Remembering Sister Anne Berchmans Taylor
“If you’re blue, little girl, if you’re blue … do something for somebody quick.”
Those words were spoken by Sister Jeanne Knoerle (RIP) in her commentary for Sister Anne Berchmans Taylor (RIP).
Sister Jeanne said Sister Anne Berchmans would say this to homesick freshmen when they arrived at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College.
Sister Anne Berchmans was born Helen Anne Taylor in Fort Wayne in 1904. She entered the Congregation in 1922.
Sister Anne Berchmans graduated in 1930 from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College with a bachelor’s degree in Latin. In 1945, she received a master’s degree in zoology.
Upon graduating, Sister Anne Berchmans began ministering as a teacher. For 10 years, she taught in schools in Chicago before teaching in Indianapolis. Sister Anne Berchmans returned to Chicago for one year before heading back to Indianapolis for another eight years.
In 1945, Sister Anne Berchmans began ministering at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, teaching biology. During her 21 years at the college, she also ministered as the freshmen advisor and the Dean of Freshmen. It has been said that students at the college affectionately referred to her as “Annie B.”
In 1966, Sister Anne Berchmans traveled to Washington, D.C., to begin ministering at Immaculata Preparatory School, staying there until 1974. While there, she also ministered as the Dean of Freshmen for one year.
In 1974, Sister Anne Berchmans returned to the Motherhouse and began a ministry in the sisters’ greenhouse before officially retiring in 1976.
Sister Anne Berchmans committed herself to the ministry of prayer in 1979.
Sister Anne Berchmans died in 1989. #throwbackthursday #tbt
Thanks, Jason, for sharing this beautiful piece about “Annie B”. She indeed was an anchor for every newly arriving freshman at SMW. And her admonition to “do something for somebody else” to overcome being blue has remained with most of us through the years and been passed on to new generations of alum children and others along the way. I hope others will share their memories of her as well because they certainly tumble forth among us whenever we gather for class reunions.
Along with my parents and sister I met Annie B. on a foggy, drizzly night in September 1950. We had just driven from Erie, Pennsylvania to SMWC for me to begin my freshman rear. A.Anne Berchmans met us with a wonderful welcome. She was the first Sister of Providence I had ever met. This was also our first introduction to the Woods. After saying a tearful goodbye to my family, I remember Annie B’s kindness in helping me get settled. That evening was the beginning of a very special relationship. I quickly fell in love with everything about the Woods – professors, classmates, classes, and the overwhelming beauty in which I found myself. That year I got to know Annie B. and shared with her my
interest in religious life, which at that time trended toward the Sisters
of St. Joseph who had taught me for 12 years at Villa Maria’s girls’ school in Erie. During the summer following my freshman year my mother was diagnosed with cancer with surgery scheduled in September. I withdraw from the Woods and found myself a sophomore at Villa Maria College. On my parents’ 20th wedding anniversary on September 14 surgeons attempted surgery but found my mother’s cancer was inoperable. She lived until December 14. The funeral was in Evansville, Indiana, original home to my parents with the transfer of my father to Erie during the depression. I finished the year at the Villa but returned to the Woods for my junior year. On my class schedule was biology with Annie B. By the end of the year I told Annie B. that I wanted to become a Sister of Providence. She helped me along the way and arranged for me to meet Mother Marie Helene in the fall of my senior year. I graduated in June and entered the Congregation on July 22, 1954. And from then on that special relationship continued to grow.
S. Carolyn, I hope S. Anne Berchmans’ love and guidance provided the mothering you needed when your mother died when you were only 15. My own mother died at the age of 91 six years ago. I was 64. Soon thereafter, a needed mother figure appeared in S. Suzanne Zuercher, a Chicago Benedictine from St. Scholastica on Ridge Rd. For three and a half years we met once a week in her little office on the second floor of the old brick laundry out near the monastery gardens and talked about the things a mother and daughter share. Whereas my mother was subtle, Suzanne was direct. I liked that. Like my Irish grandmother, I think of Suzanne, “in her tender old-age, serving me, in need.” Suzanne died rather suddenly in 2014 in her early 80’s. She authored important books on the Enneagram and Thomas Merton.