Sister Anne Boniface of the Sacred Heart was born Anna Marie Kathleen Doyle in Bayonne, New Jersey on June 7, 1927 to Gregory Doyle and Anna Ewald. She was baptized at St. Andrew’s Parish, Bayonne, NJ on June 27, 1927. Anne Boniface had two siblings, her brother, Terrence Doyle, ST and her sister, Peg Reilly and five nieces and nephews; Matthew, Terrence, Christopher, Margaret and Maureen.
Anne Boniface was in the MCA and then entered our community on September 24, 1945. She made her first Profession on March 25, 1947 and her Perpetual profession on March 25, 1950.
Sister received her Bachelor’s in Sociology at St. Joseph’s College in Brooklyn in 1959 and her MSW at Fordham in 1963. She had a wide interest in continuing education and was continuously updating.
Sister Anne Boniface’s first mission was at Dr. White Settlement House in Brooklyn from 1947 to 1952. She then was missioned to St. Michael’s in Brooklyn for the next four years. In 1956 Anne Boniface was missioned to Dr. White Settlement House, Brooklyn once again until 1960. She was also local custodian there for a year. In August of 1960 she was missioned to Catholic Social Services in Philadelphia, PA as Director of Family Services. While in Philadelphia, along with her many agency responsibilities, she was involved in a Lay Apostolate Institute, served as Regional MCA moderator and was involved in many other activities, such as Cursillo. In 1968 Sr. Anne Boniface was missioned to St. Elizabeth’s Community Center in Rockford, IL, where she was also the Custodian of the Cenacle.
While in Rockford, Anne Boniface discerned that she wanted to do ministry in a secular setting, as she put it. She also asked to be part of an experimental living situation in North Philly with Sr. Mary Vincent. She wrote in 1969, ‘I have a strong desire to see if we MSBT’S can achieve our community goals by using some new approaches. This stems from our recent chapter meetings in which several position papers stated a need to be ‘religious women of the 20th century, and as Father said, ‘to read the signs of the times’.” Sr. Anne Boniface made her case for returning to Philadelphia, where she had many contacts and understood the needs and here she stayed for the next 48 years until she went home to God on November 14th.
In 1969, Sister Annie B began to work part time as a counselor at the Child Guidance Center. Simultaneously, she was part of a group searching for solutions for a struggling community in Southwest Philly. This was the genesis of the Southwest Community Enrichment Center. In no time the Southwest Community Enrichment Center came into being. In the statement of purpose the Center was described as,
“a new community self-help project serving the Southwest area of Philadelphia. It was initiated in September 1969 in response to community needs and in an effort to aid community members cope with social and environmental problems. It aims to enlist the leadership of local residents, to stimulate community interest in self-help projects, to coordinate extra community resources toward community improvement and to initiate change in the present situation of institutional racism.”
This project began in a borrowed basement on S. 46th St. with Brother Hugh Maguire, a Christian Brother, Sr. Anne Boniface and others and grew responding to new needs and circumstances. Sr. Anne Boniface was the Executive Director of the Center from 1969 until 1992, when she stepped down from that position but continued to be an integral part of the staff and later became a volunteer at the Center.
Sr. Anne Boniface received many awards and much recognition for the creative and innovative work in Southwest Philadelphia. In 1998 she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from St. Joseph’s University a Doctor of Public Service. As the award states,
”Sr. Anne is a woman of God who has devoted her life to embracing life’s challenges and working with others to come to terms with their own lives- their strengths and weaknesses, struggles and blessings. She guides people to act on their principles for their own empowerment and the empowerment of their communities- whether they be poor or rich, white or black. Sr. Anne Boniface Doyle is truly a woman with and for others.”
She also received awards from Immaculata University, the Peace and Justice SIGN Award from St. Augustine’s Parish in Bridgewater, PA. Sister Anne Boniface was also honored with a lifetime achievement award at the MSBT Sneaker Ball. There are also numerous newspaper articles written about her work and ministry. The title of one article was, “She Came, She Cared, She Stayed, She Dared” and it seems to sum up Sr. Anne Boniface’s life in Southwest Philly. Martha Pickman Baltzell, who became a volunteer at SWCEC describes her 25 years at the center in a book she authored, Bridging Diversities: Confessions of a Yankee Catholic.
She also was able to connect with her Irish background while at the center. She received the opportunity for a three month placement with the Northern Ireland Community Service Organization in 1982 in Derry. The purpose of the program was to foster the peaceful and non-violent integration of Catholic and Protestants through economic development. There was a similarity between this program and that which had been developing at the Southwest Community Enrichment Center; Economic development, job training, etc. There seemed to be comparable solutions worth exploring for both communities.
While the center was not associated with the Archdiocese or a Catholic institution there was a collaborative effort of 8 different religious communities, as well as Diocesan seminaries, involved in the Center.
When, because of health, Sr. Anne Boniface had to leave her work at the Center, her new ministry became visiting the residents in the Spring Garden Towers where she resided. She was very beloved by the administration and her neighbors there and will be greatly missed.
Anyone who knew Annie B knew that one of the great inspirational persons in her life was Dorothy Day. She had met Dorothy personally. She often quoted Dorothy in her writings. The inspiration that she drew from Dorothy Day was a true communion with the poor.
Sr. Anne Boniface was a founding member and an active member of the Catholic Peace Fellowship and rarely missed the monthly meeting held at St. Malachy’s. Many of her dearest friends are also part of that group. Sr. Anne Boniface was a Peace Activist. She was part of the formation of the MSBT Peace and Justice Committee and served on it for many years. She was instrumental in formulating our own process for corporate stands. Peace and justice was the orientation of her whole life. St. Malachy Parish was also such a rich part of Sr. Anne Boniface’s life. It is where she worshiped and was part of the broad community there.
She had a wide circle of friends. We, MSBT’s, are especially grateful to here circle of friend, her support group, her team. Fr. John McNamee, Allie, Mary Ellen and Joe, Carol and John, Ed and Maria and many others who treasured her and we know it was mutual.
You fought the good fight. You finished the race. Sr. Anne Boniface, you were a light for so many. We thank you for your life, example and witness as a Missionary Servant of the Most Blessed Trinity.