Sister Ann Jeanette Gootee
“May the One who created you in wholeness meet your needs when you call! May the name of Love be your protection and rise up in your heart as a tower of strength! May all you have given in gratitude and with open hands be returned to you a hundredfold! May your heart’s desires and all your plans be fulfilled in due season! Let us shout for joy as Love triumphs over fear; Let our thankful hearts sing in loud acclamation to the Beloved, who answers our heartfelt prayers!”
— Excerpts from Psalm 20, Psalms for Praying, by Nan Merrill
Sister Ann Jeanette, also known as AJ, Ann or Annie, indeed you have given much in gratitude with open hands and a heart full of love and compassion. One sister remarked that your eyes revealed a human-Divine depth of understanding; another spoke of a beautiful countenance. You have been described as a good friend, sweet, gentle, lovely, mischievous, a leader and a challenger, and as having a great sense of humor, said Sister Donna Butler in her commentary for Sister Ann Jeanette Gootee, who died Tuesday, January 16, 2018, at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana. She was 91 years old and had been a Sister of Providence for 74 years.
Margaret Jeanette was born on June 21, 1926, in Indianapolis, to Roy Gootee and Veda Pearl Owens. She is now united with her brother Robert, her twin brothers Bernard and Burdean, and her sister Patricia Dyer, who preceded her in death. She has also been reunited with two first cousin Sisters of Providence, Sisters Mary Hilda and Mary Justin.
Sister Ann Jeanette Gootee
Teacher for 25 years in schools in Indiana, Illinois, Texas, California, Oklahoma and Washington, D.C.
In Indiana: St. Joseph, Hammond (1950-51); St. Mary, Lafayette (1965-70); St. Thomas, Indianapolis (1970-71).
In Illinois: St. Andrew, Chicago (1946-47); Immaculata Conception, Chicago (1950); St. Mel, Chicago (1952-58); St. Andrew, Chicago (1958-62); Mother Theodore Guerin High School, River Grove (1988-2000).
In California: St. Ambrose, Hollywood (1958-62).
In Texas: St. John, Robstown (1949-50, 1951-52).
In Oklahoma: Immaculate Conception, Tulsa (1962-65).
In Washington, D.C.: Immaculata (1947-49).
Margaret attended grade school at St. Philip Neri in Indianapolis, and graduated from Providence Juniorate here at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods in 1944. She entered the Congregation on January 10, 1944, and received the name Sister Ann Jeanette. She professed first vows and final vows on August 15, 1946, and 1951, respectively.
Being told she would be a music teacher was a challenge early on in her religious life. It was not something she wanted to do. Subsequently, however, she earned a bachelor’s degree in music education in 1962 from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College and a master’s degree in music from Butler University in 1969. For 25 years, Sister Ann Jeanette provided the gift of music to students in Indiana, Illinois, California, Oklahoma, Texas and Washington, D.C.
Then came the love of her life ministry. Sister Ann Jeanette began social work with Catholic Social Services in Evansville. In this ministry, it was particularly a joy for her to relate to parents who were adopting babies. After earning a master’s degree in social work from St. Louis University in 1976, she was a social worker and then a Coordinator at Indiana University Medical Center in Indianapolis.
Beginning in June 1980, Sister Ann Jeanette served two terms as a Provincial Councilor for Sacred Heart Province. Sister Ann Casper recalled that she was such a gentle person and sensitive to the needs of others, so she was perfect as a Councilor for Sacred Heart Province here at the Motherhouse, where she ministered so closely with sisters retired and/or in ill health.
With her degree in social work, one of her responsibilities as Provincial Councilor was to our sisters in health care. Ann poured her heart into this ministry, initiating a pastoral care department with Sister Eileen Dede, agreeing to be the director.
In August 1993, she became social work manager for Hill Manor Apartments in Hernando, Miss., where she ministered with Sacred Heart Southern Missions. Ann loved the African-American community. She had a keen sense of care for the poor and a passion for justice for those who were less privileged.
Ann Jeanette had high expectations of herself and other ministers, expecting everything to be done with excellence. She also strongly believed that one should not do for others what they were capable of doing for themselves. This was a matter of right relationship and justice for her, not to make people dependent.
When she first entered Mother Theodore Hall due to memory loss, the social worker in her was still very evident as she reached out with such sensitivity to others. She particularly looked after Sister Francis Maureen in a kind of protective and companioning manner.
Ann Jeanette enjoyed the outdoors and was a faithful exerciser as long as she could. Many times she would pick up sticks and lay them near the trees to help the mowers.
She enjoyed playing cards and RummiKub. We had to relax the Rummikub rules a little as time went on. However, now and then, Ann would catch one of us making a mistake and say, ‘What’s that?”
Her smile was her absolute trademark! When the aides were having difficulty getting her to eat, they would tease her and she’d respond with a soft laugh, bright eyes and that great smile! That often did not mean, however, they could cajole her to eat.
One sister noted that during her long illness, how patient Ann was during all those years of diminishment! She was an example of surrender and acceptance “in sickness and in health.”
Ann had very few possessions at the end of her life but one of those treasures was a folder packed with photos of her family and friends, a sign of her love for you.
In Maya Angelou’s words:
In the flush of love’s light
we dare be brave
and suddenly we see
that love costs all we are
and ever will be.
Yet it is only love
that sets us free
Ann Jeanette, thank you for bearing the cost of love. The Beloved has now completed the good work begun in you and has truly set you free. Rejoice and be glad! Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!
Funeral arrangements for Sister Ann Jeanette took place on Monday, January 22, and Tuesday, January 23, at the Church of the Immaculate Conception, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.
Memorial contributions in Sister Ann Jeanette’s honor may be made to the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.
We welcome you to share your memories of Sister Ann Jeanette in the comment section below.
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