Director Sister Diane Rabe leaves St. Benedict Child Development Center after 29 years

Jill Varner, left, presents Sister Diane with a commemorative plaque

Under the leadership of Director Sister Diane Rabe, year after year St. Benedict Child Development Center (SBCDC) received awards and high rankings from the National Association for the Education of Young Children, East Coast Migrant Head Start, the Department of Health and Human Services and PA Office of Child Development and Early Learning. After 29 years, Sister Diane is leaving her place at the helm to become subprioress and administrative assistant for the Benedictine Sisters.

“It’s a new day, every day!” said Sister Diane of her years at SBCDC. “The little ones are always ready to greet each person with a hug and a smile and we have great fun watching them grow and learn. Many of our staff were children or parents of children in the Center at one time. Our quality programming has flourished because we are a family-centered operation.”

The Center staff and some parents and children gathered at an outdoor luncheon on August 26 to bid farewell to the only director they have known. Jill Varner, Assistant Director, who has worked with Diane for nearly 13 years, offered an emotional testament to Diane’s leadership and love for the Center’s staff and families. “We have survived crazy days we thought would never end and also fun times. I am truly blessed, not many people get the chance to work with their mentor and I am only stronger and more compassionate for it. Sister Diane’s leadership has been incredible, she is admired by staff, respected by families, and loved by all. She will be missed,” Jill said before presenting her with an engraved crystal plaque.

In 1991 then prioress Sister Phyllis Schleicher asked Sister Diane to lead the East Coast Migrant Head Start Program that had operated at the monastery since 1980. Not long after, a director was needed to take over St. Benedict Center, a day care and Head Start program operating at the former motherhouse on 9th Street that Sister Alice Schierberl began in 1969. Sister Diane successfully merged the programs as St. Benedict Child Development Center in the building on East 9th Street, which was undergoing a major renovation even as the merger was happening. That renovation resulted in a state-of-the-art child development center.

SBCDC was invited to become a part of Pennsylvania’s new Pre-K Counts Initiative in 2008 and with her Head Start expertise Sister Diane was asked to be on the state advisory committee that developed the original policies and procedures for the program. “We opened the new program with 30 children,” she said. “And, after more building renovation in 2018, we added another 20 children in the Pre-K Counts program.”

Today there are 130 children enrolled in all the programs taught by a staff of 42 teachers, aides and administrators. “Sister Diane has helped me to grow so much in the nine years I have worked under her direction at SBCDC,” said Alyssa Kissell, Family Service Coordinator. “From volunteering at the Center while I lived at the monastery in the Benedicta Riepp Monastic Experience Program, to becoming a lead teacher and now in my current administrative role, she has supported me every step of the way. As my family grew (Alyssa married and has had two children since she first began working at SBCDC), Sister Diane was always understanding of my role as a mother as well. I am grateful and I will miss her very much.”

Sister Katherine Horan will succeed Sister Diane as director. With 30 years' teaching experience at all levels in both private and public schools and, more recently, serving as an elementary principal, she brings her own wealth of experience to the position. “I am confident that Sister Katherine will take the program into the future, using technology to provide the children with a myriad of educational advantages and to streamline the immense amount of paperwork,” said Sister Diane.

Sister Katherine, incoming director, and Sister Diane visit with a day care family.
Sister Katherine, incoming director, and Sister Diane visit with a day care family.
Staff, day care families and friends enjoyed a home-cooked feast.
Staff, day care families and friends enjoyed a home-cooked feast.
Tables were spread out in the day care playground area to accommodate guests.
Tables were spread out in the day care playground area to accommodate guests.
It’s all in the family! Sister Diane, Brunilda Alvarez, her daughter Jeanette Alvarez, both teachers, and Bruny’s brother, Luis Cruz, van driver for the Pre-K Counts Program.
It’s all in the family! Sister Diane, Brunilda Alvarez, her daughter Jeanette Alvarez, both teachers, and Bruny’s brother, Luis Cruz, van driver for the Pre-K Counts Program.
Maria T. Reyes, past East Coast Migrant Head Start Parent Policy Committee president,  and Carolina Valdez, East Coast Migrant Head Start parent.
Maria T. Reyes, past East Coast Migrant Head Start Parent Policy Committee president, and Carolina Valdez, East Coast Migrant Head Start parent.
Briana Aponte and her mother, Miti Aponte, teacher, Sister Diane and Karen Jones, former Health/Disabilities Coordinator in ECMHS program. Briana was in the program as a child.
Briana Aponte and her mother, Miti Aponte, teacher, Sister Diane and Karen Jones, former Health/Disabilities Coordinator in ECMHS program. Briana was in the program as a child.
Sister Diane opens farewell gifts from families, friends and staff.
Sister Diane opens farewell gifts from families, friends and staff.
A beautiful bouquet of gift cards for Sister Diane.
A beautiful bouquet of gift cards for Sister Diane.
Clockwise: Arely Villegas, Ximena Villegas, Andrea Aranda, Sister Diane, Monica Villegas, Reyna Villegas, Kevin Aranda.
Clockwise: Arely Villegas, Ximena Villegas, Andrea Aranda, Sister Diane, Monica Villegas, Reyna Villegas, Kevin Aranda.
Wind and sun accompanied the luncheon.
Wind and sun accompanied the luncheon.
Sister Val Luckey cuts the cake.
Sister Val Luckey cuts the cake.
One of Diane's gifts--this mug won't get lost!
One of Diane's gifts--this mug won't get lost!