In 1963, the Sisters of Divine Providence founded La Roche College and named it for the co-founder of their religious community, Mother Marie de la Roche. Since then, the Sisters have taken a vital interest in the ongoing mission and development of the College, and continue to animate the values and inspire the College community. The Woman of Providence Award is given annually at the spring Commencement to a member of the Congregation of Divine Providence whose life of service, as a part of the mission of the Congregation, is a compelling example of God’s Providence made visible.
Celebrating her 50th Jubilee this year, Sister Maura Anne Dunn—born Shirley Victoria—entered religious life in 1967 at age 38 from St. Anselm parish—now known as Word of God parish—in Swissvale, Pennsylvania. She credits life-saving, emergency surgery and a three-month period of recuperation as what most influenced her decision to enter religious life. She says, “an overwhelming call to religious life manifested itself.” Sister Maura Anne chose the Sisters of Divine Providence because she remembered her experience with the Sisters as a patient at Braddock Hospital in Pittsburgh, which the Sisters administered.
In 1971, Sister Maura Anne received her bachelor’s degree in sociology from La Roche College and, after taking her first vows, began working at Divine Providence Hospital in the Social Services department where she received on-the-job training. She went on to work as a social worker for 19 years, leaving in 1990 to care for her ailing mother.
In 1994, Sister Maura Anne began her ministry with La Roche’s Welcome Center and continued there until 2012. She says, “The world came through that lobby. I was energized by everyone, particularly the students!” Since 2012, Sister Maura Anne has ministered in La Roche’s freshman admissions office. She is also a member of the Sisters’ bell choir, a Eucharistic minister and a prayer leader.
Before pursuing a religious vocation, Sister Maura Anne attended the University of Pittsburgh; trained to be a stenographer and paralegal; worked at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh for three years; and was employed at the Pentagon as a civilian with the Air Force JAG (Judge Advocate General) legal department for 13 years. She credits this time of living and working independently as a single woman for helping her relate to the students at La Roche.
Sister Maura Anne is the oldest living graduate of La Roche College. When she was told she would receive the Woman of Providence Award, Sister Maura Anne experienced shock, tears and then smiles to know she is part of such an honored group of women. She says, “I am so grateful for being able to devote the past 50 years of my life to the Congregation of Divine Providence and serve in many ministries. I love doing whatever I can for the community, for I have received so much more in return.” When accepting her award at Commencement on Saturday, May 6, Sister Maura Anne thanked Sister Candace Introcaso, president of La Roche College, and members of the council and said, "I have long admired the magnificent women who have received this award and never dreamed I would one day be one of them. I have loved La Roche College since I entered our Community in 1967, resuming work on a B.A. degree begun 25 years earlier at the University of Pittsburgh. At La Roche I was so impressed with the administration and faculty who obviously cared deeply about students, whether she was an 18 year old, a recent high school graduate, or a woman in her 40s, who, like me, was working toward a college education. Twenty years later, when I began my ministry here, I found many more courses of study, beautiful buildings and grounds and MEN! But the interest and caring for the student was the same. I’m so proud of our college and so grateful to be a part of this. Each week as I approach my ministry, I never see it as a job—it is always a joy!"