we remember… leonie shanley, ssj

Sister Leonie Shanley, SSJ, age 89, of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Northwestern Pennsylvania, died on August 28, 2017.  She was in the 72nd year of her religious life. 

Sister Leonie was born on October 24, 1927 in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, the daughter of the late Leo B. and Grace Quinn Shanley.  She entered the Sisters of St. Joseph on September 2, 1945 from her home parish, St. Helena’s Church, Hobbs, New Mexico.  She professed her final vows on August 15, 1951 and celebrated 70 years of religious life in 2015.

Sister Leonie attended St. Joseph’s Academy in Schenectady, New York and then graduated from Villa Maria Academy in Erie.  She earned a B.A. in French from Villa Maria College, Erie and a M.A. in French from Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio.  She did additional studies at Catholic and Fairfield Universities.  She was awarded a Ph.D. Honoris Causa from Gannon University and the Médaille D’Or Award from Saint Mary’s Home of Erie.

Sister Leonie’s long ministry career allowed her to work and interact with numerous people in and outside of the Erie Diocese.  She spent several years in education teaching at the following schools: St. Peter Cathedral School, Sacred Heart School, St. Patrick School, and Villa Maria Academy in Erie; and Bradford Central Christian High School in Bradford, PA.   She served as Dean of Students at Villa Maria College for five years from 1968-73.   She served on many boards including Villa Maria College, Villa Maria Academy, Saint Vincent Health Center, where she was also a Corporator, Spencer Hospital and six other high school boards in the Diocese of Erie.

One of Sr. Leonie’s most significant contributions followed the publication of the Vatican II document, Perfectae Caritatis, in 1965 which called for the renewal of religious life.  The U.S. Federation of Sisters of St. Joseph assembled a team of Sisters to research the congregation’s primitive documents in LePuy, France to rediscover the original intent of its founder, Fr. Jean-Pierre Médaille.  Sister Leonie was appointed to this team.  The Consensus Statement of the Sisters of St. Joseph which articulates the original inspiration and defines a Sister of St. Joseph was the result of their research. 

Sister Leonie served for eight years as her congregation’s General Superior and she served as Vice- president and President of the U.S. Federation of the Sisters of St. Joseph.   She led the Secretariat for Evangelization in the Diocese of Erie and later served as Interim President of Villa Maria College.  In 1989, she became Vice President of Gannon University where she ministered until 1991 when she became Associate Superintendent of Education for the Diocese of Erie.  Her ministries also included serving as Administrator of Villa Maria Center, and Director of Services for the Sisters’ Community Living Center.   She served on many congregational committees.  In commemoration of the congregation’s 150th anniversary in the Diocese of Erie, Sister Leonie co- authored a book titled, Come to the Waters, which provides a history of the Sisters of St. Joseph.

Sister Leonie retired in 2011 and resided at the congregation’s Community Living Center in Erie where she remained active in prayer ministry.

Sister Leonie was preceded in death by her parents.  She is survived by her brother, Leo B. Shanley, Jr. (Bette); nephews Leo Shanley III, Paul Shanley, and Timothy Shanley; nieces Jean Marie Lyon and Helen French; a grandniece; and four grandnephews.  She is also survived by a close friend, Phyllis McCracken, SSJ, and by her religious community, the Sisters of St. Joseph.

Friends may call at the Sisters of St. Joseph Community Living Center, 5031 West Ridge Road, Erie, on Friday, September 1 from 2:00 p.m. until 7:00 p.m. when a prayer service will be held.  A Mass of Christian Burial will take place on Saturday, September 2 at 10:00 a.m. at the Sisters of St. Joseph Community Living Center.  Interment will be at Calvary Cemetery.

Memorials may be made to the Sisters of St. Joseph Mission and Ministries Foundation, 5031 West Ridge Road, Erie, PA, 16506-1249.  The Quinn Funeral Home is handling arrangements.