Remembrance of the Life of Sister Ann (formerly Sister Ann Maurice) Barrett SL
Sister Ann Barrett wrote a brief account of her family life in 1976. We recognize in these two paragraphs her lifelong love for her family and place of origin, an affection she often shared with us:
“My memories of my childhood are extremely happy ones. I grew up with ten children in the family and, therefore, I have been accustomed to community life from the beginning. We lived on a large farm in a big brick house built by my great grandfather. My personal memories of our home and family were active, busy and exciting. How many hours we spent listening to the great stories of the Old South, and the traditions of our home and ancestors. These stories I have often shared with my classes.
“We were a really close family. In fact, there were times when I felt we were too close, for sorrows were doubly hard to bear; such as the rather sudden death of my mother from cancer (on Christmas Day in 1966) and Dad’s death of a heart attack a year later. Then in 1972, our youngest sister, Joey, was killed in an auto accident. However, we were all grown and the many joys we had shared and stored helped us accept the sorrows.”
Sister Ann’s siblings and many other Barretts were named for their parents, grandparents and other relatives, strengthening the ties of close-knit generations of Barretts who settled in and around the original family home south of Owensboro, Ky. They were pioneers in a community of Catholics visited by Father Charles Nerinckx and other early priests.
Ann was known as Eileen until she joined Loretto. She was the fifth of 10 children born to Victor Maurice and Bessie Mae Beekman Barrett. Baptized Elizabeth Eileen, in honor of her mother, when she joined Loretto she took her father’s name and the name of a favorite aunt, Sister of Loretto Bernarda, who had been Anna Barrett. Another aunt was Loretto Archivist Matilda Barrett.
Eileen and her siblings were taught by the Sisters of Charity at St. Mary of the Woods parish school in Whitesville, Ky. During her high school years she acquired two years of experience as a telephone operator in Owensboro, where she seems to have lived in the summers. According to the St. Mary’s parish priest, who wrote a letter of recommendation, Eileen’s inclination to join Loretto was in part because of her admiration of her Loretto aunts. He went on to say of Eileen, “She has a generous disposition, [and] has had splendid home training. … She certainly seems to have an aptitude for religious life.”
Eileen was welcomed at Loretto by her aunt Matilda on Oct. 25, 1949, and was received April 25, 1950, as Sister Ann Maurice. Two years and three days later, immediately following her first vows, she arrived at Baden, Mo., north of St. Louis for her first assignment, finishing out the year for Sister Marian Gerard. In the fall of 1952 Sister Ann Maurice was sent to Denver, where she taught sixth through eighth grades at St. Vincent’s, Holy Family and Blessed Sacrament. In the 1960s Ann moved to Illinois, again teaching the upper elementary grades at Immaculate Conception, Highland Park and St. Andrew’s, Rock Falls. Ann was transferred to St. Mary’s High School, Sterling, Ill., in 1965, where she served as principal and superior and oversaw the school’s move to a different location and a new name, Newman Central Catholic High. During her two decades in the classroom, Ann completed her undergraduate degree at Loretto Heights and master’s degree at Notre Dame, both in English. She was especially proud to be a Notre Dame graduate and read the Notre Dame News Magazine news avidly.
During the summers of 1970 and ‘71, Ann volunteered as a nurse’s aide at the Loretto Motherhouse Infirmary. The summer of 1974 she was camp director for Shady Oaks Cerebral Palsy Camp in Lockport, Ill., and that fall entered the University of Wisconsin as a candidate for a master’s degree in behavioral science, with a focus on learning disabilities. This began Ann’s second career as a teacher of children with emotional and behavioral disorders. From 1977 to 1992 Ann joined the faculty at Wight School and then Nelson School, two public institutions in Rockford where new programs for students with special needs were just being developed. Ann was able to contribute much to these programs. She was entirely immersed in her work, so much so that when one of her students needed foster care, Ann took the child into her own home for months of 24-7 care. She provided foster care for a second student at a later time.
A third career opened for Ann in 1992 when she was invited to assist the Loretto Health Care staff as a resource person focused on health and retirement. Ann served the Community from Denver where she lived in an apartment near other Loretto members. In her letter introducing herself and her availability to the Community, Ann wrote, “Being a resource person, I may not have the answers, but I’ll be most happy to get the information for you when I can. I do have a master’s degree in behavioral sciences, have attended current workshops on aging, and plan to pursue certification in gerontology. … It is with real joy and willingness to serve you that I begin my Loretto work as a part-time resource person … for Colorado and the West.”
Retiring in 2002, Ann remained in Denver until 2013 when she moved to Loretto Motherhouse. There she served as a Community driver for some years and tutored young students until the COVID virus separated her from her last student. One of Ann’s retirement pleasures was sleeping late and enjoying a leisurely breakfast. She had been an inquisitive and a voracious reader all her life. In her retirement years at the Motherhouse, Ann delighted in the libraries of Marion, Washington and Nelson counties and had library cards for each. She visited them regularly and often borrowed books for others as well as herself.
Ann once wrote, “My life as a Sister of Loretto has been none the less happy than my family life. Sometimes I feel a little frightened that I have been so blessed. … but even more, I feel grateful. “