Diocesan News

Sister Angela Gannon Shows No Sign of Slowing Down Soon

Sister Angela Gannon enjoys being around new teachers and said she would encourage young women to consider religious life (Photos: Courtesy of Sister Angela Gannon)

Editor’s Note: This is the eighth and final article in a series “Nun Better,” which takes a look at the lives and the service of women religious in the Diocese of Brooklyn.

BRENTWOOD, NY — At age 83, Sister Angela Gannon, C.S.J., has the kind of schedule that would exhaust people decades younger.

She’s the director of Sponsored Educational Ministries for the Sisters of St. Joseph, a position she has held that entails regularly meeting with leaders of schools the religious order sponsors like The Mary Louis Academy and Fontbonne Hall, the Lab School for Girls.

And she’s an integral part of Spirits on Fire, a program she helped found in 2014 that holds retreats to train laypersons to help move the sisters’ mission forward. 

Sister Angela is on the board of trustees of St. Joseph’s University and helped shepherd its transition this year from a college to a university.

As if all of that isn’t enough, she is also on the board of directors of the Diocese of Brooklyn’s Department of Education and the board of trustees of the Education Corporation of the Diocese of Rockville Centre.

“What can I say? I like to serve in any way I can,” she said. 

Her resume is filled with various roles she has filled over the years. From 2000 to 2009, Sister Angela served as director of the Pastoral Institute of the Diocese of Brooklyn, which helps train laypersons to work in parishes. 

Her background is varied. She did parish work for a time, serving as a pastoral associate in Our Lady of Mercy Church in Canarsie from 1988-1991. She worked with Msgr. Raymond Chappetto, who was the pastor at the time and later became an auxiliary bishop.

But her life of service to God has been dominated by her work in education — as a teacher and as a supervisor.

Looking back, she said becoming a teacher seemed like a natural fit for a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph, Brentwood. 

“We were predominantly a teaching community,” she added.

Sister Angela was born and raised in St. Francis Xavier Parish in Park Slope. She attended the parish school and, later, Bishop McDonnell Memorial High School.

The idea of entering religious life came to her quite early. She recalled being impressed by the sisters who taught her. 

“I was thinking about it a little bit in grammar school because we had sisters as our teachers. And then, I went to Bishop McDonnell High School and was taught by several different religious communities,” she said. “But always leaned towards the Sisters of St. Joseph.”

There were also women religious in her family. “I have three aunts in the Sisters of St. Joseph in the Irish Province. So being around women religious in the family was not something unknown to me,” she recalled.

She entered the Sisters of St. Joseph, Brentwood, in 1957. She professed her first vows in 1960 and her final vows three years later. She remembered how she felt on that day in 1963. “There was a certain sense of peace in knowing that I was moving forward with where I felt God was calling me,” she said.

By the time she professed her final vows, she had already earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Education from Brentwood College. That was in 1962. She would later go on to complete a Master’s Degree in Theology from Manhattan College in 1969.

Sister Angela Gannon (left) joined a group of her fellow sisters at the Sisters of St. Joseph at the installation of Sister Jean Amore as general superior in 2000. Pictured (from left) are Sister Angela, Sister Joan de Lourdes Leonard, Sister Jean Amore, Sister John Raymond McGann, and Sister Calera Santoro.

She went into teaching, working at various schools over the years, including St. Anthony’s in Greenpoint, St. Mel’s in Flushing, St. Joseph’s High School in Downtown Brooklyn and St. Brendan’s High School in Midwood. 

She started teaching high school in 1966, right after Vatican II (1962-1965), and she has vivid memories of that time. Vatican II brought about great changes in the church, but there was also uncertainty. 

“It was a pivotal experience. Everything was changing. We weren’t sure what we were supposed to be teaching,” she recalled.

Sister Angela belonged to an association for high school teachers. “And we used to meet regularly to support one another and help one another develop curriculum. That was probably the most time of unrest I experienced as far as teaching was concerned,” she said.

In 1974, she left the classroom and took a job in the Religion Department in the diocese’s schools office. Within four years, she was an associate school superintendent, a job she held until 1988 when she became a pastoral associate at Our Lady of Miracles.

For three years, 1991-1994, she was the associate dean of the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception.  Following that, she spent six years (1994-2000) as the general superior of the Sisters of St. Joseph, Brentwood.

She later served as director of the Pastoral Institute, secretariat for Catholic education and formation in the diocese, and director of sponsored ministries for the sisters — a position she holds today.

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