We are pleased to announce that Sisters Mary Drexler, Phyllis McCracken, and Carol Morehouse began serving a four-year term as leadership for the congregation on July 1. Sister Mary Drexler, SSJ, is serving as president, Sister Phyllis McCracken, SSJ, as treasurer, and Sister Carol Morehouse, SSJ, as secretary. Sisters Claudia Dombrowski, SSJ, and Nancy Fischer, SSJ, will serve as councilors-at-large.
We follow a participative governance model in which each member shares responsibility for vision and values. After a several months-long discernment and election process, the new Leadership Team was affirmed by Bishop Lawrence Persico on Sunday, June 9 and formally installed at a special liturgy and celebration on June 30.
“This is an exciting and challenging time to be in leadership,” said Mary Drexler, SSJ, president. “Congregations of Catholic sisters throughout the U.S. are undergoing many changes. We must continually evaluate and adapt so that we can best respond to the needs of God’s people. We are eager to meet these challenges and, with the Holy Spirit’s guidance, we hope to effectively serve our sisters and the Erie Diocese.”
Sister Mary Drexler, SSJ, served most of her ministry career in education having taught at St. John School, Villa Maria Elementary, Our Lady’s Christian, and Our Lady of Peace in Erie. She also taught at St. Bernard School in Bradford, PA and Notre Dame School in Hermitage, PA where she also served as assistant principal. Most recently, she was principal of Our Lady’s Christian School in Erie, and prior to that, she was principal at Villa Maria Academy. She served as a campus minister at Penn State Behrend and in vocation/formation ministry for the Sisters of St. Joseph. Earlier in her career, Sister Mary was a teacher and assistant administrator at Villa Maria Academy. She was recognized by the Mercy Center for Women as one of the Women Making History in 2013. She was inducted into the Villa Maria Academy President’s Hall of Fame in 2014 and received the Monsignor Wilfrid Nash Principles of Christian Conduct Award from Gannon University in 2017. She has served on the Board of Trustees for Gannon University, the Board of Directors for Erie Catholic School System and the SSJ Board of Directors.
Sister Phyllis McCracken, SSJ, served for more than 35 years at Saint Mary’s Home of Erie including nearly 18 years as president/CEO. Prior to that, she was assistant and acting director of nursing, vice-president for patient care services, vice president for special projects and vice president for planning. She was a staff nurse and hospice consultant at Spencer Hospital, Meadville, PA; director of student health services at Villa Maria College; developer/director at St. Martin’s Health Center; director and geriatric staff nurse at Villa Maria Convent; director of nursing continuing education for Villa Maria College and Edinboro State College; director of nursing continuing education for Erie Institute for Nursing and as admission analyst, quality assurance at Saint Vincent Health Center. Sister Phyllis has served on many boards in the community including Saint Vincent Board of Incorporators and Board of Trustees, HVA Senior Living Alliance, Villa Maria Center, Saint Mary’s Home of Erie, Sisters of St. Joseph of Northwestern Pennsylvania, Sisters of St. Joseph Neighborhood Network and Pennsylvania Catholic Health Association and held memberships in numerous professional organizations. She served on the Erie Diocesan Medical Moral Ethics Committee. She is a member and Paul Harris Fellow of the Rotary Club of Erie and was named one of the Outstanding Young Women of America in 1977, she received the Medaille D’Or Award from Saint Mary’s Home of Erie in 2008 and was recognized as one of the 2019 Women Making History by the Mercy Center for Women.
Sister Carol Morehouse, SSJ, most recently served as director of pastoral care and mission integration at Saint Vincent Hospital. She previously served at Saint Vincent as senior vice president mission integration. Sister Carol taught for many years at Erie Diocesan elementary schools and served as principal and administrator at Villa Maria Academy. As an attorney, she served in private practice and was affiliated with the Moran, Morehouse and Bruno firm. She previously served the Sisters of St. Joseph as councilor/treasurer and has been on the Sisters of St. Joseph Board of Directors, the SSJ Neighborhood Network Board and the Sisters of St. Joseph Mission and Ministries Foundation Board. She is a past board member of Saint Vincent Health Center and Villa Maria Academy. She served as president of the Villa Elementary Board during the school’s final year. She currently serves as a board member at Harborcreek Youth Services. She most recently served as a leadership delegate-at-large for the Sisters of St. Joseph.
Founded in 17th century France, the Sisters of St. Joseph first came to the Erie Diocese more than 150 years ago to minister to the sick, teach children and to respond however possible to the needs of the day. They did this by staffing numerous schools, including Harborcreek School for Boys and by establishing ministries such as Saint Vincent Health Center, Villa Maria Elementary School, Villa Maria Academy, Villa Maria College, St. Joseph’s Orphanage, Saint Mary’s Home of Erie, St. Patrick’s Haven and others.
The sisters’ presence has moved beyond hospitals and classrooms and includes pastoral, social and liturgical ministries in Catholic parishes, global mission projects, outreach to the elderly, campus ministry, youth ministry and numerous other efforts. Today, more than 350 sisters, agrégées and associates continue to carry out the Sisters of St. Joseph of Northwestern Pennsylvania mission of unity of neighbor with neighbor and neighbor with God.
Pictured at top, left – right: Carol Morehouse, SSJ; Mary Drexler, SSJ; and Phyllis McCracken, SSJ.