Sister Mary Ann Fox (formerly Sister Marie Clement)
We gather today to honor and celebrate the life of Sister Mary Ann Fox. She was born to Clem and Mary Fox on May 12, 1938, in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Seven years later, her sister Susan arrived to complete the family. Susan has been the kind of sister who anyone would want with her care for and devotion to Mary Ann, said Sister Betty Hopf in her commentary for Sister Mary Ann Fox, formerly Sister Marie Clement, who passed away on Saturday, March 12, 2022, at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana. She was 83-years-old and had been a Sister of Providence for 65 years.
Sister Betty continued: Mary Ann got her undergraduate and graduate degrees in education and administration. After five short years of teaching elsewhere, Mary Ann returned to her hometown where she taught and ministered for the next 48 years. She taught all levels from kindergarten to college. If there had been a contest during her teaching years, Mary Ann would have been voted “educator of the year” EVERY year. She truly loved and cared for the students and faithfully practiced the message from Saint Mother Theodore to “Love the children first and then teach them.”
Tributes from former students echo this sentiment. Carol Klein wrote to Mary Ann to say, “I have fond memories of my days at St. John the Baptist School and you as my teacher. You brought a realization to us that religious Sisters were people too, who enjoyed roller skating and a sweet treat as much as we did! It was easy to see that you loved God and your profession, but you also let us know how much you loved LIFE!” One memorable happening was when Mary Ann had to discipline a Black student. They discussed why he was being discipled and he said, “I deserved it, and I know that you don’t see color … you see ME.” Mary Ann’s nephew Peter recalled seeing her while teaching at Bishop Luers High School and observing the respect and deference she received there. “Now that I’m older, and working alongside younger generations, I appreciate and understand the patience and support it required when she was tutoring later in life.”
Her nephew Mike recalled, “I visited her at Bishop Luers while I was in college and was struck by the number of lives she touched as vice principal. Seeing her in action, I gained perspective on how much she truly cared about her students and staff and how deeply committed she was to create an environment where others could learn and grow.” Her nephew Jack’s most vivid memory of Mary Ann was when she was principal at St. John’s. He said, “I was wide-eyed, not yet of school age, visiting the schooling teeming with children. Mary Ann cut quite the figure seeming to wield a magic wand that kept order amongst the chaos. Not only did she know every child’s name, BUT exactly what they were up to in the moment … whether goodness or mischief.” There were many more accolades that can’t be acknowledged today, but the bottom line is that Mary Ann was an excellent teacher who cared and touched so many lives.
Two short years after she went to St. John’s to teach, she became the principal. It seemed like all the young Sisters were sent there because Sister Adele Beacham and Mary Ann were excellent in their supervision and help. I certainly got off to a good start there. Sister Mary Mundy recalled how Mary Ann was so affirming of her as a first-year teacher. Sister Therese Whitsett remembers Mary Ann as always friendly and helpful to her at the beginning of her teaching career. One of Mary Ann’s students, Christine Heiny, recently wrote a book and dedicated it to Mary Ann. In the front of the book, she wrote: “To my teacher, friend and beautiful example of the face of Christ on earth and for the wonderful influence you had, not just on my life, but on many, many others.”
Alongside teaching, Mary Ann cared for her mother in her aging years with the help of Sister Cinda Lynge, a good friend. Speaking of this time, Mary Ann commented, “This ministry has been for me a time of great personal growth. These years have provided ample opportunity to see the fashioning hand of Providence at work, which has resulted in my greater trust in God and others, as well as the realization that in crisis situations, I am not alone.”
What else can we say about Mary Ann as a person? She was ecumenical, selfless, kind, generous, caring, thoughtful, intelligent, gracious, and so much more.
Sister Ann Matilda remembers Mary Ann as a good communicator via U.S. mail who never forgot a birthday and always showed gratitude through her thank-you notes. When she returned to the Woods, I wondered if she owned the Hallmark store with all of the cards she brought with her. Her niece Ann said that she was the one relative who always sent a birthday card consistently every year – typically Peanuts. She never forgot. After sending a birthday card to Bishop McManus, he sent her a reply and I quote, “If I were to search the diocese for a steady rooter, you would take first prize. Your unfailing kindness and persistent thoughtfulness are a great joy to me.”
In 2014, Mary Ann suffered a stroke and returned to St. Mary-of-the-Woods. Those of us who lived and worked with her knew Mary Ann as the kind of person she was before the stroke and all the subsequent health issues that she suffered during the past eight years here. A good friend of Mary Ann’s and her family, Father Car Hawver, offered Mary Ann great spiritual support through the years and especially in her transition from Fort Wayne to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. Father Fred Link, also a Franciscan monk, said he had never met a more caring, selfless and joyful person in his life.
Mary Ann was very close to her family and her sister Susan spoke of her this way: “Our family is like a gift, and you are the bow that ties us all together.” She commented that Mary Ann was at her best when she expressed joy, mostly thinking of others and doing a lot of things behind the scenes. Gratitude was her theme. Her niece Ann remembers how lovingly Mary Ann cared for her mother: “Mary Ann was always up for a game of cards, and she was always there for a hug or aside poke or tickle.” Some of the things that brought joy to Mary Ann were spending time at the lake, going out to eat, working puzzles, traveling, good conversations and gifting others.
The CNAs in Health Care shared their love for Mary Ann. Angie said that Mary Ann always brought a smile to her face. Michelle expressed her love simply and beautifully in the words “our spirits connected.” Lana Trejo, her hairdresser, said, “Since I’ve known Sister Mary Ann, I’ve seen that she is a very loving, caring, generous person.” I am grateful to the whole staff in Health Care for their love and care of Mary Ann during her difficult times.”
Jack, Mary Ann’s nephew, concluded his memories in this way: “We will miss you, Aunt Mary Ann, but the high standards with which you carried yourself, your love and compassion for everyone, these things will be with us forever.”
Today, we and all who were blessed by Mary Ann’s life, echo Jack’s sentiments. Mary Ann, may we all carry out your witness of love, gratitude and generosity. Enjoy your peace and freedom from all pain and illness.
Funeral services for Sister Mary Ann took place on Wednesday, March 23, 2022, in the Church of the Immaculate Conception.
A Wake took place at 10 a.m., followed by Mass of Christian Burial at 11 a.m.
Memorial contributions may be made in honor of Sister Mary Ann to the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.
We welcome you to share your memories of Sister Mary Ann in the comment section below.
Sister Mary Ann Fox (formerly Sister Marie Clement)
In Illinois: Teacher, St. Agnes, Chicago (1961).
In Indiana: Teacher, St. Malachy, Brownsburg (1961-66); Teacher, St. John the Baptist, Fort Wayne (1966-69); Principal, St. John the Baptist, Fort Wayne (1969-81); Student Religious Leaders Program, University of Notre Dame, South Bend (1981-82); Religion/Administrative Assistant, Bishop Luers High School, Fort Wayne (1982-84); Religion, Bishop Luers High School, Fort Wayne (1984-90); Assistant Principal, Bishop Luers High School, Fort Wayne (1990-92); Receptionist Surgical Waiting, Lutheran Hospital of Indiana, Fort Wayne (1993-97); Tutor at Center for Academic Excellence, Ivy Tech Community College Northeast, Fort Wayne (1997-2014); Prayer, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods (2014-2022).
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