Sister Mary Ann Carey of the School Sisters of Notre Dame calls to mind a prayer of St. Gertrude the Great of Helfta:
“My God, You are my hope; You the glory; You the joy; You my blessedness. You are the thirst of my spirit; You the life of my soul; You the jubilation of my heart.”
“These words, much like the wisdom of our foundress, Blessed Mother Theresa of Jesus Gerhardinger, are a fitting summary of my 60 years as a School Sister of Notre Dame,” said Sr. Mary Ann, who ministers at Sacred Heart Parish in Rich Fountain.
She marked the start of her seventh decade in religious life on July 30 of this year.
“I hold as treasured blessings my family, my sisters in community, friends, co-workers and students,” she stated.
“I feel so privileged to be a member of the SSND congregation — women of hope who are committed to serving God’s people through education in every sense of the word,” she said. “We value prayer, faith-sharing and a community life that calls us to be of ‘one mind and one heart.’”
Sr. Mary Ann, a daughter of the late Arthur J. and Laurine A. Carey, grew up in a loving family that included three older brothers and a younger sister.
She lived in the small town of Ballwin, Mo., and attended St. Joseph School in neighboring Manchester. Both later became burgeoning St. Louis suburbs, but back then, she said, “it seemed like practically everybody was related somehow, and if something happened to one person, it happened to everybody.”
She remembers always wanting to be a sister like the SSNDs who taught her at St. Joseph.
“It was more of who they were, rather than what they did, that drew me to want to be just like them,” she stated.
Among her teachers were Freeburg native Sister Teresella Bauer, now deceased, who taught Sr. Mary Ann when she was in first and second grade and helped her prepare for First Holy Communion.
“She was a sweetheart,” Sr. Mary Ann recalled. “She was always doing nice things for us.”
Sr. Mary Ann often visited the sisters in their convent and would help them on Saturdays. She even stepped up to proctor the lower grades at the school whenever asked.
“It just seemed a natural thing,” she said.
She attended Notre Dame High School as an SSND aspirant.
In 1960, with her parents’ blessing, she formally entered the SSND congregation from her home parish, Holy Infant in Ballwin.
She was received into the SSND novitiate on July 29, 1961, and was given the religious name Sister Mary Jamesanne.
Years later, she went back to her baptismal name, Mary Ann.
She professed temporary vows in 1962 and continued her studies at Notre Dame College at Sancta Maria In Ripa, the SSND motherhouse on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River in St. Louis.
She graduated in 1964 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in art and English and began her educational ministry at St. Peter School in Jefferson City (1964-70).
She renewed her vows in 1965 and professed final vows on July 30, 1967, promising God to live a life of poverty, chastity and holy obedience to Him through her religious superiors and the SSND constitutions.
Originally established in Germany as a branch of a religious congregation founded in France, the SSNDs now have sisters ministering all over the world.
Sr. Mary Ann noted that the congregation’s international presence gives the Sisters a unique global responsibility to address current needs, particularly those of women, young people, and people who are poor.
She pointed out that all SSNDs are educators, encouraging each individual to discover his or her full potential in order to help other people in God’s name.
“I like telling young people to look at the middle two letters of ‘Church’ to remind them that ‘YOU ARE the Church,’” she said.
Sr. Mary Ann’s ministry in elementary education continued at Holy Angels School in East St. Louis, Illinois (1970-76); Our Lady of Loretto School in Spanish Lake, near St. Louis (1976-82); St. Mary School in Alton, Illinois (1982-88); St. Ignatius Loyola School in Concord Hill (1988-2000); and St. Theodore School in Flint Hill (2001-03).
She has been teaching at Sacred Heart School in Rich Fountain for the past 19 years, currently as the school’s art teacher and the parish’s religion teacher.
“One of my greatest joys has been watching the faces of students suddenly light up with ‘Aha!’ moments of inspiration and creativity,” she stated.
She notices similarities between Sacred Heart and the community she grew up in.
“It’s like a family in school rather than just a lot of people,” she said.
Sr. Mary Ann completed a Master of Arts degree in reading education in 1982 through a graduate summer program at Clark College (now University) in Dubuque, Iowa.
She took time to care for her infirm mother in Montgomery County while substitute-teaching in local schools in 1998-99, followed by an art sabbatical in Lantana, Florida.
Sr. Mary Ann said these past 60 years have gone by quickly for her because “being with children has kept me feeling young at heart and centered on what is truly most important: bringing Jesus’s message of love and unity to our world.”
She was amazed to be able to approach a major health scare this summer with peace and serenity, which she realizes are from God.
Now more than ever, she accepts each day as a gift.
Sr. Mary Ann remains forever grateful to her parents and siblings for encouraging her to follow her call to religious life.
“Their example of commitment to the Catholic faith and to the Eucharistic celebration served to strengthen my resolve to be a School Sister of Notre Dame,” she said.
She fervently hopes all parents will pray with their children for openness to a possible calling to the Priesthood or Religious Life.
“Each of us by Baptism is called to respond to the challenge of being good stewards and to use our gifts and talents to build up God’s kingdom here on earth,” she said.