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Sister Ann Casper: holding nothing back in her service

“I can’t just sit and piddle around the house all day!”

Sister Ann Casper retired. She slowed down a lot. But when people point out she is still doing too much, she often responds with the wise words of her friend, Sister Jeanne Knoerle (RIP), “What are we saving ourselves for?”

Sister Ann served as the director of Mission Advancement for the Sisters of Providence for 17 years. Before that, like many of the sisters in the Congregation, she had a long career in education. She returned to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods in 1977 to serve in Congregation leadership roles before assuming her responsibilities in Mission Advancement.

Ministry of thanksgiving

During her time as director of Mission Advancement, Sister Ann created and sustained relationships with supporters, former students, donors and friends. Because of their generosity, the sisters were able to realize some amazing projects: creating the Shrine of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin, renovating the church bell tower and Providence Hall and Providence Spirituality & Conference Center. With much gratitude, Sister Ann found joy in personally thanking benefactors for their help. In this ministry, many prayer requests found their way to her desk. This helped her develop a deep appreciation for how others looked at and requested prayer. She found it humbling that so many placed trust in the sisters’ prayers.

In August of 2018 she made the decision to formally step down as director. But retirement is just a word. Sister Ann knew that leaving one position simply meant she would soon be doing something new. But what would that be?

Community cemetery minister

Sister Ann Casper, at right, continues to minister to others, today as the new Providence Community Cemetery minister. Here she puts in place the nameplate for the first person inurned there.

An opening as coordinator of Providence Community Cemetery was announced. However, timing seemed to be a problem and Sister Ann presumed the position would be filled long before she retired. Sister Ann felt all her experience and wonderful relationships she made during her time with Mission Advancement would make this a perfect fit for her. As Providence would have it, the new opportunity remained open. So, in January of 2019, after just a few months rest and relaxation, Sister Ann became the Congregation’s Providence Community Cemetery minister. That same month Sister Ann also celebrated her 80th birthday.

Her new role is part time. Sister Ann spends four mornings a week in her office. She was part of a team directing the building of the columbarium and the Good Shepherd Chapel, completed in May 2020. She oversees marketing and communication for the cemetery and responds to all inquiries.

This being a part-time position, what does Sister Ann do with extra time? Each Thursday, she helps pack and distribute over 80 sack lunches to residents of Garfield Towers and Warren Village, government housing facilities for low-income residents on Terre Haute’s north side. She also serves as a lector, Eucharistic minister, cantor and writer for Church-related celebrations, including helping to write and deliver commentaries at the death of a sister. Sister Ann hasn’t completely left Mission Advancement either. She still edits articles and marketing materials. In fact she will be reviewing this very article you are reading.

Accepting limitations

Blessing of the new columbarium and inurnment ceremony for Providence Associate Heather Tetzlaff Smith.

Sister Ann has always been and is still committed to a life of service. It probably won’t surprise you that she is also fiercely independent. She doesn’t readily accept help for herself. That changed a bit this past year. For someone who had ministered to others most of her life, she reluctantly found herself on the receiving end of things.

Chronic pain from two compressed vertebrae forced Sister Ann to accept more assistance from others. It wasn’t easy for her. But as a former educator she wisely recognized this as a learning opportunity. By accepting help from others, Sister Ann discovered a different kind of humility. She found that being in pain and having to be cared for by others helped her to feel empathy for others living with limitations. It also taught her patience. Fortunately, a surgery in March brought relief from the pain.

Sister Ann continues to nurture the many relationships she has made during her life while actively creating new ones. She hopes that stories people have heard over the years from parents, relatives and friends about the Sisters of Providence will inspire them to form their own relationships with the Congregation. Sister Ann will always find a way to minister. After all, “What are we saving ourselves for?”

(Originally published in the Summer 2020 issue of HOPE magazine.)

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Mary Riley

Mary Riley

Mary Riley is director of operations for White Violet Center for Eco-Justice, a ministry of the Sisters of Providence at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. Prior to her current role, she served as the marketing manager for some ministries of the Sisters of Providence including White Violet Center for Eco-Justice and the Volunteer Services.

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