Xavier Sisters, administrators to celebrate Golden Jubilee this weekend

Sister Lynn Winsor, BVM and Sister Joanie Nuckols, BVM (submitted photo)

Two beloved 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 on Saturday, 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 they were raised in different parts of the country – Sister Joanie in Montana, Sister Lynn in Wisconsin and Arizona – both Sisters were deeply inspired by the BVM Sisters who educated them throughout their elementary and high school years.

“Not only were they wonderful spiritual models,” said Sister Joanie, “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,” added Sister Lynn. “They were prayerful women filled with kindness, spirit, and fun.”

Sister Joanie and Sister Lynn professed their first vows on March 28, 1970, then moved to St. Louis, Missouri, in 1971 to join the faculty at the all-female Xavier High School there.

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, Arizona, in 1974 to teach the young women of what was known then as (another) Xavier High School.

With the exception of seven years that Sister Joanie spent teaching near her family in Butte, Montana, after her father’s passing in 1975, both Sisters have been at Xavier ever since.

Sister Lynn Winsor, BVM – c. 1967

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,” said Sister Joanie.  “With their support, I’ve prepared and grown immensely.’’

“The (BVM) community gave me an opportunity to excel in coaching, which is not your typical sisterly job,” said 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, Sister Joanie for 37, and there are very few who can exemplify the way they have conducted and continue to conduct their lives.

Sister Joanie marvels at Sister Lynn’s energy. And Sister Lynn calls Sister Joanie “one of the most spiritual, organized people I’ve ever known in my life.”

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 said.  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.”

“Whatever Xavier does, it does with class,’’ Sister Lynn said.

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 said. “’Women of Faith Pursuing Excellence’ is the motto of our school, and it encompasses the aspects of both prayer and community.”

“We have both felt the call (to service),” said Sister Lynn.  “It’s the spirit of the BVMs, reaching out to others.’’

The Sisters also find time to enjoy the company of the pet dog that inhabits the convent, adjacent to the Xavier property.

Sister Joanie Nuckols, BVM – c. 1967

In late July, the Sisters returned to Dubuque, Iowa, and joined fellow jubilarian Linda Roby of Portland, Oregon, who had entered the BVM congregation with them in 1967, for a three-day celebration.

The theme that the three Sisters chose was, “Let Us Be Grateful,” and the ceremonies at the Mount Carmel facility 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,’’ said 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,” said Sister Joanie.

“I have lived a great life and wouldn’t change a thing,’’ said Sister Lynn.

The Phoenix festivities will begin at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday (October 21st) with a Golden Jubilee Liturgy at the Chapel of Our Lady on Xavier’s campus, and be followed by a reception in the school’s Founders Hall at 5:30 p.m.

Editor’s Note:

Erin Naughton Alaimo is an alumna of both Xavier College Preparatory and Stanford University.  She has an MBA and has worked in corporate and investment banking, management consulting, and government in New York, Chicago, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, and Buenos Aires.  She is currently Director of Marketing and Public Relations at Xavier College Preparatory.

Don Ketchum is a native of Phoenix.  He was a sportswriter for The Arizona Republic/The Phoenix Gazette for more than three decades. He covered high school sports on several occasions as well as the Arizona Diamondbacks, Arizona Cardinals, and Arizona State sports. From 2008-14, he was a staff writer for AIA365.com, the web site of the Arizona Interscholastic Association. He currently writes a blog entitled “The XCP Files.”

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.