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“Sister” gathers the bills at the theatre

Most of us would be hard pressed to come up with an idea that would net the Sisters of Providence $130,138.67 for their retirement fund! Yet that’s the result from an idea some 15 years ago and the efforts of Mary Zentmyer.

Actress Mary in action.

Actress Mary Zentmyer has performed the play, Late Nite Catechism, for 19 years.

You see, Mary is an actress by trade and has been performing in a play called Late Nite Catechism for 19 years, where she plays the solo role of “Sister” and conducts a typical 1950s classroom in a Catholic school, with a few doses of “poetic license” thrown in.

The New York Times calls the show “An uproarious piece of interactive theater … inspired, well written, hilarious.” And the Catholic Explorer deems it “A habit-forming hoot.”

The 1993 writers of the show, Vicki Quade and MariPat Donovan, decided very early on that at the end of the show, with the permission of the individual venue, the actress could invite the audience to give a donation toward the retirement expenses of women religious. The actress or theatre manager would determine which religious congregation would benefit from the collection. Lucky for us, Mary had a great aunt, Sister Agnes Philomene (Florence “Chrissie”McGovern), in the Congregation of the Sisters of Providence at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. She chose to ask for donations to the Sisters of Providence Retirement Fund.

Actress Mary Zentmeyer with audience members during a performance of Late Nite Catechism.

Actress Mary Zentmyer with audience members during a performance of Late Nite Catechism.

So, Mary stands at the door as “Sister” and gathers in the bills as people leave the theatre. Still very much in her “Sister” role, I’m told that she lays quite a guilt trip on anyone who tries to pass her by without placing something in the “hat.” She has taken that stance often in theaters in the Chicago area, but she’s also performed the play in other states: California, Michigan, Iowa, Massachusetts, Florida, North Carolina and Pennsylvania, to name a few!

Some of those first gifts were used to purchase an aviary for our sisters who are retired and in our health care facility, an addition which continues to delight residents even today. All other gifts have been credited to the Retirement Fund. And, yes, you read correctly — $130,138.67 … and counting.

Our thanks to Mary and all those generous play-goers!

Oh, and worldwide? The Late Nite Catechism collections total approximately $3 million!

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Sister Ann Casper

Sister Ann Casper, SP, retired as the executive director for Mission Advancement for the Sisters of Providence in 2018 and currently serves as minister of Providence Community Cemetery at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana. Sister Ann has ministered in various scholastic and administrative positions in Indiana and North Carolina. She also was a member of the Sisters of Providence leadership team, serving as General Secretary.

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2 Comments

  1. Janice Smith, SP on May 8, 2015 at 5:26 pm

    Thanks, Ann, for the write up on Late Nite Catechism. I attended two productions in California some years ago and thought it was hilarious, unless you happen to be the one, “Sister” singles out. Choice of seating can be important depending on your disposition toward being the focus of “Sister’s” attention! I chose just to watch…

  2. Jeanie Reime Heller on May 14, 2015 at 1:38 pm

    I have seen this 3 times in St. Louis. It is so, so funny. What a wonderful thing that the SPs have benefited from the donations from Mary. Thanks for sharing this story.

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