Sister Annette Schipp
I did not meet Sister Annette Schipp until sometime in the early 80s when I was visiting Sister Cecilia Ann at Precious Blood in Jasper (Indiana). We were introduced and after she had left the room, Cecilia Ann said to me, “You don’t know Sister Annette? She is one of God’s holy people.” Indeed, I think everyone here would agree with that statement, said Sister Rosemary Schmalz in her commentary for Sister Annette Schipp, who passed away on Wednesday, July 14, 2021, at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. She was 99 years old and had been a Sister of Providence for 81 years.
Sister Rosemary continued: We should not be surprised that Sister Annette chose as her first reading a passage from John’s epistle telling us to love one another. Loving service was the essence of her life. And she was sustained in that love by Eucharist. More on both of these later.
Edna Carolyn Schipp was born in Ferdinand, Indiana, on July 9, 1922, to Albert and Anna Wilmes Schipp. She was the second of seven children, all of whom have preceded her in death. She had a somewhat rocky childhood. While she was still in elementary school, her sister Mary died of typhoid, her brother Bobbie died of polio, and her mother, who had had typhoid as well, had to be absent from the home for an extended recovery.
The family moved to Jasper sometime before Edna entered school and she attended St. Joseph School in Jasper. Two of her classmates were Sisters Bernice Kuper and Cecilia Ann Miller. All three of these young ladies came to Providence Juniorate in 1936 and entered the Congregation on January 6, 1940. She pronounced first vows on August 15, 1942, and final vows on August 15, 1948. Just why they had six years of temporary vows I do not know. Perhaps that is why all three of them were such wonderful sisters.
Sister Annette’s first six years of teaching were in Joliet and after that, in Norwood Park for five, but then she returned to Indiana, where she ministered for the rest of her life. With an undergraduate degree from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College and a master’s degree from Indiana University, she was an excellent teacher. In fact, her grandniece, Kelly Urban, reports that when her family would visit in Jasper, everyone she met from Precious Blood would say, “Sister Annette is your aunt?! She was my FAVORITE teacher!” While teaching at Assumption School in Evansville, among her students was former Miami Dolphins quarterback Bob Griese. In one of his books, he mentions her by name, proclaiming her a strong influence in his life and, of course, declaring that she was his FAVORITE teacher.
Yes, she was a creative and talented teacher, but my guess is what made her someone’s favorite teacher was her gentle, loving demeanor. There was an incredible beauty about her, not just her physical beauty, which was abundant, but an inner beauty that simply shone through her sparkling eyes and welcoming smile. For sure, she expected the best from her students. In fact, niece Rhonda Fox reports that when Sister Annette was teaching in Jasper, she and her sister and brother would always help her get her classroom prepared. After this was complete, they would go out for a treat and Sister Annette would give them all the toys and gadgets that she had taken away from some of her students the year before.
Sister Mary Fran Keusel recalled that as principal at Good Shepherd School in Evansville, she would return the teachers’ lesson plan books with notes such as “good idea” or “excellent” of “The children are lucky to have you.” And always there was the last comment: “God bless you.” Nancy Kleusner began her teaching career at Precious Blood School and shared that Sister Annette offered her much needed encouragement, help and support that first year and on into the years that followed.
After 48 years of teaching, she served two years as receptionist at Providence Retirement Home in New Albany. She then moved to the 91st Street convent in Indianapolis. It didn’t take long for her to get engaged in loving service. At the time, Sister Marie Benson resided at that house and was quite ill. Sister Annette was her caregiver. She also went regularly to the Little Sisters of the Poor to make beds and volunteered at the Spanish Center. Several of her married nieces and nephews had moved to the Indianapolis area and she delighted in helping care for their children, and the children loved being with her.
She came to the Motherhouse in 2004. She was 82 years old by then, but in good health and full of energy. And here is where her devotion to Eucharist becomes most evident. She, with Sister Mary Jo Stewart, took on the care of the Blessed Sacrament Chapel. Each morning, at 6:00, they would arrive to light the candles, water flowers and make sure everything was in order. Though the chapel was not open until 7 a.m., they would remain there for the full hour to pray. They then reported to health care to help serve breakfast.
We have Annette’s own words to describe their duties. She writes in 2015 (when she was 93): I help pass trays, prepare hot drinks, open cold drinks, cut meat, spread butter or jam on bread, whatever the patients need help with. Sister Gloria remembered that during the years, we had a family of rabbits in the health care court yard, the two would take scraps from breakfasts to feed the bunnies. AND every Saturday, they went to Providence Dining Room at 5 a.m., and did a thorough cleaning of chairs and tables, even removing the Lazy Susans to clean underneath. This BEFORE their service in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel and their helping with breakfast.
AND her loving service didn’t end after breakfast. She was a driver and when she could no longer drive, she was a companion for sisters going to the doctor. One of the services she did up until a few years before her death was sewing on name tags for sisters new to health care. Sister Joan Kirkpatrick would give her a sack of garments and almost always they would be completed by the end of the day.
Yes, she did many tasks, but what all of us remember most is the PERSON doing the tasks – this unassuming, generous, loving person, happiest when she was being of service. Dan Ashley, whose parents resided in Lourdes Hall for a few years, and his wife Lisa, wrote this: “She was one of the most friendly and welcoming members of the SP Community to my parents and my family …” Welcoming! That was a word repeated over and over as I talked to people about Annette. The Ashleys ended their comment with, “May she rest in peace with the company of angels in heaven.”
Yes, our dear, beautiful, loving, welcoming Sister Annette, you who were angel to so many here on earth are indeed now being welcomed by angels into the realm of the God of Love who was the source of your loving service. Thank you for your presence with us! We count on your continued loving care for us.
Funeral services for Sister Annette took place on Wednesday, July 21, at the Church of the Immaculate Conception at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.
A Wake took place at 9 a.m., followed by Mass of Christian Burial at 11 a.m.
Memorial contributions may be made in honor of Sister Annette to the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.
We welcome you to share your memories of Sister Annette in the comment section below.
Sister Annette Schipp
In Illinois: Teacher, St. Mary Carmelite, Joliet (1942-48); Teacher, Immaculate Conception, Norwood Park (1948-53).
In Indiana: Teacher, Assumption, Evansville (1953-59); Principal/Teacher, Good Shepherd, Evansville (1959-65); Teacher, St. Luke, Indianapolis (1965-67); Teacher, St. Joan of Arc, Indianapolis (1967-76); Teacher, Precious Blood, Jasper (1976-91); Receptionist, Providence Retirement Home, New Albany (1991-93); Volunteer Service, Indianapolis (1993-2004); Ministry of Care Volunteer, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods (2005); Volunteer, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods (2005-18); Prayer, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods (2018-2021).
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