Holy Family Catholic principal leads with devotion

From an early age, Sister Dorothy Sayers knew she wanted to devote herself to God. That devotion led her across the world and ultimately to become principal at Holy Family.

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  • | 11:30 a.m. August 4, 2016
Sister Dorothy Sayers is part of the Religious Teachers Filippini community.
Sister Dorothy Sayers is part of the Religious Teachers Filippini community.
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WEST ORANGE Sister Dorothy Sayers was just 15 years old when she decided what she wanted to do for the rest of her life.

Her decision to enter become a sister was one that ultimately would take the Malta native halfway across the world and lead her to open Dr. Phillips’ Holy Family Catholic School 20 years ago. It was a decision made from a true sense of calling.

But it wasn’t one her family exactly understood.

When Sayers entered into the community, her family supported her decision. But when her parents went to visit a month after she began, they brought a suitcase — just in case she wanted to go home.


Sayers grew up in a Catholic family in England and was young when she felt her sense of calling. At just 11 years old, she began attending daily Mass by herself before school.

Although she loved spending time with her friends and playing sports, there always was something else pulling at her heart.

“Even when I was with my friends, there was always that desire to enter the community,” Sayers said. “I don’t know where it came from. There was no one in my family who was religious or a nun. But even when we’d go to the cinemas and I was having fun with my friends, there’d be that feeling, ‘Can you give me everything?’”

After she made her final profession, Sayers began teaching at a Catholic high school in England. After a few years, she was asked to move to the United States. 

“You know, you join the convent and you see the world,” she said, laughing. 

She spent time teaching at schools in Rhode Island and Connecticut, and then earned her first position as principal.

Moving from England separated her from her family, who usually visited her every month. After six months of being in the U.S., her mother came just to make sure she was OK.

“I don’t think you ever lose your roots with family,” she said. 

Upon moving to the U.S., she taught first grade in the mornings and fifth grade in the afternoon. It was unfamiliar to her, because her experience was with high-school students. But she has fond memories of working with them — and the mistakes she made. 

One day, she wrote “mom and dad” on the board, but wrote it the English way — “mum.” Her students giggled and corrected her. 

“They were the loveliest children,” she said. “Oh, it was just unbelievable. I had a lot of fun.” 

The whole experience of moving taught her to rely on God. 

“In every life, there’s ups and downs and there’s struggles,” she said. “It won’t be easy, but it teaches us to trust in God, because with Him you can do all things. Sometimes, I think we get in His way, but when He leads, it is good. It is all good.” 


About 21 years ago, Sayers was asked to move to Florida to start Holy Family Catholic School with Monsignor William Ennis, who retired recently. 

This year, Holy Family Catholic School celebrates its 20th anniversary.

Through the years, Sayers has loved seeing the school grow and change with the time. But one thing hasn’t changed: Principal Sayers.

Every day, Sayers says “hello” and “goodbye” to the students. She attends Mass and sporting events, cheering and encouraging the students to do their best. Around school, she is known for her humility. 

“When I think back at my time at Holy Family Catholic School, the first image that comes to my mind is of Sister Dorothy,” said Alaina Little, who graduated from Holy Family Catholic School in 2014. “She is a part of every memory I have of that school. My teachers were awesome, and I made a lot of friends at Holy Family, but it was Sister Dorothy I will remember most. She blessed me with a solid foundation of my faith. She taught me to love God, my religion and myself.”


Contact Jennifer Nesslar at [email protected]



Sister Dorothy Sayers is part of the Religious Teachers Filippini community. 

The community is worldwide and seeks to work among the children and poor in schools and wherever they are needed. The community expanded into America in the 20th century to serve Italian immigrants in the country. 


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