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A passion for educating youth

Posted by: tdt -

By Robin Scott

    The School Sisters of St. Francis, “Panhandle Franciscans,” hope to change the world, one soul at a time.  They seek to nurture the dignity of others through Catholic schools, faith formation programs, youth groups, and in caring for nursing home residents and retired priests.  The tradition has its beginnings 50 years before the signing of the Declaration of Independence, when sisters began teaching young people.  

    Dalhart is fortunate to have the dedication and passion of four Sisters, three who teach at St. Anthony’s School and one who cares for the Sisters. A fifth Sister travels to Dalhart once a week to teach Spanish.  Srs. Mary Katherine Dorsey, Mary Pia Benavidez, Mary Regina Lam and Mary Magdalene Grobe all reside across the street from St. Anthony’s School and Sr. Jean Marie Lara comes to Dalhart weekly.

    In 1723, a young woman and her mother saw the children in the streets near Salzburg, Austria that were too poor to be in the public school which required tuition.  Their parents were working, and the children had no one to educate them or to watch them during the day.  So Maria Hyacintha and her mother, recognizing the potential and dignity of the children, took it upon themselves to begin educating young people in their home.  Soon, other women joined them, and the Congregation began.  

    In 1931, a pioneering group of Sisters were sent to America where they first learned English, then established themselves as working in seminaries, schools and hospitals.  In 1954, after ministering through the apostolates in the central and eastern U.S., a place was created for all of the Sisters to live as one community in the diocese of Amarillo in Panhandle, Texas. 

    For more than 50 years, the Sisters have given of themselves to the people of the Texas Panhandle.  They have been involved with the opening and staffing of Catholic Schools in the Amarillo Diocese and in other areas of the state, including Dumas, Dalhart and Borger.  They have also worked in Pampa, Holy Cross Catholic Academy and St. Joseph’s. 

    The main apostolate of the Sisters is the Christian education of youth, with a passion to include the teaching of Pope John Paul’s Theology of the Body.  The Sisters also feel privileged to serve St. Ann’s Catholic Nursing Home and St. Joseph’s Home for Retired Priests. 

    St. Anthony’s in Dalhart recently began construction on an addition that will make it possible for the school to expand to include a pre-school once construction is complete.  In order to continue their invaluable work teaching and nurturing youth and the elderly, the Sisters host an annual fundraiser. 

    This year’s School Sisters FUN-Raiser is scheduled for Saturday, December 12th at 6:30 p.m. at the Amarillo Civic Center Heritage Room.  The Advent Gala and FUN-Raiser will begin with dinner and followed by a dance and reverse raffle.  Anderson, Flesher & Keg “AFK”, will provide music for the dance. 

    Raffle items include a $750 gas card, a 47” flat screen TV and a $7,500 VISA card plus two airline tickets to anywhere in the world.  All of the funds raised during the event help the School Sisters of St. Francis continue their ministry and evangelization.  Dalhart residents won the two large prizes last year.

    Everyone in the Dallam and Hartley Counties community is invited to attend the gala for fun and fellowship.  Craft items made by the Sisters will be available as well as live and silent auctions and Calcutta Boards.  For more information on the event and how to purchase tickets visit and click on Annual FUN-Raiser, or talk with any of the Sisters at St. Anthony’s in Dalhart. 

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