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Quiet but Powerful: Celebrating Sister Gloria’s 50 Years of Ministry

by Lynn Goswick

As the Rev. Dr. Mark Bozzuti-Jones began his greeting, he gestured to his left to acknowledge the guest of honor, only to find she wasn’t in her seat.

Across the main floor of St. Paul’s Chapel, Sister Gloria Shirley was still exchanging the peace with friends who had come Saturday morning to celebrate the 50th anniversary of her life profession.

Getting caught up in a crowd of friends isn’t unusual for someone who has ministered to others for half a century.

Sr. Gloria passes the peace. Photo by Lynn Goswick.

Sr. Gloria entered the English Community of the Companions of Jesus the Good Shepherd in 1962 and, after a trial period, made her profession of vows in Barbados on December 29, 1964.

The Companions of Jesus the Good Shepherd later withdrew from the West Indies, so Sr. Gloria joined the Society of St. Margaret in Haiti. She was responsible for the finances of the house, did the shopping, and planned meals. She used the flat roof of the house to grow vegetables and formed a gardening group.

A young Sr. Gloria. Photo Courtesy of Sr. Gloria.

When she came to New York in 1997, Sr. Gloria traded one type of gardening for another, tending to the people at St. Margaret’s House, John Heuss House, Trinity Preschool, and the Welcome Center, as well as ministering with New Beginnings, leading Healing Prayers, and taking care of other pastoral care duties.

Bozzuti-Jones said when he first came to Trinity, the vicar, Canon Anne Mallonee, told him he had to meet with Sr. Gloria, who was, in her words, “a living saint.”

“Although I have been charged with pastoral care,” Bozzuti-Jones said, “ Sr. Gloria puts me and all the clergy to shame.”

She calls at least twenty people every week, he said, and she visits parishioners far and wide.

“When people are missing for a few weeks, she calls them, she reaches out to them,” he said. “This is a day to acknowledge her quiet, hidden, but most powerful ministry at Trinity Church.”

Photo by Lynn Goswick

The youngest of seven children growing up in Tortola, British Virgin Islands, church had always meant a lot to Sr. Gloria, but she had never heard of Anglican sisters until her own sister went to Antigua and became an associate with the Community of the Companions of Jesus the Good Shepherd. At that time, Sr. Gloria  was still in school, and joining a religious community didn’t interest her at all.

A few years later, while she worked as the postmistress in a small town, she began hearing a call. Although she was single, she didn’t feel entirely free to go. There were sisters and a brother who needed caring for.

She prayed and talked it over with others. “I just knew that God understood and that God would take care of things, even now,” said Sister Gloria. “It’s just that I thought I would have to go back and take care of my sister. I said ‘God, you’re going to take care of it,’ and he is taking care of it now.”

Photo courtesy of Sr. Gloria

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