Sister Dorothy Pawlus, executive assistant to Bishop David Bonnar, says she is exactly where she is supposed to be.
Sister Dorothy joined the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth in 1985. She was drawn to the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth because of their emphasis on serving families, but she was looking for a sign from God to take the leap. While visiting their provincialate, she was waiting in the community room, where the The Wizard of Oz was playing on the television. Just as she sat down, the Wicked Witch of the West flew through the sky, writing “Surrender Dorothy” across the screen.
“That has followed me in my spiritual life for so many years,” Sister Dorothy said. “The need to surrender to God.”
Knowing Sister Dorothy had worked as a bookkeeper, office administrator and in numerous other roles before becoming a religious sister, her superiors realized she had an aptitude for business and encouraged her to further her education. In 1993, Sister Dorothy graduated from Duquesne University with a degree in business administration and management, and she has put that degree to good use over the years.
In addition to parish work, Sister Dorothy also served as administrator at St. Leonard’s Home, a senior living facility in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania. From 2017 to 2021 she served as executive director for The Community at Holy Family Manor in Pittsburgh, an organization that serves whole families—all the way from infants to seniors—through a variety of ministries.
While Sister Dorothy loved the work she was doing there, she said that her happiest years of ministry were when she was working alongside Bishop Bonnar—“Father Dave” at the time—at St. Bartholomew, a parish that was recently closed in Pittsburgh.
Although Bishop Bonnar left St. Bartholomew in 2007, the two remained friends. After he was installed as Bishop of Youngstown, Bishop Bonnar reached out to Sister Dorothy and asked her to be his executive assistant. She leapt at the chance to join him in serving this diocese.
“Executive assistant” may not be as flashy of a title as “executive director,” but Sister Dorothy takes inspiration from the Holy Family—her community’s namesake—and is proud of the humble, behind-the-scenes work she does to support Bishop Bonnar in his ministry.
“It’s so important to me to allow him the freedom to be the best that he can be,” Sister Dorothy said. “I’m here to take care of administrative needs for him so that he’s free to be that servant, to be there for the people of the Youngstown diocese.”