Written on: September 30, 2021
Reflections on the Life of Sister Ann McKee, GNSH from Sr. Eileen White, GNSH
Funeral Mass – October 7, 2021 – Maternity BVM Parish
Ann McKee, formerly Sister Ann of the Sacred Heart, was born in 1941. She would have turned 80 in November of this year. She had a rough start – born premature to her mother who died giving her life. It was months before her father could take her home. Photos of her with her dad in those years show how much he loved her. Three years later, when her father married Margaret, little Ann was front and center in the photos.
Margaret became and remained “Mom” and the love between them was very strong. Ann became a big sister eventually to Ginny, Frank, and Mary Lou. Her love for them and for their spouses and their children and her cousins is evident in all the photos she treasured. Their affection for her has been evident to her Grey Nun family across the years.
Ann met the Grey Nuns at Melrose High School. After graduation, she worked in a bank and went to Chestnut Hill College for a year before she entered the community in 1960. After joining the Grey Nuns, Ann finished her degree and graduated from D’Youville College. She later went on to get a master’s degree at Georgia State University. All that she did while teaching. Ann taught in many parish and private elementary schools, (and they’ve already been mentioned).
Memories of Atlanta and Kodiak usually elicited from her the best smiles and stories. But she also loved all the places she was stationed. And here are some of the comments teachers wrote about Ann when she was leaving St. Raphael’s in Yardville, NJ, after seven years as a classroom teacher and another two years as a resource teacher and office assistant. This is what they said:
I knew that Sr. Ann could always be counted on for support. It didn’t matter if you needed to come up with an idea for a bulletin board, how to teach a lesson differently, or just to cover your class so you could use the bathroom, she was always there.
always smiling, warmly greeting parents, students; intelligent, friendly, supportive
wonderful listener; great care for all the children
a shoulder to cry on, a mentor, a friend to share things with.
Then there was this unusual tribute from a student reported by a principal:
Just last week, Sister was elevated to sainthood by one of our newer students. When a group was asked who Mary’s mother was, one student answered, “St. Ann” and the newer student said, “Oh, I know her – she works in the office. And St. Ann is Jesus’ grandmother.”
Well, I think Ann would definitely qualify as a model for Jesus’ grandmother!
Most of us knew Ann as a very sweet, rather shy, retiring kind of person – usually well bundled up against the cold. She only seemed to notice the cold indoors when we didn’t. But Ann was brave, too, and a great organizer. She was a great listener with a unique talent for being able quietly to listen and then summarize in a few sentences a discussion that may have gone on for a long, long time.
Her good friend, Karen Marie, remembers, as many of us do, Ann’s laughter. Even when Ann seemed lost to some of us in her recent decline, she would startle us with a reaction to something we said or did that she clearly understood and found amusing.
Ann loved ice cream and angels. She also loved to make things – cross stitch and needlepoint; cute little boxes; small watercolors; tiny decorations on Christmas ornaments; baskets; lists. She loved to figure out how to do things. She was about 65 when she became a notary public. Wherever she worked or lived, if you asked her to do something she didn’t know how to do – she’d tell you to give her a little time. She’d go away and think about it, and then she’d come back with a possible solution, a solution that the rest of us couldn’t fathom working, but it did.
When she volunteered to go to Kodiak, Alaska, Father DePaoli celebrated the departure Mass for Ann and Sr. Connie, who was heading to Peru at the same time. In his homily, he said:
“Witnessing today is common, but the kind of witness we share today with Sister Constance Welsh and Sister Ann McKee is not so common. It is a “yes” to the unknown, and “Amen” to a call, and a promise of service for the kingdom.”
Ann answered “yes” and “amen” to the unknown many, many times in her life. She said “Yes” — to each grade she was assigned. She said “yes” to every student who had particular need for encouragement. She said “yes” to the congregation, when we asked her to become our General Secretary and later Secretary to the Administration. To the sabbatical time in Spring Bank, North Carolina, and to everything she learned and loved there. Ann always said “yes” and “Amen” to what she heard as God’s call.
The following is a portion of a letter of recommendation one of our Sisters wrote for Ann when she was applying for an administrative position in the Trenton diocese following her sabbatical:
Sister Ann is a woman of sharp intellect ever in pursuit of the good and the true, the highest and the ideal. She learns quickly and although she often appears as “laid-back” and self-effacing, she is utterly honest and trustworthy. Her style is simple; her loyalty, singular. She is a steady worker . . . . And yet – she is always generous and self-giving.
Generous and self-giving — that was indeed Ann. Ann was a faithful member of the Earth Committee for many years, and in her nine years as secretary to the general administration of the Grey Nuns, she was always ready to help, no matter what the request was or when it was requested. When the Grey Nuns moved from the Motherhouse to Lafayette Redeemer, Ann also joined the book club and took care of ordering the books for them.
When Ann began to lose elements of her cognitive skills and memory, she knew, at first, that that was happening. Perhaps that was her last “Yes” to the unknown that life called her to. Perhaps St. Paul’s words to the Christians in Rome are a response to Ann’s experience of gradually becoming separated from the reality she once knew. Paul wrote:
I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Nothing could separate Ann from love.
Ann, may songs of the angels welcome you and bring you home to the face of God
Sister Ann McKee, GNSH, formerly Sister Ann of the Sacred Heart, 79, died at Abington Hospital on September 26, 2021 in the 61st year of her religious life.
For 37 years, students in Kodiak, AK (St. Mary’s 1981-89); Atlanta, GA (Christ the King 1966-67, Immaculate Heart of Mary 1968-77); Lowell, MA (Immaculate Conception 1967-68); Jackson Heights, NY (Our Lady of Fatima 1963-66); Yardville, NJ (1991-98, 2004-06); Yardley (Grey Nun Academy 1977-81) and Lehighton, PA (St Peter & Paul 1989-91) benefited from her teaching skills.
In response to an invitation to utilize her skills internally in the Congregation, Sister served as Congregational Secretary (1998-2003) and then as Secretary to the General Administration (2006-2015). Ann became a certified and licensed Notary Public; Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Bucks County in 2003 and retained this certification until her retirement in 2015. Her leisure activities included reading and delicate embroidery work. Sister moved to Holy Redeemer Lafayette when the Motherhouse was sold where she continued to engage in intracommunity service and ministry of prayer.
Sister was born to Francis T. and Ann Cecilia (Denneny) McKee in Abington, PA on November 14, 1941. Her mother died in childbirth and Ann was raised by her father and loving step-mother Margaret, in Glenside. She graduated from Melrose Academy (1959) and received a BA in English from D’Youville College (1968) and a Master of Education/Elementary Education from Georgia State University (1974).
Predeceased by her parents, in addition to her religious community, Sister is survived by siblings Ginny (George) Di Ilio, Frank (Jen) McKee and Mary Lou (Bill) Jones and nieces and nephews.
Visitation at 9:00 am on Thursday, October 7th at Maternity B.V.M, 9220 Old Bustleton Ave, Philadelphia; sharing of memories at 9:45 am, funeral Mass to follow at 10:00 am. Burial in Resurrection Cemetery, Bensalem, PA.
Donations in her memory will be gratefully received by the Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart. Donations may be made online to the Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart, or by mail at the following address:14500 Bustleton Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19116-1188.
Services arranged by Beck-Givnish Funeral Homes, Inc.