Sister Ann Kevin O’Connor
“Peter was grieved because Jesus said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”
—– A reading from the Gospel of John 21:18-19
Living those words of Jesus to Peter were part and parcel of Ann Kevin’s journey, especially as her health continued to diminish these last several years. In her Christmas letter last year, after a serious, extended illness, she wrote (with the help of novice Sister Tracey Horan): “My life has changed a great deal in the last months, but I am blessed to have a Congregation that takes loving care of us who are ill. I really don’t know for how long I was laid up, but I am doing very well at the present time,” said Sister Ann Casper in her commentary for Sister Ann Kevin O’Connor, who died on Wednesday, August 24, 2016, at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. She was 91 years old and had been a Sister of Providence for 73 years.
To Stephanie Downing, who has ministered as a massage therapist to Ann Kevin for the past six years and met with her weekly, Ann Kevin was “a true friend, an inspiration, and a model of determination and perseverance … she was a puzzle-solver of life and a profoundly sensitive and insightful woman.”
Theresa Ann O’Connor was born in Summit, Ill., on July 24, 1925, to Vincent and Nellie Barton O’Connor, who were both born in Ireland and proud of it! Her brother Maurice survives, while two brothers, Donal and Ed, and three sisters, Mary, Sister of Providence Margaret Ellen, and Betty have been reunited with her in heaven. Theresa Ann was close to her siblings and to their children, her nieces and nephews.
Theresa Ann attended elementary school at St. Francis Xavier in LaGrange and Resurrection in Chicago. Her high school years were spent at Providence in Chicago, and after graduation in 1943, she entered the Congregation. As a postulant, she received her religious name of Sister Ann Kevin. Her reception into the novitiate occurred on January 23, 1944, the same date on which she made her first and final profession of vows, in 1946, and 1951, respectively.
Ann Kevin earned degrees in education – her bachelor’s degree from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, and her master’s degree from Clarke University in Dubuque, Iowa.
Her ministries of more than 50 years included elementary teacher and principal in several states (Indiana, Illinois, Texas, Missouri and California) for 34 years; service as support staff in schools, and for provincial and Congregation administrators and in Congregation departments at the Woods (the Mission Advancement office, the Office of Records, White Violet Center and Residential Services).
There may be many former students of Ann Kevin’s “out there,” who felt about her teaching the same way as former sixth-grade student, Tom Gawne, now a retired teacher himself. Tom emailed Ann Kevin in 2011: “You were a special teacher and human being that helped shape my life … You gave me a thirst for learning, as well as a positive outlook on life. I remember one time of many when you made me feel so special. You had organized a softball game after school, and your sixth-graders challenged the eighth-graders. I hit a double and you were jumping for joy, so much that (your headpiece) fell off. I thought you were the most gorgeous nun I ever saw. I still remember your dark hair blowing in the wind. I can remember many times you sang to us and taught us how to sing. … I bless you for your presence in my life.” A similar email of gratitude was received a few days ago from a former colleague of Ann Kevin’s at Trinity High School in 1992, who has remained a friend through the years.
Ann Kevin was proud that her father was an accomplished painter, that a cousin operated an Art Museum in Galway, Ireland, and that her brother Donal invented the Morton salt shaker in 1960. These creative genes must have found their way into Ann Kevin as well. They manifested themselves in several ways: Her interest in cooking, baking, crocheting, wrapping gifts, photography and creating greeting cards on her computer. Also, we know her eye for beauty, which was reflected most obviously in her appearance, which she always wanted to be impeccable. One has only to look at her photo from the recent 90s party (scarcely three weeks before her death) where, at age 91, seated in her wheelchair, she has on an attractive black dress, a lacey white sweater over it and a double-strand necklace of white beads setting it all off.
Ann Kevin had several passions: Clothing catalogues was one, Fannie Mae Turtle Candies or any kind of chocolate another, and for sure all forms of technology, from cell phones to computers to cameras to tablets. When in better health, Ann Kevin delighted in helping sisters navigate the intricacies of email and of creating documents on the computer. Even when her eyesight began to fail in recent years, she never gave up, even though often frustrated. She got magnifiers to use, larger buttons on phones, a larger TV screen and computer monitor, a yellow, large-letter computer keyboard. Each of her passions was shared: The catalogs were passed to others to enjoy; the boxes of chocolates were offered as a treat to visitors or passed around for all and her computer prowess resulted in greeting cards for others to send to loved ones.
Sister Nancy Nolan recalls one such sympathy card Ann Kevin created and sent to her brother after his wife’s passing. “Johnny still treasures that card and its message today and has made several copies to share with his friends at their time of loss.”
We could probably add “talking” to that list of passions as well. Stephanie relates of the massage sessions: “Ann Kevin loved her massages, but I’m not sure if she loved the touch or the chatting the most! I was definitely a ‘sounding board,’ and felt honored that she shared so much with me. Several times I would suggest that we talk less during the massage so she could experience the relaxation in a deeper way … but that did not happen often!”
For 73 years as a Sister of Providence, Sister Ann Kevin heeded the call of Jesus to “Follow me.” The journey was often along paths she would not have chosen. There were ups and downs of serious health issues and many other challenges, but her courage, determination and positive attitude never seemed to falter. She ended her family Christmas letter last year with this sentence: “I miss all of you, but spend a lot of time recalling all the good times we had in the past. Maybe by next year, I’ll be able to walk and make that trip to visit you.” That trip to see loved ones is now a reality, at least as far as her heavenly reunion with beloved family members who have preceded her.
Thank you, Ann Kevin, for your beautiful example of gracious living and loving presence.
Funeral services for Sister Ann Kevin took place on Thursday, Sept. 1, and Friday, Sept. 2, in the Church of the Immaculate Conception at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.
A Wake took place from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m., on Thursday, Sept. 1, with Vespers at 4:30 p.m.
Mass of Christian Burial took place at 11 a.m., on Friday, Sept. 2.
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