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June 15, 2023

Holy Angels Community Hosts Sendoff for 2023 Retirees

The month of June brought several changes to the Academy of the Holy Angels, including the retirement of several key staff members. Those who are leaving their posts include School Social Worker Sister Mary Foley, SSND, Athletic Director Patti Gorsuch, Main Office Manager Ellen Schiff, Facilities Manager Robert Shanney, and Campus Ministry Director Kathleen Sylvester. Together, they gave AHA nearly 100 years of service; half of which were logged by Shanney.


As the Academy celebrated the retirees on June 14, AHA President Melinda Hanlon and Principal Jean Miller shared humorous and touching memories, and recognized AHA Technology Department Assistant Keri Letourneau, who will be moving on to a new opportunity. Letourneau was honored for being pleasant and helpful, and especially for her expertise during online and hybrid learning.


“Each person has given more than their job required,” President Hanlon said. Each retiree will receive a personalized paver to be added to the walkway outside the gym. The circle on the campus drive will be renamed Robert Shanney Circle. Hanlon noted the 143-year continuum from S. Nonna Dunphy, the School Sister of Notre Dame who signed the contract for AHA’s first campus in Fort Lee, to S. Mary. Hanlon also announced that the Kelleher Hall chapel will be dedicated in the School Sisters’ honor.


Mary Foley, SSND, who is retiring from her post as AHA’s social worker, will retain her responsibilities as head of operations in the newly-renovated auditorium. She began her ministry as a physical education teacher and coach in Rochester, New York, and later taught girls in Liberia. Her career also included service as an administrator and teacher, and a counselor for Catholic Family Services. In 2002, S. Mary joined Holy Angels, where her ministry has involved work with PowerBack, a group that helps girls advocate against peer dating abuse.


Together with her beloved therapy dog, Luke, S. Mary visited numerous schools, especially in Newtown, Connecticut. As a volunteer mental health worker for the American Red Cross, she has assisted people in New Jersey and Texas. S. Mary has also been involved with the Lead Response Team for the Traumatic Loss Coalition in Bergen County and was a Disaster Response Crisis Counselor for New Jersey.


In March 2018, she was a Bergen County’s Women’s History Month honoree. On May 9, 2018, as she celebrated 50 years as an SSND, New Jersey, Bergen County, and the Borough of Demarest all declared that date “Sister Mary Foley Day” in honor of her service around the globe.


After earning her undergraduate degree in Spanish and physical education from SUNY Brockport, S. Mary received her MDiv from Immaculate Conception Seminary at Seton Hall and a master’s in social work from Fordham. She is a New Jersey licensed clinical social worker, and has completed three marathons. She enjoys spending time with her border collies, Zac and Pax, and crafting greeting cards, including the ones presented to her fellow retirees. Art teacher Christine Wraga DeGennaro created the card given to S. Mary – a watercolor representing of a bouquet of flowers.


Patti Gorsuch received her undergraduate degree at Fordham, where she played volleyball, softball, and basketball. After graduation, she began her 30-year career in broadcasting network television sports and news. She became the first woman to direct a network college football game, and has earned numerous Emmy Awards. Her first job at ABC Sports allowed her to cover the Olympics and contribute to Wide World of Sports. She later directed ABC’s World News Tonight and CBS Sports. She also served as a freelancer for CBS, NBC, and ABC. She retired from broadcasting 15 years ago, and has served as the Academy’s athletic director since then. Gorsuch recently earned the Dr. Rose Battaglia Award in recognition of her contributions to the development and promotion of girls basketball in Bergen County.



Ellen Schiff joined the front office staff in September of 1999, and grew into her position as office manager. Mrs. Miller described Schiff as always someone who would always say yes to people who came to her with a request. Mrs. Hanlon recalled arriving for her interview at AHA, and having Schiff greet her at the door. Schiff, who says she married her best friend, has two daughters. She enjoys traveling, music, cooking, and being with family and friends.


Robert Shanney has been keeping AHA’s campus safe and clean for close to 50 years. Shanney began working at Holy Angels part time in 1973. By 1980, he was a full time AHA employee. The facilities manager received his bachelor’s degree in business administration from William Paterson College (now university) in Wayne. He holds a schools building and grounds facility manager certificate, and Integrated Pest Management Coordinator Certification. A highlight of his career was earning the Staff, Teacher, Administration Recognition Award from the Archdiocese of Newark.


Among the many gifts presented was a clock with no numbers made by Technology Director Nadeem Akhter. He said his creation was for Bob Shanney, who no longer had to worry what time it is.


Kathleen Sylvester holds a bachelor’s degree in business management from Saint Peter’s University, a master’s in pastoral ministry from Seton Hall, and a certificate in liturgical studies from Felician University. Before she joined the staff at AHA in 2005, Sylvester was a pastoral associate at Saint Mary’s Church in Dumont, a post she retained on a part time basis. Sylvester is an SSND Associate, and serves on the SSND Atlantic-Midwest Province’s Haiti Partnership Committee. She has invested thousands of hours organizing retreats, prayer services, liturgies, fundraisers for Haiti and Puerto Rico, Feast Day and Foundation Day observances, Service Day, and more. She has also chaperoned countless service trips. She was honored for her superior logistical skills, and for bringing Bridges, a club for inclusion, to AHA.