St. Augustine Church Godmother Banks passes, 100

Janet Banks, the ‘Godmother of St. Augustine Our Lady of Victory Church,’ is remembered for her many years of dedicated service to her community and parish.
Photo courtesy of Pamela Lindsay

The Godmother of St. Augustine Our Lady of Victory Church has earned her angel wings.

Janet Banks, a beloved matriarch at her longtime parish and community, passed away on Wednesday, September 13 at 100-years-old.

Born on March 31, 1917 in Worchester, MA, Banks moved to Harlem in 1945 to live with her mother and grandmother.

A Worchester High School for Commerce Class of 1937 alumna, Banks moved to Morrisania where she married her husband Ernest, a World War II Army veteran, in 1948.

They had two children, Pamela and Michael, before Ernest died from a heart attack at age 43.

Banks was one of the first African American women to be employed in the desegregated civil service following WWII.

As a single parent, Banks worked for the IRS and the NYC Department for the Aged until retiring in 1983.

For 30 years, she served as captain of the Morris Houses’ Tenant Patrol and Drug Elimination Program.

Banks also served as an active member of the Jackson/Forest Community Garden, Youth Village Park Intergenerational Program and William Hudson Senior Center.

She wore many hats at the parish devoting the latter half of her life serving the faithful.

Known for sporting Sunday hats, the treasured St. Augustine Our Lady of Victory Church matriarch was a member of the Catholic community for over 50 years.

She served as director for the St. Augustine Sunday School and the St. Augustine Senior Center, a Sunday School teacher and a Eucharistic minister.

Banks received the Good Samaritan Award from NYC Catholic Charities and was recognized as a Catechism developer by the Archdiocese of New York.

She was professed a member of the Secular Franciscan Order and sponsored many new people to the faith.

Fellow parishioners and friends Adrienne Hennessy and Virginia Dorsett met Banks in the 1960s.

“Ms. Banks was a godmother to many generations in our church and was loved by everyone,” expressed Hennessy.

“She always called me ‘Ginny Baby’ and when she was sick I made sure she got her church bulletins,” shared Dorsett.

Animated and always cheerful, Banks lived with her daughter Pamela Lindsay’s family until 2015 when her Alzheimer’s worsened.

She resided at Bronx Lebanon Special Care Unit Nursing Home where her parish’s Fr. Luke Ibeh frequently hosted Masses for her.

Lindsay said her mother volunteered for an Aging and Alzheimer’s study conducted by Albert Einstein Hospital and the Mayo Clinic for 25 years.

Despite living with the brain disease, Banks maintained a keen memory, often reciting her favorite Joyce Kilmer poem, ‘Trees’ verbatim.

Banks was cremated and her brain was donated to science for Alzheimer’s research.

“My mother was giving even unto death,” stated Lindsay.

Banks’ funeral Mass is Saturday, September 30 at noon at St. Augustine Our Lady of the Victory Church on 1512 Webster Avenue.

Women are asked to wear Sunday hats to honor her memory.

Banks is survived by her two children, six grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

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