Sister Ann Michael O’Donnell
“The kindness and generosity of God our Savior dawned upon the world, not for any good deeds of our own, but because he was merciful.” — Titus 2:13
“Our Scripture reading this afternoon shows us a messiah who comes in gentleness and kindness — full of compassion. I think this is the picture that would appeal to Sister Ann Michael. For one thing, it reflects many of her own characteristics. With reason, she was often called ‘Gentle Annie.’ She lived her life comfortably, happily looking forward to the fulfillment of her hope in Jesus,” said Sister Alexa Suelzer in her commentary for Sister Ann Michael O’Donnell, who died Dec. 21.
Born April 17, 1918, in Wilkes Barre, Pa., Ann O’Donnell was one of 11 children of William and Anne Boyle O’Donnell. “As an infant, Ann contracted polio, which left her lame in one leg. Since she grew up with this limitation, she learned early to live with it and kept up with her brothers and sisters in every way possible — even playing basketball, although she never could ride a bike,” shared Sister Alexa.
Ann attended public school in Wilkes Barre before her family moved to Chicago, where she attended St. Mel. She graduated from Providence Juniorate, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, and entered the Congregation Jan. 11, 1936. She professed first and perpetual vows Aug. 15, 1938, and 1944, respectively. Sister Ann Michael received a bachelor’s degree in education from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College and a master’s degree in education from Indiana State University.
Sister Ann Michael was first missioned to teach sixth-grade boys at Sacred Hearts, Malden, Mass., in 1938. Sister Alexa said that this ministry “required that she appear sterner than she was by nature. In those days, when mirrors were not plentiful in a convent, she found a mirror and practiced ‘looking stern.’”
In Indiana, Sister Ann Michael’s educational ministries included Holy Cross and St. Joan of Arc, Indianapolis; St. Charles, Bloomington; St. Suzanne, Plainfield; and Cathedral, Fort Wayne. In Illinois, she ministered as a teacher or principal at St. Joseph, Downers Grove; Our Lady of Mercy and St. Andrew, Chicago; Immaculate Conception, Norwood Park; and St. Dennis, Lockport. For six years, she was principal at St. Joseph, Hawthorne, Calif., while also serving as a provincial councilor.
“Always sensitive to ‘the have-nots,’ Sister Ann Michael offered herself for the Taiwan mission but was not accepted. In later years, however, because of her long interest in missions, she served as the Congregation mission coordinator, handling appeals in the Chicago and Indianapolis dioceses,” said Sister Alexa.
Sister Ann Michael served as this coordinator from 1969 to 1978, while also ministering as a principal or teacher.
From 1979 to 1990, Sister Ann Michael served as a parish minister at St. Angela Merici Parish, Brea, Calif. She then spent the next nine years at St. Cecilia Parish, Tustin, Calif., before returning to the Woods.
“Just as she had tried to instill in the children a real and personal love for Christ, she did the same in the parish, broadening the scope to bring home the thought that to be Christian is to be a missionary,” continued Sister Alexa.
The Mass of Christian Burial for Sister Ann Michael was celebrated Dec. 24 with the Rev. Daniel Hopcus presiding. She is survived by four sisters, Jeanne McMahon, Chicago; Rita D’Onofrio, La Grange Park, Ill.; Margaret Cooley, San Diego, Calif.; and Kay Martin, Allentown, Pa. She is also survived by two brothers, William, Pampano Beach, Fla., and Michael, Chicago.
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