Monthly Archives: May 2009

Remembering Sister Mary Paul

by Amy Latorres-Rios

AmyLatorresAmy is Program Director of Center for Family Life’s Beacon Program at PS 503/PS 506 in Sunset Park. She joined the Center’s programs at the age of 12 and was one of our first youth volunteers. As a counselor, teen coordinator and now program director, she has dedicated herself to helping Sunset Park youth realize their strengths and talents. She received the 2009 PASEsetter Award from the Partnership for After School Education, in recognition of her contributions over 25 years as a participant and staff member at the Center. Amy is among those in the Center’s staff who had known the late Sister Mary Paul ever since the Center opened its doors in 1978, and she wanted to share her thoughts about her recent passing.

I’ve known Sister Mary Paul since I was about 14. Although she didn’t frequent the teen center or the St. Michael’s Jams like I did at the time, I knew about her. She was “the other nun.” Years later, when I was an adult and working at Center for Family Life, I would see her in passing, sometimes we would sit in the same meetings. Once, at the end of a staff roundtable meeting, she asked my name. I joked with co-workers that I had been employed by the Center for over ten years, yet Sister Mary Paul didn’t know my name.

I don’t remember when it happened, but at some point she and I became more important to each other. I would always greet her with a kiss on the forehead and say goodbye with a kiss on her hand. It warmed my soul to know that she insisted on attending the event when I received the “PASESetter” award. For days, she left me notes requesting that I give her a copy of my speech. She told me that I made her very proud and that Sister Geraldine would have been proud, too.

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In Loving Memory of Sister Mary Paul

Sister Mary Paul, co-founder of Center for Family Life, passed away on Thursday.

Taken from us in body, her spirit will forever remain a guiding beacon for all of us at the Center and in her beloved Sunset Park community.


In partnership with her beloved Sister Mary Geraldine Tobia, Sister Mary Paul founded the Center for Family Life in 1978. She lived at the Center, in the community of Sunset Park, Brooklyn, for over 30 years. She deeply loved her neighborhood and the children and families in it. She recognized the enormous strengths and resilience in people and devoted herself entirely to promoting neighborhood-based supports to nurture families and promote the well being of all community residents. A tireless advocate for humane government responses to family needs, she worked from “case to cause” to impact public policy. She inspired us every day, teaching by her example that each individual is a precious and irreplaceable part of a living community. We were immensely fortunate to have learned from Sister, and are deeply grateful to have the opportunity to carry on her work and the fulfillment of her vision.

Mayor Bloomberg:

“I was deeply saddened to learn of the death of Sister Mary Paul Janchill, a Sister of the Good Shepherd, who had passionately worked to improve the lives of families and children in New York City. As the co-director and co-founder of the Center for Family Life in Sunset Park, Sister Mary Paul inspired families as well as government officials to do more to ensure the safety and well-being of children, especially in her beloved Brooklyn.

“Sister Mary Paul was a national pioneer in advancing a family-focused approach to addressing child welfare issues in social work practice. She brought out the best in everyone and changed the face of community services in our City and across the country. As her family and friends and the community of the Sisters of Good Shepherd gather to celebrate her life and mourn her passing, I extend my deepest sympathies to them. I ask all New Yorkers to keep Sister Mary Paul and her extended family in their thoughts and prayers. We will miss her dearly.”

Lawyers For Children:

“As the Co-Founder and guiding light of the Center For Family Life in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, Sister Mary Paul tirelessly enriched the lives of every one she so carefully and lovingly touched. Sister Mary Paul’s wisdom, strength, and kindness will always guide us as we attempt to honor her memory by pursuing her goal of providing care and support to children and families in need. We will never forget the inspiring dedication and compassion of this tiny giant of a woman. We extend our deepest sympathy to Sister Mary Paul’s enormous extended family at the Center For Family Life.”

Citizen’s Committee for Children:

“As a practitioner, educator, mentor, advocate and friend, Sister Mary Paul advised Mayors, taught Commissioners, prodded colleagues, inspired advocates and trained scores of workers, setting the gold standard in her work with children, families and the community. She will be greatly missed.”

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Our Cherry Tree in April

by Julia Jean-Francois

Each year, I wait for the end of April to see the clusters of pink flowers start to expand, reach their bursting point, and then fall from the branches of the cherry tree outside of my office window. They leave behind a thick carpet of pink petals that we all call “pink snow.”


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