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Phoenix nun celebrates 50 years as school principal at SS. Simon & Jude Catholic School

There’s a principal in Phoenix bringing a whole new meaning to labor of love this Labor Day. Sister Raphael Quinn has been in her role for 50 years.

PHOENIX — At Saints Simon & Jude Cathedral School, not all pillars are made of stone.

In fact, their main pillar is an Irish nun, who's been at the helm of the school for a half-century.

"I don’t see it as a job," Sister Raphael Quinn. "I see it as more of a calling."

Inspired by the nuns at her school in Ireland growing up, Sister Raphael came to Arizona to teach at Saints Simon and Jude in 1963.  

"I’m just very happy in what I do," she shared. "I never had a big plan like that, but I did know that God has a plan for me."

The school and parish sit near 27th Ave and Bethany Home Road.  When Sister Raphael first arrived in Arizona, she said 27th Avenue hadn't even been paved.  

"Of course, Phoenix was much smaller then," she remembered. "We were considered on the outskirts of the city."

She started teaching in 1963 with a classroom full of second graders. She was promoted to principal in 1972.

"I learned at a young age that education is a gift to be treasured," she said."

Over the years, she's been able to teach and help educate generations of families, including Carolyn Escobar's.

"I can’t believe she’s been here that long," Escobar shared. "She’s what makes the school the way that it is."

Escobar is currently a teacher at the school, but that's not her only connection.  She went to Saints Simon & Jude as a little girl. It's where her parents went to school, and it's now where her kids are enrolled. Sister Raphael is the family’s constant pillar of support.

"Even to this day, she remembers everybody!" Escobar admired. "I don’t know how she does it. It’s just that personal connection that I love about her."

Connections Sister Raphael is still fostering. She regularly visits classrooms and has started reading a special book to students. The book, called A Girl Named Eilish, is a children’s book about Sister Raphael’s life, written in honor of her half-century milestone at the school.

"We're just one happy family," Sister Raphael says. "I just love what I do."

As for her next chapter, she is thinking about retirement but doesn't have any set date in mind. She'll leave that up to faith.

"I'm open to what God has in store for me," she shared. "I have that enthusiasm still, and the love of the children is what motivates me."

The school said it's selling copies of A Girl Named Eilish, with proceeds going to a scholarship fund in Sister Raphael Quinn's name.


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