Phyllis Jaszkowiak, SNJM

Phyllis Jaszkowiak was born in 1944 to George and Mary Jaszkowiak in Bremerton, WA, the fifth of nine children. Her dad was working in the shipyards at the time. After World War II ended, the family moved back to Cottonwood, ID and then to Boise, ID when her dad had found work there. She spent the rest of her childhood in Boise, going to St. Mary’s grade school and then St. Teresa’s high school. In her senior year she was voted by her class to receive the Babe Ruth Award for citizenship and was salutatorian of her class.

Phyllis went to Marylhurst College in the fall of 1962 and graduated in 1966. It was at college that she first experienced her call to religious life – but at first she turned it down. After graduation she became employed by the Idaho Department of Welfare. Her caseload was with the elderly and she enjoyed her work. She worked there for two years, paying off her college debt. Not knowing what else to do with most of her money besides paying rent and buying a car, she put it in savings.

It was in 1968 while she was at work, writing notes about her visits to clients, that she was startled into hearing again the call to religious life. This time she answered yes and entered the novitiate of the Sisters of the Holy Names at Marylhurst. After two years in the novitiate, she made first vows in August 1970.

She worked for a while at Christie School while she earned her master’s degree in Social Work. She then worked at Assumption and Holy Redeemer grade schools as a social worker. Finding this was not for her, she worked in the Sisters’ infirmary at Marylhurst for a year. She then was hired at St. Henry’s parish in Gresham, OR as Family Life Coordinator. At that point, she recognized her real ministry was in parish work, which she has continued to this day.

She wondered a bit why she was in an education order when she knew she was not a teacher. Then one day the answer came. The foundress of the order, Blessed Marie Rose Durocher, had worked in a parish most of her life, so Phyllis felt at home and fit right in.

Besides St. Henry’s, Phyllis has worked at All Saints, St. Francis and St. Charles parishes, all in Portland. For six years she served as Oregon Provincial Treasurer and three years as General Treasurer for her community, but her real call has remained parish ministry. During her years as parish minister she studied for and received her doctorate in Applied Ministry from Graduate Theological Foundation, Donaldson, IN.

Phyllis worked at St. Charles for 12 years, first as Liturgy and RCIA Coordinator and then as Pastoral Administrator. At age 72, Phyllis retired from full-time work. Some of the women of the parish persuaded the pastor and the pastoral administrator to have Phyllis continue to give reflections on the Word each month. She continues to do so and is on the Liturgy Committee and Multicultural Committee of the parish. The multicultural diversity of the parish was what first attracted her to St. Charles. Phyllis also volunteers with the Metropolitan Alliance for Common Good (MACG) in the social justice ministry of the church.

Phyllis is deeply grateful for her religious community. Without their help, support and friendship she certainly would not be the woman she is today. It is through their commitment, their love of religious life and their continuous seeking of God, that Phyllis is motivated and shown how to do the same.

God, of course, leads the way and is continually present in all the ups and downs of life. It is this “walking within God always” that enlivens us and leads us on to whatever is next.