Sister Mary Concetta Banez
“Then Jesus told them a parable about the need to pray continually and never lost heart. ‘There was a judge in a certain town who had neither respect for God nor respect for people. In the same town there was a widow who kept on coming to him and saying, ‘I want justice from you against my enemy!’ For a long time he refused, but at least he said to himself, ‘Maybe I have neither fear of God nor respect for people, but since she keeps pestering me I must give this widow her just right, or she will persist in coming and worry me to death.'”
—- Luke 18:1-5
Anyone who knows Concetta well understands why this reading was chosen. She packed a lot of determination into her small frame and was not easily deterred if she set her mind to doing something, said Sister Ann Casper in her commentary for Sister Mary Concetta Banez, who died on Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2016, at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. She was 79 years old and had been a Sister of Providence for 36 years.
While in the Holy Land, gun shots were fired at the bus she was on. Asked how she survived when shots were ringing all around her, she replied rather nonchalantly, “It was easy. You just lie flat on the floor of the bus.” She seized challenges and new opportunities with a tenacity that sometimes inspired others and at other times exasperated them. If she believed something was right – for herself or for others – she pursued it single-mindedly.
Maria Asuncion was born in the Philippines to Nemesio and Mauricia Aviles Banez on Aug. 27, 1937. Asuncion enjoyed being part of a large family of five sisters, Marlita, Josephine, Teresita, Lourdes and Maria; and three brothers, Jose, Luis and Serafin. All her siblings are still living except Serafin. Two live in the Philippines, one in Colombia, South America, three in New York and one in California. Concetta is also survived by several nieces and nephew, one of whom, Jose or J.P., has been with us for Concetta’s final journey back to God.
When Asuncion was in fifth-grade, the teacher summoned her parents to tell them that Asuncion was not studying and therefore not doing well in school. That one conversation ignited her determination and as a result, Asuncion made the honor roll from then on, was awarded a scholarship each year of high school and graduated Magna Cum Laude with a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Santo Tomas in Manila in 1958. In later years, she went on to earn a master’s degree in theology from Villanova University and a master’s degree in School Administration from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.
Asuncion became a candidate and postulant in a Benedictine community in the Philippines in 1958, but after two years, she informed her father that she wanted to try religious life in the United States. Thus, she came to enter the Benedictines of Saint Gertrude Priory in Ridgeley, Maryland, in September 1960. She professed first vows in 1962 and perpetual vows in 1967. As a Benedictine for 16 years, she ministered in education in Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Illinois and Arizona.
In Arizona, she met Sister Virginia Marie Cashion, provincial in the west, who invited her to consider the Sisters of Providence. She entered a three-year transfer process in 1976 and went to California where she was assigned to teach eighth-grade and be vice principal at St. Joseph School in Hawthorne.
During the third year of her transfer process, she came to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods and ministered as a driver. Concetta transferred her vows to our Congregation on June 29, 1980.
From 1980 to 2013, Sister Concetta had several teaching or administrative ministries, all at elementary or high schools in California. Not one to shy away from a challenge, these ministries were interspersed with responding to calls which took her to other countries. In 1980, she responded to Sister Loretta Schafer’s call for sisters to minister in Taiwan. After a year of intense study of Chinese, she spent two years as an English instructor at Providence College in Taichung. In 1992, she returned to the Philippines for a year to care for her sick mother. In 1996, a call came from the American Bishops for religious to go to Eastern Europe to revive the Catholic religion after the fall of Communism. She taught one year at a school in Slovakia.
When she returned to California in 1997, she began ministering in 1998 as Retreat Supervisor at Marywood Retreat Center in Orange, a position she had for 10 years. Sister Carol Nolan reached out to Concetta and asked if she would be interested in assisting her to establish a new ministry to migrant workers in the Coachella Valley, our current Providence in the Desert. Concetta said she was too old (71 at the time) which didn’t bear too much weight with Carol who was five years older than Concetta. As a compromise, Concetta volunteered at Providence in the Desert on a weekly basis for several years, using her days off at Marywood.
When Concetta retired from the Retreat Center in 2008, she asked to work at Providence in the Desert. She taught English in a number of places and coached a couple of priests on pronunciation, noticeably improving their command of English. According to Sister Carol, people really loved her and she made friends wherever she went. Carol continued, “She was a faithful Dodgers fan, and the announcer Vin Scully was her hero. When the Dodgers lost to the Cubs this year, I don’t think anybody had the heart to tell her. At home, Concetta was a faithful member of the community, sharing in the preparation of meals, prayers and celebrations. She loved Jeopardy! After the Holy Hour (Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy), she walked the upstairs hallway saying her rosary.”
When Concetta became ill with Parkinson’s Disease, she resisted mightily that she would have to leave her friends and the warm climate of California where she had ministered for 37 years. She returned to the Woods motherhouse in 2013 and was a resident in health care from then until her death. Her persistence and determination were evident as she tried to cope with her debilitating illness. She continued to write notes of support, gratitude or sympathy to others even after her shaky writing was barely legible. When writing failed her, she would send an email, maybe just a few words, which she hoped would convey enough to the readers to decipher her message.
She persisted valiantly to overcome the limitations the disease placed no her movements and her ability to speak and feed herself. In the end, she modeled for us the surrender that may be required when one prays the Suscipe – “Take, Lord, receive … You have given all to me … to You, O God, I return it.”
Funeral services for Sister Mary Concetta took place on Thursday, Nov. 17, and Friday, Nov. 18, in the Church of the Immaculate Conception at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.
A Wake took place from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m., on Thursday, Nov. 17, with Vespers at 4:30 p.m.
Mass of Christian Burial was at 11 a.m., on Friday, Nov. 18.
We welcome you to share your memories of Sister Mary Concetta in the comment section below.
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I am Sr. Concetta Banez’ nephew from the Philippines. I was ordained deacon two months ago and hopefully will be ordained priest in four months time. I will definitely miss Aunt Cioing. She is so kind and supportive. I will say a Holy Mass for her soul immediately after priestly ordination. That is a promise.
I’m really sad for her and she worked at Marywood Center many years . She love chat with peoples at Marywood Center and have a fun at restaurant with ex-worker . I’m really miss her so much and love her so much. God Bless
May the soul of my sister Maria Asuncion Banez rest in the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, and the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary. We will truly miss her presence.
I have had the pleasure of knowing Sr. Concetta since the 60’s. I was a frequent visitor at Ridgeley, MD. She and I worked together at St. Elizabeth’s Elementary School. We have kept in touch throughout the years. We’ve had adventures in New York and California. It was my pleasure to accompany Sr. Margeret Mary, OSB to Sister’s 50th anniversary celebration at the Woods. I last visited her at the nursing facility in in the summer of 2014. We have kept in contact through letters and e-mails.
She will be greatly missed. I know she is a saint in heaven and happy to be with her parents and brother. much love and hugs, edie
The McLaughlin family from Wilmington,DE, lovingly remembers Sr Concetta. She was a dear companion to our sisters, Sr Anne Marie McLaughlin and Sr Mary Paul McLaughlin, OSB, at the Benedictine monastery in Ridgley, MD. As she joins them now in their faithful reward, we can hear those young women praying, singing and laughing…
I have missed my dear friend Sr. Concetta since she left Coachella Valley, but I know she received the care she needed at the Woods. She had a wonderful sense of humor. I shall continue to pray for her while she entertains all her friends in heaven. Love and blessings to you, Sr. Concetta,
I offer up praise and thanksgiving to our Lord Jesus Christ and His dearest Mother for granting me a HUGE blessing in the person of Sister Concetta Banez! We met at the Diocese of Orange, California. She prepared the altar for the noon time Mass. She was a cheerful giver even with a few candies to relieve me of my cold. She loved to be surrounded with friends and co-workers. She threw a joke or two each time. She was synonymous to smile and joy and radiant energy. She was adventurous even in her 70’s, I know, with the pictures of trips she had shown me. She had never forgotten to send me a card for every special occasion of the year – her age, her condition, the distance did not stop her from doing so. We ended our phone calls with “I love you” each time. Sister Concetta Banez is affixed in my heart. I have enrolled her in the Holy Masses of the Seraphic Franciscan Fathers. I shall not also cease in my own personal prayers. I HOPE IN CHRIST to see Sister Concetta again in the eternal reward! Meanwhile, I pray that I would be like her more and more – especially to radiate with a joyful personality.(Thank you so much to the Sisters of Providence for informing me by correspondence and for this opportunity to share our appreciation for Sister Concetta. God bless!)
Wow. Something made me think of Sister Concetta and I do a google search and there she is. As soon as I saw her picture I new that was her even though I hadn’t seen her since the early 1970’s. But I wanted to get a second opinion so I sent the web link to my sister and yes she agrees that this is “our” Sister Concetta. She was my second grade teacher at St. Elizabeth’s in Wilmington Delaware. She also taught my older sister. I remember her as a fierce disciplinarian with that long pointer stick. Watch out! I behaved in her class. Our family moved to California in 1969 and she came out to visit and she stayed with us for a short period in the early 70s. I don’t recall much detail from that visit except when we took her to Disneyland. My sister remembers playing Monopoly with her. So sad to see her go, but so heartbreaking to learn that she was here in California the whole time and we didn’t know it.
My brother Jerry called me suddenly last Saturday and told me to look at the facebook posting to confirm this was our Sr. Concetta. And it was! She was my 8th grade teacher at St. Elizabeth in Wilmington Delaware and she would punish the students who threw spit balls in class. Their homework was to go home and make thousands of spit balls and bring them to her the next day. She was tiny but had so much spunk. We moved to La Palma in 1970 and I recall her staying with us for a time as she passed through returning from the Phillipines to see her family. We played Monopoly and I remember accusing her of cheating. Like my brother, I am saddened to hear that she was in California all of this time. I graduated from Loyola Marymount in 1978 and my daughter, Natalie, who passed away 3 days shy of her 18th birthday on August 9, 2010 was a few weeks away from going to “our” alma mater. I would have loved Sr. Concetta to have known my family. She will always have a special place in our hearts. It gives me some comfort to know that she is with my precious baby girl in Heaven!! Sr. Concetta, Natalie was just as tiny but had as much determination and spunk as you. Love, Gabrielle aka Gaye De Santis
I was browsing about memories from the past with regards to my father when i saw this article about my sister to my father Nemesio Banez. Yes, Sis Ma Concetta who i always call her “Ate Cioning”. Whenever she had time to go back to Manila, she always make a time to visit me in Bulacan and i would prepare for her a nice meal usually a filipino food. She does not forget to give regards to my mother. When she goes back to U.S.A, we do exchange letters or cards and until now all those letters and cards were kept in my storage box. I can’t forget her goodness and kindness of her heart. When she emailed me that she had a parkinson disease last nov. 17, 2014, i was saddened by the thought that we will not be together again. Truly, she is a wonderful sister to me and i missed her so much.
Thank you google for without this, i may have not encountered this article.