Remembrance of the Life of Anne Spillane CoL
“I was born in St. Louis in 1927, the youngest of Thomas and Mary Elizabeth’s three children. I spent a marvelously happy childhood in St. Luke’s Parish, Richmond Heights, Mo. [with my brother Tom and sister Mary Jane who called me Nancy]. Since my aunt was a Sister of Loretto, Sister Philomene Kenny, my parents felt close to the Community. They considered the S.L.s excellent educators. After grade school at St. Luke’s, therefore, they decided to send me to Nerinx Hall High School and to Webster College. “
Completing just one year at Webster, Anne entered the Sisters of Loretto on Oct. 25, 1946. On April 25, 1947, she was received as Sister Lucian. She spent her novitiate in the company of a large group of gifted young women, including Katherine Ann Heinz, who today survives them all. Four of Ann’s classmates came from the newly freed China — Francene Lum, Elizabeth Dacanay, Christina Chang and Bernadette Marie Pereira. There were four musicians — Jane Richardson, Mary Agnes Mahoney, Rose Annette Liddell and Patrice Teheny — and a large number who, like Anne, would become renowned for their excellent teaching and then initiate new ventures in adult education, health care and community development.
During Anne’s nearly 25 years as a vowed member, she taught in the elementary schools in Highland Park, Ill., and St. Rose’s, Mary Queen of Peace and St. Ferdinand in the St. Louis area. She was principal and superior at St. Ferdinand’s for six years. During her last five years as a vowed member, she and Marian McAvoy lived in Fairfield, Iowa, where they were among the first Loretto sisters to be assigned specifically to work with adults, innovating a parishwide religious education program in 1966.
In 1970 Anne joined Sister Helen Sander’s first administrative staff, working with Marian in the newly created Work Development office. Anne served just briefly before writing to the Community: “I have recently made the very painful decision to seek a dispensation from my vows. My reasons are personal. … I find it hard to put them on paper. … Of this I want to assure you. I have nothing but love and admiration for the Sisters of Loretto. I have no desire to sever relations with the Loretto Community. I do intend to ask for co-membership.”
Anne became a co-member in 1984, clarifying at that time that she preferred to spell her name “Anne” even though she had been baptized “Ann.” She said in her co-member commitment, “I have been involved with Loretto for most of my life. You have been my greatest support in good times and bad times. I feel, in a real sense, that my membership in Loretto has never stopped. Nevertheless, I want to formalize my affiliation with the group by requesting co-membership. I believe strongly in the values of the group in seeking peace and justice for all, and I want to lend my support in whatever way I can.”
Anne worked professionally for text book publishers McGraw-Hill and later Silver-Burdett and Ginn and Co. as a consultant and sales rep. She was highly valued for her broad educational experience that gave her both understanding and empathy with classroom teachers. Anne worked in New England, New York and St. Louis until 1991 when she accepted an appointment as Loretto’s Coordinator of Co-Membership, a position she held for 12 years.
From 2003 to 2015 Anne was active in her Community group and in the St. Louis Loretto Community, whose members looked out for one another and supported one another in both serious and playful projects. She retired to Loretto Motherhouse in 2015, moving in 2017 to a room in the Infirmary, where she welcomed all visitors, including small dogs, with her warm smile and gentle voice.
When Anne died in the middle of the pandemic April 2020, we received the following tribute from Kathleen DeSutter Jordan, one of Anne’s students and a lifelong friend: “It was my very good fortune, as a 4th grade student at Mary Queen of Peace in 1954, to meet Anne — Sister Lucian at the time. Although she taught the ‘other 4th grade,’ we loved it when the divider between our two 4th grade classes (of at least 60 students each) would be pulled back to open the space for a music or religion class, taught by Sister Lucian. Even as a child I recognized in her person a purity of soul, a characteristic I would eventually come to understand as the very essence of Jesus’ invitation to ‘become as little children.’ To this day I can hear strains of ‘lavender’s blue, dilly dilly, lavender’s green,’ or ‘Heigh! Nelly, Ho! Nelly, listen love to me …’ and remember a teacher whose face, even with the full habit and veil, shone with a captivating, inviting joy and delight.
“The blessing and boundless affirmation I experienced in knowing Anne continued throughout my life. To me, hers was a quiet, but encouraging presence, in good times and hard. While novices at the House of Studies, we were asked to sit at her bedside as she recovered from surgery. A year or two later, we would find ourselves warmly welcomed by Anne and Marian as they pioneered a new pastoral ministry in Ottumwa, Iowa.
“We were able to keep in touch even living at distant posts. While living in Greenwich, Ct., Anne was kind (and brave!) enough to visit me at the NY Catholic Worker. When I decided to go to nursing school, she asked through a mutual friend if she could assist me with the tuition. Years later, when my mother died suddenly in a car accident, Anne numbered among the many attending Mom’s funeral, bringing such comfort.
“Of course, it was painful to witness Anne’s diminishment, and a joy to see the period of healing that occurred not long after she had retired to the Motherhouse. How grateful I am that Anne was well and very much herself the last time I visited her there. The eyes that had been so merry when I was a child shone yet, revealing her true and loving heart.
“As death inevitably releases a flood of memories, I found myself realizing that Sister Lucian was probably the first person who made me wonder what sisters were, what made them tick, how they were getting so much fun out of life! I suspect Anne inspired in me what would grow over time into a love for Loretto — which has sustained and gladdened my soul the rest of my life.”