Sister Ann Brendan Burget
“People brought little children to Jesus, for Him to touch them; but when the disciples saw this, they turned them away. But Jesus called the children to Him and said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the Kingdom of God belongs.’”
This reading seemed the obvious one to use today, as we gather to remember Sister Ann Brendan Burget, considering the zeal she had for the ministry to young children and the influence she had on so many.
Juliana Rubinacci, who as a child was enrolled at Woods Day Care, wrote on Facebook last week, “I believe that her love and lessons have shaped me into the person I am today.” Any of us who were involved in education would be proud to hear a former student that , wouldn’t we? Now, Juliana is working in our health care, in the section where Ann Brendan has been living, and Juliana wrote, “It is a blessing to be able to care for her,” said Sister Margaret Quinlan in her commentary for Sister Ann Brendan Burget, who died Thursday, May 16, 2014, at the age of 78. She was a Sister of Providence for 53 years.
But to go back to the beginning, Ann Brendan, known to her family as Pete, or Aunt Pete, was born on Oct. 15, 1935, to John and Mildred Rassel Burget.
She was baptized Mary Caroline, and educated at St. Benedict Grade School and St. Patrick High School in Terre Haute.
She entered the community in 1953, made her first profession in January 1956, and final profession in January 1961.
She taught first at St. Leo in Chicago, and then at five schools in Indianapolis. The fifth school in Indianapolis was Holy Cross School, where she taught first-grade from 1974-80. Then, in 1980, she organized a kindergarten at Holy Cross, where she taught until 1987.
Sister Rita Clare Gerardot lived with Sister Ann Brendan at Holy Cross. Rita Clare remembers her as being always positive and happy, despite the pain she was experiencing even then from arthritis.
Rita remembers the day Sister Ann Brendan came home from the doctor who had given her an injection for the pain. She described the needle as being 8-inches long. Sister Rita Clare remembers her as being very creative, always working on projects, cutting decorations for bulletin boards, etc.
Actually, even before that, I lived with Sister Ann Brendan at Nativity Convent. I was really impressed that she could actually make serre tetes! I could hardly pin mine on right, and she could make them!
In 1987, Sister Ann Brendan began working on opening Woods Day Care here at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. She realized the need for a day care for the children of people living and working in the area, especially those working with the Sisters of Providence and Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College.
As you all know, the day care was first located in two rooms in the basement of Hulman Hall.
Sister Claire Hanson recalls working with Sister Ann Brendan during a few summers, and recalled her as a wonderful teacher, creative and ahead of her time with her teaching skills.
Sister Claire also spoke of her as being a jokester, and also as being a prayerful person.
Marie Keyes and Loretta Andrews, both teachers today at Woods Day Care, worked with Sister Ann Brendan when they were still in Hulman Hall. Marie described her as a “great boss,” and remembers particularly how supportive she was when Marie’s husband was very ill.
Loretta considered her as a boss and a friend. She, too, was having some difficulties and she felt that Sister Ann Brendan was right by her side.
At the same time, Sister Ann Brendan could go right to the point, and those who worked there knew where they stood.
They all realized that Woods Day Care was “her heart and soul.” Debbie Fifer, another teacher now at Woods Day Care, had her children enrolled there at that time, her son Nick, and daughter Juliana, whom I quoted at the beginning.
Both Loretta and Debbie wept as they spoke of Sister Ann Brendan, describing her being down to earth and a help for them in difficult times. They apologized for their tears, but I told them that tears were completely appropriate.
D.J. Wasmer, a business professor at the college, was teaching classes in a nearby room in Hulman Hall. He also has fond memories of Sister Ann Brendan.
He said, “She was more focused on children than anyone you’d ever meet in this life.”
He served on the board for the day care, and he laughed when he remembered that at one of their meetings, Sister Ann Brendan made them sit in the little chairs the children used.
But Sister Ann Brendan’s dream was to have a building here on campus for the day care, and that dream was fulfilled in 2002, when the beautiful Woods Day Care building was opened.
One of the children enrolled at that time, a 5-year-old, described it this way, “I love the atrium; I love the hallways; I love the kitchen; I love the rooms; I love the front desk. The only thing I don’t like is Sister Ann Brendan’s office because you have to stay there a long time when you do something bad.”
In 2005, Sister Ann Brendan relinquished the directorship of Woods Day Care. Last week, after she had died, Sister Judy Cervizzi, current director of Woods Day Care, received several calls from personnel in day care establishments in the area, saying how much Sister Ann Brendan had influenced their careers and how respected she was in the Wabash Valley.
After leaving the day care, she enjoyed a sabbatical, then volunteered at the Gift Shop at Providence Center. She moved into Lourdes Hall in 2008 and to Mother Theodore Hall last year. It was obvious that she was in a great deal of pain, yet she was always cheerful.
We will miss Sister Ann Brendan, but we know she is now beyond the pain. And she certainly has left a wonderful legacy, in the children she influenced, and in others.
Sister Ann Brendan Burget died at 12:48 a.m., Thursday, May 16, 2014, at Union Hospital, Terre Haute. She was 78. She had been a Sister of Providence for 53 years.
The Mass of Christian Burial for Sister Ann Brendan Burget was Saturday, May 24, in the Church of the Immaculate Conception at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.
We welcome you to share your memories of Sister Ann Brendan in the comments section below.
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