los Angeles First grade (4 years)

Mission Dolores Primary, San Francisco First grade (4 years)

Montessori Training, and Teaching Early Learning Center Belmont (2 years)

Montessori Creative Learning Center, E. Palo Alto, Calif (6 years)

Zen Monastery Peace Center, Murphys, Calif. (10 years)

SND Villa & Mercy Retirement and Care Center (10 years)

Administrative Assistance for CA Leadership Team (7 years)

Administered a program for training Zambian women in the Living Compassion compound in Kantolomba, Zambia to learn and teach English to young children.

Zen Christian Meditation and Spirituality for groups of women at the Correctional Facility in Redwood City. (2 years)

West Support Coordinators (2014 to 2023)