Sister, President, and now Chairperson

May 1, 2008 3:22:45 PM PDT
There's a new head of the Northeast Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce.Sister Francesca Onley has been president of Holy Family University for 27 years and recently has been chosen to chair the Northeast Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce.

"I said to them, 'What do you want with an old 75-year-old nun chairing the board?'" Sister Francesca said.

It's certainly the first time a nun has held the position; although, Sister Francesca has been a longtime member.

Chamber president Al Taubenberger says she's perfect for the job.

"[She's] well respected, well thought of, and, really, a great leader," Taubenberger said.

The job includes meetings and lunches with Chamber of Commerce members. Sister Francesca is a Mayfair native who knows the area well.

She believes jobs for her graduates and a strong business climate go hand in hand, much like a match made in heaven.

"I think because if you're in religious life doesn't mean that you can't make a contribution to the community in which you live," Sister Francesca said.

The Northeast Chamber currently has 900 members and is looking to attract 100 more before year's end.

Weekly newspaper publisher Wes Rowe says the new chairperson is an asset.

"It's a wonderful combination of two vocations," Rowe said.

Those who know Sister Francesca say she's a visionary who can help grow the chamber just as she did here at Holy Family.

When she became president in 1981, there were 500 full time students; today, it's a university with 3,500 students.