Something About Sister Ann

“Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” — James 1:2-3

Sr. Ann Miriam Gallagher - "Joy, joy, joy, joy in your heart."

There was something about Sr. Ann.  She could get you to do a job for her but somehow you would end up feeling like she was doing you a favor.  It was one of her many amazing gifts — gifts which drew people in droves to her, to the Trinita Family Life Center and all the places she oversaw, and again last week to her funeral.

The huge chapel at The Missionary Servants of the Most Blessed Trinity in Philadelphia was filled beyond capacity.  Like me, they came to face the difficult truth that Sr. Ann is really gone from this life.   I sat in that chapel listening to all the sharing of Sr. Ann’s life, the many prayers for those left behind, and the assurances she is in a better, pain-free place.  I tried to wrap my mind around acceptance as I realized her immense impact on my own life.

One spring, Sr. Ann had put out a call for help with cleaning up the Trinita grounds.  As I reap the many blessing of Trinita, I wanted to do my part, but I loathe outdoor work.  I said to Sr. Ann, “I’ll help, but is there an inside job I could do?”  In my head I’m saying, “Because, you know, I want to be a good Christian, but I draw the line at raking!”  In her loving and understanding way, Sr. Ann assured me there were indoor tasks to be done, too.

So I set aside an afternoon and showed up expecting to iron some curtains or to make up some beds in the cabins.  One word that kept coming up during all the sharing of Sr. Ann at her wake and funeral was “joy.”  Joy permeated all through her and she exuded it with everything she said and did.  It was no different that particular afternoon.  She greeted me with all the enthusiasm of just opening the door to the queen of  England.

“Oh Dottie!  Good news!” she exclaimed.  “We are going to clean the mens’ bathroom!”

I think I said, “Can’t we just rake?”

I remember heading out to the lodge with rubber gloves, scrub brushes and buckets, but I do not remember any of the dirty work.  All I recall was the absolute joy of being with Sr. Ann for an entire afternoon.  We laughed, sang and shared.  I was sorry when we were done, and I was so very grateful for the ‘favor’ she did for me.

Another time I really tried to be prepared for Sr. Ann’s ‘spell.’  I knew I could not refuse her.  My husband came to notice when I was having some free time, it meant Sr. Ann must be out of town!  She had invited me to lunch to discuss a quilt she wanted me to create.  I gave myself a two-hour lecture before hand — “OK.  I’ll make the quilt, but it can’t be anything big because I am too busy right now.  Therefore, I’ll just tell Sr. Ann that I’ll do something small, but . . .”

We sat down at the table in a little local cafe and then Sr. Ann proceeded to say grace, a blessing that seemed to go on for an eternity. 

“Oh Lord . . . thank you for your many blessings . . . and thank you so very much for giving Dottie the gift of quilting . . . and Dear Lord, how wonderful she is to share her gifts with Trinita . . . and Oh Lord bless her as she works . . .  and please, Lord, send the Holy Spirit to give her strength . . .”

Every few seconds I would open one eye to see if the dozen or so business men seated at the long table next to us were still staring at us . . . and they were.

As a result, one of the most artistically challenging quilts I have ever made was born — the memorial quilt for Fr. Vincent, five feet wide and seven feet long!

I sat in the chapel recalling these two experiences and many others as  I sobbed.  Just when I thought there could not possibly be another tear drop left in my body, I shed a thousand more.  Mostly I thought about how it is said, “the best relationships are not based on how you feel about another person, but rather, how the other person makes you feel about yourself.” 

I loved Sr. Ann with all my heart because of how great she was, and I hope I told her that enough times.  In addition, Sr. Ann made me feel like I was the most important person God had ever placed on this Earth.  I would always leave her presence just beaming from ear-to-ear while believing I could accomplish anything.  As I was someone who struggled for many years with low self-esteem, she gave me a priceless gift.  In fact, everything I have done in recent years with quilting and writing have been wrapped in Sr. Ann’s joy.  The message I am trying to convey with my work, “sharing the gifts God gave you” came from her inspiration.  For thirteen years, I witnessed not only her generous sharing, but the sharing of the many volunteers who happily gave of their gifts because of Sr. Ann’s influence. 

Fr. Sittinger, who gave the eulogy, had come to know Sr. Ann during the last couple of years while she was ill.  He said he was constantly amazed how her spirit stayed positive and how she expended what little energy she had to see that others were happy. 

Sr. Ann once said to him, “Father, the Lord gave me the gift of joy and I believe I am meant to share it!”

Sr. Ann, from the bottom of my heart, thank you for sharing. 

Quilt for Fr. Vincent

"We Will Miss You!"

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12 Responses to Something About Sister Ann

  1. Diane says:

    Sister Ann was truly special. I only met her once and yet I will never forget her. Thanks for sharing her with me.

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  2. Kate says:

    Dottie, as I opened your email, even before I saw the subject of your blog post, I was thinking how proud Sr. Ann would be of you for starting a blog. What a beautiful way of recognizing Sr. Ann. My thoughts and prayers were with you all, just from distance, last Thursday as you sat in the Motherhouse. I cherish my memories of the year of Trinita. With great love, Kate

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  3. Jennifer says:

    That was beautiful writing Dottie! I am so sorry to hear about Sister Ann’s passing. How I wish I had known her! You have honored her memory so well by starting this blog. Your writing has made me stop a moment and think, and for a “doer” that is remarkable. Carry on!

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  4. Rusty says:

    Dottie: What a beautiful story about your experience with Sr. Ann. I too have fond memories of her. She did ask you to do things you never thought you could but without question you did and felt great about it. She will be missed by many who have been in her life even if it was for a short time.

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  5. Linda Lawrence says:

    congratulations on your new blog, Dottie!! You have so many wonderful ways to “gift” us, this is just another. Thank you for your sharing about Sr. Ann…. just when I thought maybe I’d shed the last damn tear…..!! She still is permeating everything with joy, even during our sadness and grieving, there is a warm solid certainty of “JOY!!!” I can only describe it as brightness and warmth and safety. Looking forward to more of your writings. Love you, xo

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  6. Meg says:

    Dottie: Thank you for sharing this with me. I have shared it with my family. You write and sew so beautifully. Thank for such heartfelt words about our sister, Annie. I use to say to my friends, “Don’t talk to her…the next thing you know, you will be working for her”!!! Ann was “one of a kind” and will be deeply missed. Thank you so much!!!

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  7. Phyllis Talese says:

    Annie and I met when we began 9th grade @ St. Katherine of Sienna H.S. We immediately clicked and she became my best friend. I met the whole Gallagher clan and was amazed that all those people lived in one house.

    Our friendship was pure fun. Yes she brought her natural gift of joy and excitement to our everyday happenings. All of our scheming and plots against some of the teachers had a level of astonishment plus excitement. As each high school year passed our friendship became special. I truly loved this wonderful woman. A light has gone out with her passsing but her smile and laughter remains in my mind. Thank you Annie for all the giggles, the fun times and the serious conversations we shared.

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  8. Laurie F. says:

    Well Dottie, you did it. I haven’t yet shed a tear for Sr. Ann as I haven’t sat with my Trinita “sister’s” to share, and because I am happy for her relief. I hadn’t cried that is, until your tribute. It was such an honor to have her in my life and like you and so many others have said, she spread her joy with those around her to the point that even mundane tasks were fun and God filled! Thanks for sharing and congratulations on your new baby. God is Good!!………..

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  9. Kathy Overturf (Bubbles) says:

    Ann is a bit like St.Therese, the Little Flower, who said she will spend her heaven doing good on earth. Wait…soon Ann will be asking us all to do something in her memory for the Lord. And I must say, this giggle of Ann’s which I have enjoyed for about 55 years, has not left this earth. You can hear it in her grandnieces and grandnephews. The Gallagher “joy” was not hers exclusively. Giggling, hard work, and selfless service is thier charism …and you just got to join in for the “fun” of it.
    It is with deep gratitude that Ann was called to bring all the gifts given to her by God and nurtured in her by her family to the Trinitarian sisters who led her to a place of deep contemplation and love for Our Lord Jesus Christ. Through her sisters in Christ she widened her family circle to include the likes of the gifted Dottie and the many from Beloit to Pennsacola; McKees Rock to Trinita; and all the roads in between. She loved much and is much loved. We are blessed to have known her.

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  10. Denise says:

    Dottie, Thank you for sharing. What a beautiful tribute to Sister Ann.

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  11. Jim Frank says:

    Dear Dottie,
    I was forwarded your blog by Meg Nelson, Sister Anns’ sister. We grew up in her home town and are families went to the same grade school etc, From what I hear Sister Anns’ first babysitting job was for us, I am on the younger side of the seven so I was still in Gods pocket, my older sister Brady remembers her well.
    I now know her better thanks to your post of Nov 11, thank you for putting it in writing. I smiled and felt the Joy while reading your words, It is Contagious in print, I can only imagine what it would be like to be around her. I will be praying to her for some of it, realizing I may find myself working for it. It sounds worth it.

    Thank You !
    Sincerely,
    Jim Frank

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  12. Mike says:

    3 years later I am hearing about the passing of Sr. Ann. I am very saddened that such a happy, creative and loyal friend has departed this world, but happy that she has entered the world to come. I am from Wareham, MA. Her ministry brought her to us when I was in 6th grade. She created the CYO, and the youth choir, both of which I was a part. She stayed right through my confirmation in 1992. Her joy and optimism in every situation is still with me. Everyone loved Sr. Ann. She could turn every negative into a positive. I sang and played the keyboard in the youth choir at St. Partrick’s because of her. She knew that I would have a career in music and supported me whole-heartedly by letting me play keyboard, run rehearsals and chose music. She will forever hold a place in my heart and I hope she is looking down on me smiling.

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