Two Xavier College Preparatory administrators – principal Sister Joanie Nuckols, BVM, and vice principal and athletic director Sister Lynn Winsor, BVM – will celebrate their Golden Jubilee as Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (BVM) on Oct. 21 at Xavier.
Sister Joanie and Sister Lynn began their novitiate and their decades-long friendship on July 31, 1967, when they entered the BVM congregation at the order’s Motherhouse in Dubuque, Iowa. Although raised in different parts of the country – Sister Joanie in Montana, Sister Lynn in Wisconsin and Arizona – both were inspired by the BVM Sisters who educated them throughout their elementary and high school years.
“Not only were they wonderful spiritual models,” Sister Joanie says, “but they were also very joyous women.”
“The BVM community strongly emphasized the Eucharist and dedicated themselves to fulfilling their world view of serving others,” Sister Lynn adds. “They were prayerful women filled with kindness, spirit and fun.”
XAVIER HIGH SCHOOL, ST. LOUIS, TO XAVIER HIGH SCHOOL, PHOENIX
Sister Joanie and Sister Lynn professed their first vows on March 28, 1970, then moved to St. Louis in 1971 to join the faculty at the city’s all-female Xavier High School. Sister Joanie taught history; Sister Lynn taught physical education and coached several of the school’s teams. They lived with 40 other BVM Sisters in a convent atop the high school, then ultimately relocated to Phoenix in 1974 to teach the young women of what was known then as (another) Xavier High School. With the exception of seven years Sister Joanie spent teaching near her family in Butte, Mont., after her father’s passing in 1975, both Sisters have been at Xavier ever since.
Sister Lynn professed her final vows on April 17, 1976, and Sister Joanie did so on June 12, 1977. Both women eventually became vice principals at Xavier under the leadership of Sister Mary Joan Fitzgerald, BVM, who served as Xavier’s principal for more than 50 years until she was named the school’s first president by the Most Reverend Thomas J. Olmsted, Bishop of Phoenix, in 2016. Sister Joanie served as Xavier’s vice principal of academics and campus minister, while Sister Lynn served as vice principal for activities and athletic director. Just last year, Bishop Olmsted named Sister Joanie principal of Xavier College Preparatory.
“The BVM community recognized my gifts and talents and encouraged me to become principal,” Sister Joanie says. “With their support, I’ve prepared and grown immensely.’’
“Being an English teacher would not have been for me, but athletics were a perfect fit, and the community encouraged my interest” – Sister Lynn Winsor, BVM
“The (BVM) community gave me an opportunity to excel in coaching, which is not your typical sisterly job,” says Sister Lynn, who is a Xavier alumna from the Class of 1961. “Being an English teacher would not have been for me, but athletics were a perfect fit, and the community encouraged my interest.” (Under Sister Lynn’s leadership, Xavier has won 200 state championship titles.)
Sister Lynn has been at Xavier for 44 years and Sister Joanie for 37.
Both Sisters agree that Sister Mary Joan Fitzgerald, BVM, has influenced them profoundly and that she has been the driving force behind what the school has become today.
“Sister Joan’s leadership has been tremendous,’’ Sister Joanie says. The increase in the number of students is a direct reflection. “There were 400 in 1976, 800 in 1983 and now there are 1,200.”
A primary part of the Sisters’ mission is to help the Xavier students and teachers give of themselves to the community.
“Everybody is a part of it. The teachers are part of it, and the students are part of it,’’ Sister Joanie says. “‘Women of Faith Pursuing Excellence’ is the motto of our school, and it encompasses the aspects of both prayer and community.’’
The Sisters also find time to enjoy the company of the pet dog that inhabits the convent adjacent to the Xavier property.
A TIME TO CELEBRATE
In late July, the Sisters returned to Dubuque, Iowa, and joined fellow jubilarian Linda Roby of Portland, Ore., who entered the BVM congregation with them in 1967, for a three-day celebration.
The theme the three Sisters chose was, “Let Us Be Grateful,” and the ceremonies in Dubuque included prayers, liturgies and dinners featuring Latino, Hawaiian and Italian cuisines and entertainment. Sister Joanie and Sister Lynn were accompanied by several Xavier faculty and staff members as well.
“There was a lot of dancing, people dressed up in accordance with the daily cultural themes, and we even had mariachis from Milwaukee, a steel drum performer from southern Wisconsin and an accordionist from St. Louis. It was a great time for everyone,’’ says Sister Lynn.
An avid photographer, Sister Lynn shot a few photos of the nearby Mississippi River and surrounding countryside at sunset, like something out of a picture postcard book. She and Sister Joanie wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else.
“It has been an incredible journey, and I love what I do,” Sister Joanie says.
“I have lived a great life and wouldn’t change a thing,’’ adds Sister Lynn.
The Phoenix festivities will begin at 4:30 p.m. Oct. 21 with a Golden Jubilee Liturgy at the Chapel of Our Lady on Xavier’s campus. A reception will follow in the school’s Founders Hall at 5:30 p.m.
Story by Don Ketchum and Erin Naughton Alaimo
Photos courtesy the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary