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Sister Deanna Maria remembered for lessons of love

Sister Deanna Maria remembered for lessons of love - (26-04-2016)

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Benedictine Sister of Perpetual Adoration Deanna Maria Pavone, OSB died Tuesday, April 25, after a short illness from inoperable thyroid cancer. 

She was born on April 24, 1938, at the family home in Highland Acres in western New York. Deanna was the last of six girls born to her Italian immigrant parents, Joseph Pavone and Philomena Manzetti. Deanna was her baptismal name. 

Deanna’s father worked at the steel plant in Buffalo, New York. When Deanna was nine years old, he purchased a grocery store to add to the family’s income and resources. She recalled helping her older sisters and mother in the store. She attended public school, however in the 1940s, students were given early release from school on Mondays to go to religious instruction at Catholic school. Deanna began to experience an attraction to God. 

In the summers, her family brought her along to pick berries and beans at a nearby farm. As the youngest, she recalled that “sometimes I would only sit in the field and daydream in the warm sun and prayerful silence.” In those days she thought “it was fun getting up early and getting on a big truck with other people on our way to the farm.” She loved the outdoors and animals.

When she was 12 years old, Deanna began to learn the art of ceramics, which she continued throughout her high school and working years. In fact, one of the reasons she considered entering Clyde was because she read that the Benedictine Sisters - besides praying - made ceramics.

In high school, Deanna attended Immaculata Academy in Hamburg, New York, where she was taught by the Franciscan Sisters of St. Joseph. Her contact with them and an earlier contact with the Daughters of St. Paul sparked her interest in becoming a nun. She didn’t share this interest with her family since they had told her in ninth grade that she was too young to think about a vocation. In high school, she took business-related courses, which set her on a path of employment in New York and later in California where her family moved just after she completed high school. 

“We drove across the country and moved to Santa Monica,” she once said. Though she had to say goodbye to nieces and nephews, as well as the only town and parish she had ever known. In the 10 years she lived in California before entering the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, she worked at a variety of office jobs. Deanna had her own home and traveled to France and to Italy to visit aunts and cousins. In the early 1960s, Deanna joined the Society for the Propagation of the Faith. For three years she sent $3 every month to support a lay missionary in Africa. She could not be a foreign missionary, yet she wanted to help.

The call of the Lord became clearer when Deanna purchased a book, Guide to Catholic Sisterhoods in the United States. She was drawn to the Benedictines in Clyde because of prayer, adoration and ceramics. Deanna entered in 1968 and made first vows as Sister Deanna Maria on June 15, 1973, followed by final profession on Oct. 7, 1978. She brought with her the love of family. Those family values tied in very well to life in community.

In her almost 50 years as a Benedictine Sister, Sister Deanna Maria lived in the communities in Tucson, Arizona, St. Louis and Clyde, the latter since 1986. She ably performed many and varied tasks in the monasteries including those in the kitchen, driving, correspondence department, altar bread making, sewing and art.

But more than what she did was who she was. Deanna radiated warmth, empathy and a simplicity born of the love of God and others. She had a natural sense of humor about herself and others. She most likely resolved life’s difficulties in the hours she spent in chapel in prayer in the afternoons and evenings. She once described prayer as “Adoration to the Father through the Son, petition for personal reasons, of other people I know and of some sad conditions of the world. It is also thanksgiving for all the blessings I have received.”

Sister Deanna Maria was serving as refectorian at Clyde until a few weeks before her death. Surgery was not an option after she received a diagnosis of metastasized thyroid cancer, and she chose to accept her illness as the final call to the Lord. In her final weeks of life, she was cared for at Our Lady of Rickenbach Health Care Center.

During her years in the Benedictine Sisters' community, she shared in her quiet way the lessons of love that her family had taught her.

Sister Deanna Maria died peacefully one day after her 78th birthday. Sisters were praying with her at the time. She is survived by her five older sisters, Katherine, Jennie, Maria, Margherita and Dolores; nieces; nephews; cousins and her monastic family. Her funeral liturgy will be held Thursday, April 27, and burial will follow at Mount Calvary Cemetery.