Sister Jessie Poynton


Maryknoll,  NY

United States

“When we were finally asked to what mission we would like to be assigned, I said ‘China.’ So it turned out I was assigned to Chile. Mysteriously it came to be clear to me that there couldn’t be a more appropriate mission for me than South America, especially the gracious and compelling country of Chile.”

Born in 1930 in Buffalo, NY, Sister Jessie Poynton graduated from Sacred Heart Academy in Eggertsville. Before entering Maryknoll from St. Gerald’s Parish in 1950, Sister Jessie taught for two years at St. Agnes and St. Bernard’s Schools while attending night school at Canisius Jesuit College in Buffalo.  She pronounced her first religious vows on March 7, 1953.

Upon completion of her studies at Maryknoll Teachers College, Sister Jessie received her first mission assignment to Chile in 1956, where she first served as a school principal. While in Chile, Sister Jessie collaborated with other Maryknollers and mission partners to support, encourage, and develop small Christian communities. Sister Jessie was also involved in religious education for adults and young people.

In 1970, Sister Jessie returned to the United States to help care for her sick father. She returned to Chile in 1974 and was assigned to Temuco. She was a member of the Pastoral Team and was a professor of English at the University.

From 1976 to 1991 Sister Jessie worked in Talca. Sister Jessie started a program among oppressed women which provided a motivating presence for their emotional healing, helping them recognize their own self worth. Sister Jessie served in various ministries with the poor, embracing the life amongst them while living in tiny, wooden shacks with no running water or central heating in Talca, a small town in the heart of Chile’s farmlands.

In 1994, Sister Jessie was assigned to the Western U.S. Region. Sister Jessie did volunteer work ministering to senior citizens in apartments and did home and hospital visiting until 2009. She also formed a support group for women. In 2010 Sister Jessie was assistant cook at Watch Hill during the summer.

Sister Jessie currently resides at the Maryknoll Sisters Center, Ossining, NY, where she is a cheerful member of its congregational post office team.