Maria Sylvia Llerena was born on to Eduardo and Maria Llerena, who came to California from El Salvador in Central America. Three years later Sonia, another daughter, was born. Because of educational opportunities, the girls grew up in the Sunset district in San Francisco. They met the Sisters of the Presentation at Saint Anne grammar school and Presentation High School.
Sylvia was very impressed and inspired by the Sisters who taught her or with whom she worked. During her high school years,
Sylvia volunteered at Saint Agnes Summer of Love, a summer school in the Haight Ashbury for economically disadvantaged children. She fell in love with the children and was so inspired by the joy, love, commitment, and faith of the Sisters she worked with, especially Sister Pat Davis and Sister Anne Marie Sullivan. They were her mentors, especially when she began thinking of loving and serving God in a deeper way. Sylvia went to San Francisco State University while working as a paraprofessional at Saint Elizabeth School.
Sylvia’s teaching career began with a kindergarten class at Saint Agnes School. She enjoyed it very much. She entered the Sisters of the Presentation in 1981, lived in Saint Agnes Convent and taught in Saint Agnes School. She has many wonderful memories of those years, especially of two sisters who made her first few years in religious life so special: Sister Kathy Sickly and Sister Benigna O’Shea.
On October 4, 1985 Sylvia made her first vows with Sister Stephanie Still. Both Sisters professed their vows in front of family, friends and the Sisters. It was an exciting and emotional day! During her formation years, Sister Sylvia’s love, commitment and desire to continue working to make things better for the poor was encouraged. She went to Chiapas in Mexico to visit Sister Ellen Cafferty; worked with the elderly in the Tenderloin; and helped Central American Refugees who were fleeing persecution, torture and death in their countries. Sister Sylvia went to El Salvador during a summer and worked with war refugees. This unforgettable experience inspired her to apply at Saint Peter School and parish to continue working with Latinos who were oppressed economically or socially. Nano Nagle’s footsteps were ones that she wanted to follow.
Sister Sylvia was hired to teach second grade at Saint Peter School in 1987. She has taught second, sixth and seventh grades, and has been student council moderator, sports coach and music minister. She recalls being so happy, challenged and inspired at Saint Peter’s parish every day. On October 27, 1990, among the Saint Peter’s community, Sister Sylvia made her profession of perpetual vows. The Sisters, her family, friends, students and parishioners celebrated God’s call and her “yes” in a ‘fiesta.’ She will never forget Sister Rosina Conrotto’s challenge to her to live her whole life united with Jesus in generous service to God’s people.
In 2006, The Lantern Center opened with a commitment to offer hospitality, education, advocacy, and celebration. After a summer of working with others to ready the Lantern for its October opening, Sister Sylvia began teaching there and offering hospitality, ESL classes, and support to Latina immigrant women. She enjoyed being with the women very much.
Continuing her ministry to marginalized women, Sister Sylvia volunteers at San Francisco Safe House, a transitional home for unhoused women experiencing sexual exploitation. She continues to support and empower this underserved population to ensure that they can rebuild their lives and pursue their dreams. She believes that if Nano Nagle was alive, this would be a ministry she would be doing.
Sister Sylvia has been so blessed all her years in religious life. Since 1996 to 2022, she has belonged to the Guadalupe Community, eleven Sisters and Presentation Associates who have been a constant source of encouragement, challenge, and support to her. Each member, as a follower of Nano Nagle, responds to the pressing needs of the day by their ministry and works of compassion and justice. Sylvia’s nieces, Emily and Alyssa, are also special in her life. Her sister, Sonia, brother-in-law Dave, and her nieces are a constant source of so much joy and love for Sylvia!
Jesus has always been a source of strength, inspiration and challenge to her. Sister Sylvia is grateful to Him and to all the wonderful people who have gifted her life.
|1981 – 1982||Teacher, St. Agnes School, San Francisco|
|1982 – 1983||Paraprofessional, St. Elizabeth School; Aide, Presentation Shelter Care Home|
|1983 – 1984||Novitiate; Pastoral Visitor, Alviso|
|1984 – 1985||Novitiate; Pastoral Visitor, Tenderloin, San Francisco|
|1985 – 1987||Teacher, St. Paul of the Shipwreck, San Francisco|
|1987 – 1995||Teacher, St. Peter School, San Francisco|
|1995 – 1997||Student, San Francisco State University|
|1997 – 2004||Faculty, St. Peter School, San Francisco|
|2004 – 2005||College Studies|
|2005 – 2008||Teacher Aide, St. Elizabeth School, San Francisco|
|2008 – 2010||Teacher Aide, St. Elizabeth School, San Francisco; ESL Teacher, The Lantern Center, San Francisco|
|2010 – 2013||ESL Teacher, The Lantern Center, San Francisco|
|2013 – 2015||Day Care Teacher, The Lantern Center, San Francisco|
|2015 – 2016||ESL Teacher, The Lantern Center, San Francisco|
|2016 – 2017||Teacher, St. Anthony/Immaculate Conception School, San Francisco|
|2017 – 2019||Volunteer, St. Anthony/Immaculate Conception School, San Francisco|
|2019 – 2020||Volunteer, SafeHouse and Hope Center, San Francisco; Co-Teacher, St. Anthony/Immaculate Conception School, San Francisco|
|2020 – 2021||Volunteer, Safe House, San Francisco|