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Sister Ann Denise Reger

sister ann denise reger Jesus said to them,“Let the children alone and do not stop them from coming to me, for it is to such as these that the Kingdom of Heaven belongs.”
Matthew 19:14

Love the children first, and then teach them.
St. Mother Theodore Guerin

There are many scripture passages that would be appropriate for Sister Ann Denise, but since I have known her the past 15 years, these words seem to stand out. I have seen Ann Denise’s love for children; how she reached out to them, asking the mother if she could hold the child, or hug or kiss the little one. I would imagine as a first or second grade teacher Ann Denise spent much time loving the children, then teaching them. Those who lived with Sister Ann Denise in California know how devoted she was to her nieces and nephews, grand nieces and nephews, and great grand nieces and nephews, said Sister Mary Patricia Peacock in her commentary for Sister Ann Denise Reger who died March 12, 2013.

Ann Dolores Reger was born in Chicago on May 5, 1918, “Cinco de Mayo day,” as she would remind persons when she told her birth date. She was the sixth and last child of Joseph and Helen Reger. As a child she was proud to tell others that she had three brothers and two sisters: Fred, Frank, Joe, Marie and Theresa (all of whom preceded her in death). She also informed those interested—and those not interested— that her name REGER is spelled the same forward and backward. That probably was something her brothers told her.

Ann Dolores’ baptism, first communion and confirmation were all celebrated in St. Genevieve Church, Chicago. She was proud of the fact that she was the first young woman to enter the Congregation of the Sisters of Providence from St. Genevieve Parish. She attended St. Genevieve School from first to eighth grade. She continued her education at Providence High School, Chicago. Ann was an accomplished musician on the piano; she was the pianist for the band and orchestra for at least two years. In her senior year she was offered a music scholarship to St. Mary-of-the-Woods College. Her response to that offer was “No, thank you, I am going to the Novitiate of the Sisters of Providence.”

Ann entered the Congregation July 16, 1936, just one month after graduating from Providence High School, along with five of her classmates. She received the religious name of Sister Ann Denise, which she kept until she died. Sister Ann Denise professed final vows Jan. 23, 1945.

Her first five years of teaching she had primary grades, the next eleven years she had fourth grade, and for the next 19 years she was a junior high teacher (seventh and eighth grades). She taught in Indiana at St. Simon in Washington; St. John in Loogootee; St. Joseph in Jasper; Immaculate Heart in Indianapolis, St. Margaret Mary in Terre Haute; St. Jude in Fort Wayne; and Holy Spirit in Indianapolis. In Illinois she taught in Chicago at St. Angela, Maternity BVM, St. Sylvester, St. Francis Borgia and St. Andrew. She taught at St. Ann in Washington, D.C. and in California at St. Elizabeth in Van Nuys, St. Ambrose in Hollywood and St. Joseph in Hawthorne.

From 1975 until 1993 her ministry focus changed as she worked through the public school system of Los Angeles as a parent educator, counselor, and ESL teacher.

From 1993 to 1998 Sister lived and ministered at St. Elisabeth Convent and Parish in Van Nuys, Calif.

Though Ann Denise was so proficient in music and piano, she did not want to be a music teacher. She definitely wanted to be a classroom teacher. In Community she often played the piano for various programs, which she loved to do. She did this until her fingers became arthritic and she could no longer make them nimble.

In July 1998 Sister Ann Denise returned to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods in her 80th year. She still had lots of energy. She became involved in many different activities: tutoring, working in the Business Office, liturgy, prison ministry, phone room guard, visitors rooms, foot massage. In her retirement years she went to almost every musical program offered at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College and other musical performances in Terre Haute. Sister often had music playing in her room at Owens, Lourdes and in Mother Theodore West.

Some of you remember Ann Denise as an excellent swimmer and diver. During the time there was a swimming pool at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods open to the sisters, we saw her in action and watched her as a life guard. During her grade school and high school days basketball, bike riding, and swimming were her favorite activities. Her nephew Bourke could tell us about her bike riding with him as a passenger.

Sister Ann Denise could be a ball of fire, a spitfire, and a peaceful dove, all within minutes of each other. You definitely knew when Ann Denise was unhappy or upset with you. You also knew when she loved you dearly. Ann Denise’s quick wit and her sense of humor were her trademarks. Often if you told her how nice she looked, she would say, “You need your glasses changed.” Upon greeting her and asking, “How are you?” her response usually was, “I’m much better now that I see you.” Her wit and her humor helped pull her through some tight situations. Her band members and those in the Novitiate with her could tell many stories about her escapades, you might call them, and how she came through them with a smile.

There were some rough times in her life in the Congregation, but by and through God’s Providence she managed to live above them. She had a special devotion to God’s Providence. Her family knew that things did not happen by chance or by luck, it was Providence. Ann Denise taught them well.

When Ann Denise began her residency in Owens Hall, she was introduced to centering prayer. This type of prayer appealed to her and she was very faithful to a half hour of centering prayer in the morning and in the afternoon. When she went to Lourdes Hall she continued with the two prayer times, at least her first year and a half there.

Her moves from independent living to assisted living and then from assisted living to skilled care were not easy transfers for Sister Ann Denise. She showed herself as a fireball for a while, but then she became a peaceful dove. In her years in skilled care with Providence Health Care, she and I would do crossword puzzles together, Sister Mary Pat said. We usually read the scripture readings for the day, talked about the liturgy, the feast of the day. We talked about some of the songs for the liturgy. In the church when we sat together, Ann Denise would read the words of one of the songs and then poke me and say, “That is beautiful.” One of her favorite songs was, “I received the Living God, and my heart is full of joy.” One day while I was wheeling her back to her room, I asked her how she felt. Her answer was, “I received the Living God, and my heart is full of joy.”

Ann Denise, I think your heart was full of joy much of the time during your life. The sparkle in your eyes, and your beautiful smile showed it. Now you can be quick-witted and full of humor all the more. God love you, Ann Denise. I always will, Sister Mary Pat concluded.

The funeral Mass for Sister Ann Denise Reger was held March 15, 2013 with burial at the Sisters of Providence cemetery at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.

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  1. Avatar Lucy Adams Hickey on December 27, 2022 at 1:20 pm

    Sr. Ann Denise was a wonderful educator. I have very fond memories of her as my teacher at St. Joseph’s in Hawthorne. CA. She was strict, but I was ok with that. She implemented a “Junior High” program for 7th & 8th graders, where we changed classroom and had different teachers for various subjects, getting us ready for high school. She taught us advanced math which I excelled in. Later, I did really well in mathematics at St. Bernard High School and UCLA.

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