The Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia welcomed a new member as Sister Philonise Keithley fulfilled a life-long dream and professed first vows as a canonical sister on Oct. 9 at the Nazareth Motherhouse.
Sister Philonise might not have taken the expected road to become a sister, but she always knew, since she was just seven years old, that she wanted to make that commitment.
Sister Philonise grew up on the south side of Chicago, and attended Catholic schools her entire life. That’s where she first met a sister.
“My first-grade teacher was so kind, and patient. She played with us. She taught us about everything from Mass to confessions,” she said. “I knew this was my calling even at that age.”
Sister Philonise continued on in Catholic schools and attended a Catholic Dominican college. She felt a calling to the Dominicans and to living a life of service, but she knew then it wasn’t the right time for her.
“Then life happened,” she laughed.
But she said that when she spent time with the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia, and experienced how they treated and embraced each other, she was immediately hooked.
Now that she’s spent years in the formation process, and made a move to Kansas, she is more than ready for the next step in her spiritual journey.
“I haven’t had a day of regret,” Sister Philonise said.
“I’ve always been drawn to working with the elderly. That’s my passion. Especially people suffering with dementia,” she said.
“I’m always interested in hearing people’s stories. I’m always all ears.”
Currently, Sister Philonise is located in Hoxie, Kansas, where she, along with Sister Denise Schmitz, practice their ministry in the small western Kansas community. They moved to Hoxie in July of 2021. Previously they both worked out of Manna House of Prayer in Concordia. They call the Hoxie ministry “Manna House West.”
It’s a big change from Chicago.
“But I love it. The people have been so welcoming,” she said.
“I enjoy having the flexibility to be present in people’s lives. Whether it is helping with a blood drive, at the thrift store … there is so much to do in the community,” she said.
In her free time, Sister Philonise enjoys reading, walking and crocheting.
“Crochet seems to open my mind. I use it in prayer,” she said.
The theme of the ceremony was “There is a sacred thread connecting us to one another.”
A fitting motto for this sister with a talent for working with both people and yarn.