Franciscan Sister’s Call from NY to AZ to WI
Franciscan Sister Mary Ann Feminella reminisces God’s call from snowy New York to sunny Arizona. Being a Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity is grateful blessing.
My sister Angel and I attended St. Cecilia’s grade school. The Sisters of St. Joseph from Brentwood, Long Island taught us. During my time at St. Cecilia I can remember going to Benediction as a young girl; I probably was in 1st or 2nd grade when I had gone to Benediction for the first time. I had to be there to wait for an older friend who would walk me home. It was then that I remember having a very peaceful feeling at Church. I didn’t understand that Jesus was in the monstrance but I felt something different. As I got older my friends and I would pay short visits to Church, especially when we had 36 hour devotion. I felt drawn to this devotion, somehow.
After 8th grade I attended All Saints High School, in Brooklyn. While there I was taught by the Dominican Sisters, from Long Island, New York.
All the years I spent with Religious Sisters I never thought about becoming a Religious; and no one asked me about it!
College and Beyond
When it was time to graduate High School I could have gone to Hunter College in New York; which was a four year college, but I decided to go to a two year Community College because I was unsure of what I wanted to be. It was while I was at Queens borough that I began tutoring students in their health courses. I finally knew what I wanted to become—a teacher. While I was at Queens borough I learned about a four year college located in Upstate New York. It was from SUC Brockport, I received my B.S. degree in Health Ed. and Elementary Ed.
Upon graduating from college I worked a year as a secretary, in Rochester, NY. This is about 45 minutes from where I lived in Brockport. I can still remember the day I was driving to work and I got caught in a white-out. Everything disappeared and I could not see anything but snow. I was so scared that I thought I wanted to move somewhere where it did not snow. When I got to the office I went straight to the back room to look at the large map of the United States that was hanging on the wall. I looked at it for some time and decided I would move to Arizona; it did not snow there. That evening when I got home from work I announced that I was going to move to Arizona.
Teacher and Seeker
I wrote to the Department of Education in Arizona to obtain a list of schools. I began to send my resume to all of the school districts in Arizona. Of all the resumes I sent out I only received one interview. The interview was with the Indian Oasis School District. There were two openings and I was hired for the 3rd grade position at Topawa. The Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity were there at Topawa. During this time I lived in Tucson and commuted to work on the reservation. While in Tucson I became a member of St. Cyril’s Church and served as a Eucharistic Minister.
One day while I was at recess with my class, Sister Hilda Hersant had her class outside; it was then that she asked me if I have ever thought about becoming a Sister. I remember laughing at that. All Sister Hilda said was “Think about it!” After some time I began to talk with Sister Jerianne Stelmach about what it was like to be a Sister. I talked with other Sisters also. I was invited to pray and have supper with the Sisters at Topawa. I thought and prayed about entering the Community, but it was such a big step to leave everything. It took me five years, but eventually I entered and as a novice I was given the name, Sister Mary Ann.
Prior to coming to the Convent I had taught seven years at Indian Oasis School District. So upon taking my first vows I was sent out on mission to Yuma, Arizona. I taught 2nd grade for 3 years. From there I went to Wellston, Ohio where I taught double grades (3-4) for 4 years. After that I went to Mingo Junction; I taught 3rd grade for 3 years. I was assigned to return to Mingo Junction, Ohio St. Agnes, but I received a summer change to Kekaha, Hawaii at St. Theresa School. There I taught 2nd grade for 6 years, 4th grade for 1 year and Kindergarten for 2 years. I was at St. Theresa School for 9 years. When I left Hawaii I was assigned to San Xavier Convent. There I taught 2nd grade at Santa Cruz School in Tucson, Arizona for 2 years.
During my years of teaching I had the privilege of teaching children about prayer and how to pray in their heart room; I prepared children for the reception of the Sacrament of First Reconciliation and First Communion; I also trained students to be altar servers. It was at these times that God was working in my life too. I was being drawn into a closer relationship with my God.
At the present time I am living and serving at St. Francis Convent in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. I enjoy the various opportunities I have to be of service to the Sisters (Annals, Library loan from the Public Library, Cafeteria and Kitchen duties, driver, and phone operator.) Being at St. Francis is slower paced and there is more time for prayer.
Through the years my relationship with the Lord has deepened; He is my constant companion. Looking back on my journey which led me to the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity in Manitowoc, I can clearly see the hand of the Lord in all of the decisions that guided me to the Community. I guess that’s why I sing “Let it snow,” because if it wasn’t for the white-out, God arranged, I might not be here.
I am grateful for the loving support I have received from God, who has showered many graces upon me and has gifted me with openness to those graces, the Community, my family and friends, throughout these years. God bless you all.