By Lorraine Cooper, SC
Sister Anne O’Connell marvels at how her life has come full circle, with each piece building on the other with God as her constant support. As a Sister of Charity, biology became her field, and her special bent while at Resurrection in Rye, was a desire to expose the girls to living things such as hamsters, a canary, and chickens—watching them hatch. This reflects her early love for animals.
When she later taught at Tuxedo, a canary, and for a short time, a guinea pig, entertained the girls who boarded there. This was also Sr. Anne’s first experience with boarders from South America and their culture, which was enhanced during two summers volunteering in “Summer in the City” at St. Paul’s, Harlem.
Later, a group of the sisters teaching at Cardinal Spellman High School met at lectures by Fr. James Coyne and from this group came a desire to staff a school from first to eighth grade to provide an excellent education coupled with character formation and religion for poor children. An opportunity to do this opened up at Nativity, in the Bronx. When the project was no longer sustainable there, a door opened at St. Joseph’s in Florida, NY, where the group spent thirteen happy years.
With a firm belief that “God writes straight with crooked lines,” Sr. Anne found herself surprised and overjoyed at St. Peter’s in Yonkers. She received a warm reception from the Hispanic community, and with the use of tapes, taught herself Spanish. Besides continuing education projects at Dunwoodie’s ITV programming, she had an opportunity to assist the Spanish-speaking priest with home visits and Baptismal preparation, became a Eucharistic minister, joined the Spanish choir, and helped in the soup kitchen. For six years the sisters hosted a prayer group weekly in their convent.
Now that she is retired at the Mount Saint Vincent Convent, many pieces again come together. Sr. Anne immediately became involved in the convent choir and the Sisters of Charity choir. The St. Peter’s prayer group continues their weekly meeting, now at the convent, and the Spanish she acquired allows her to interact with the Spanish-speaking staff. Of great importance to Sr. Anne is her mission to the other sisters at the convent. This could be a smile or a kind word, or her more active involvement such as the Resident Council, or to be the welcoming presence at the reception desk.
Here, Sr. Anne sees the greater time for prayer as her main aspect of living out the mission of charity. She prays daily for priests, especially the four seminarians from St. Peter’s, for the needy of the world, and for the students she taught. They are the ones who will carry out the mission of charity into the future. One family from her days at Nativity now has her praying for their daughter who will be going on a service trip to Guatemala. Her dream for the mission of charity is being lived in the NOW and into the future from the seeds of the past.