Sister Jean Anne Maher (formerly Sister Roberta Marie)
Christmas came early for William F. and Katherine Sharkey Maher with the birth of their daughter Jean Anne on December 24, 1932, in Chicago.
Jean Anne was one of five children. Two brothers, Joseph and Thomas, both of whom predeceased her, and two sisters, Patricia, who is also deceased, and Celeste, who is unable to be here due to illness. Jean Anne is survived by a brother-in-law, Frank, and several nieces: Celeste, Marianne, Geralyn and Nancy, some of whom are here with us today, said Sister Mary Ann Phelan in her commentary for Sister Jean Anne Maher, formerly Sister Roberta Marie, who died on Thursday, August 23, 2018, at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana. She was 85 years old and had been a Sister of Providence for 67 years.
Sister Mary Ann continued: Jean Anne attended St. Agnes Elementary School and Providence High School in Chicago, graduating in 1950. On February 2, 1951, Jean Anne entered the novitiate, beginning her life as a member of the Sisters of Providence with reception on August 15, 1951, and profession of first and final vows on the same date in 1953 and 1958, respectively.
Sister Jean Anne received her bachelor’s degree from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, a master’s degree in education from Northern Illinois University, and another master’s degree in theology from Immaculate Conception Seminary in New York, as well as certifications in Educational Administration and Parish Service.
During Jean Anne’s 40 years of active ministry, she served in Indiana, California, Illinois, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. Most of these years she was involved in teaching middle grade classes. Another ministry that was dear to Jean Anne was working with Hispanic persons, a group who loved and respected her greatly. Her ministry did not end when she returned to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, but continued to impact lives as she served as receptionist at the Woods Day Care, Providence Convent, and Providence Spirituality & Conference Center, hours of prayer in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel, as well as driving for several years.
As Jean Anne began her cancer treatment, she asked for our prayers. During the time of the treatments, she was so optimistic, but it was easy to see her concern. After she got the good report at the end of the tests, she must have spent hours sharing her good news with us by phone. When she had a setback, she accepted it so beautifully. The last time I visited with her was two days before her death, and she was so grateful and the most peaceful I saw her in months.
In a short time, we will hear from the Gospel of Matthew the welcome to heaven for a faithful servant. When I asked some of the sisters if they had anything they wanted to share about Sister Jean Anne, I heard some of those Gospel words said to me. Yes, we are all thankful to her for her work, but more for her. She was a prayerful, considerate, caring, grateful, thoughtful, sometimes funny sister to us.
One sister said Sister Jean Anne’s ministry was making telephone calls. Anytime your name was listed as requesting prayer for a loved one, you received a phone call promising her prayers.
Did you do something nice for her? The thank you card would be in your mailbox the following day. Did you offer her a place to stay in Chicago? Among the things she brought to you would be Terre Haute’s own Square Donuts as a thank you. Were you sick? You would receive a phone call or a card or a visit, or maybe all three. I am sure that anyone of you could add to this list. May we all be comforted by the thought that she is continuing this very special kind of ministry in the presence of God.
It was not until Jean Anne left us that I learned she was a poet. I am going to end this commentary with the closing of a poem she wrote for a dear friend who died as our letter to Jean Anne from all of us.
A friend who understood and cared—
that’s how it ought to be.
And so I pray the road you walked
… is wide enough for me.
Please wait for me, dear friend,
‘til I’m called from earthly cares.
And leave an Irish light on for me
at the top of the Golden Stairs.
Funeral services for Sister Jean Anne took place on Friday, September 7, at the Church of the Immaculate Conception at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. A Wake took place at 9 a.m., with Mass of Christian Burial at 11 a.m.
Memorial contributions in Sister Jean Anne’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 Jean Anne in the comment section below.
Sister Jean Anne Maher
Teacher for 43 years at schools in Indiana, Illinois, California, Maryland, Massachusetts and Washington, D.C.
In Indiana: Holy Trinity, New Albany (1953-55); St. Ann, New Castle (1955-59); St. Peter, Linton (1963-65).
In Illinois: St. Andrew, Chicago (1965-67); St. Mark, Chicago (1967-70); St. David, Chicago (1970-71, and 1979-80); St. Sylvester, Chicago (1975-76); St. Angela, Chicago (1976-78); Chicago Urban Skills Institute (1980-84); St. Priscilla, Chicago (1984-85); St. Beatrice, Schiller Park (1992-93); Holy Family, Chicago (1993-94); St. Stanislaus Kostka, Chicago (1994-96).
In California: St. Elizabeth, Van Nuys (1959-63).
In Maryland: St. Clement, Lansdowne (1972-74); St. Catherine Laboure, Wheaton (1986-88); St. Jude, Rockville (1988-89).
In Massachusetts: St. Rose, Chelsea (1989-91).
In Washington, D.C.: St. Ann (1974-75), St. Peter (1985-86).
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