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Remembrance of the Life of Sister Ann Francis Gleason SL

Posted on November 29, 2013, by Loretto Community

The following was composed by Sister Ann Francis Gleason and filed with her papers with the request that it be used at the time of her death. Ann Francis died peacefully at Loretto Motherhouse Infirmary early in the morning of November 29th, 2013.

My Autobiography

Ann Francis Gleason SL1998
Sister Ann Francis Gleason SL (AKA Barbara Elizabeth Gleason)
July 31, 1920-Nov. 29, 2013

I was born in Berkeley, California, July 31st 1920, to Elizabeth Campbell Gleason and Augustus Wilhelm Gleason. My early childhood was very happy. At the age of six, I made my first communion on Christmas Eve. My mother was a devout Catholic married to an equally devout (but non-church going) Episcopalian. We lived in El Segundo, California and our parish was a “mission” parish, which meant we had infrequent masses. I went to public school in El Segundo.

In 1932, my mother and father separated. My brother Lewis (four years older) and I moved with our mother to Rolla, Missouri, where my mother had grown up. She went to school at the Visitation Academy at Cabanne and Belt in St. Louis. Her mother had died when my mother was six so her Irish father decided the place for her was boarding school. In Rolla I continued to go to public school, the only school there. I am not so sure that is the only reason for my going. My mother’s experience at “Viz” was not a happy one and her remembrance of Sisters, “nuns”, was anything but a happy one.

When it was time for me to go to college, I wanted to go to Webster College which we would pass, on Big Bend, as we made frequent trips to St. Louis from Rolla. I was fascinated by the Sisters I saw walking on the back campus, so that was my choice. Very reluctantly, my mother gave in. Her stipulation: two years at Webster and then I was to go to the University of Missouri.

My two years at Webster were “ok”; I am not a gung-ho student but oh how I loved the Sisters. At the end of the two years my mother made arrangements for my University experience at Columbia, Missouri.

She and I went to California to spend the summer with my brother Lewis who had graduated from Missouri School of Mines, Rolla, and worked for Standard Oil in Richmond, California, as a chemical engineer. While in Richmond I met girls from the University of Missouri and set up rush dates with several sororities for my fall entrance. I WAS going to go to the University.

When it was time to return to Missouri, my mother and brother dropped me in Denver to visit Mary Jane Nolan, my Webster roommate. I also visited my “nun-friend” from Webster, Sister Frances Marie Walsh, who was at the Heights for the summer. When I was bemoaning my fate, Sister told me that maybe a miracle would happen and I would go back to Webster. Never, said I, my mother means what she says.

I left Denver via train; Sister Carlann Herman and Marian Klees, a Webster classmate met me at the station in St. Louis. They urged me to stay a couple of days at the college but I wanted to see my mother so I declined. My mother met me in Rolla and suggested we go to her friend Sadie Donohue’s to talk about life at Missouri U. I wanted to go to my Aunt Helen’s house to play bridge. Of course, we went to the bridge game. While playing, my mother had a stroke. We took her by ambulance to St. Louis to St. Luke’s where, three days later, she died. She was buried in Rolla.

BIG PROBLEM—what to do with Barbara? My father suggested the University of Arizona, since his friends had children there (he was living in Texas). My brother Lewis was interested in my going back to Webster to be with people whom I knew and loved. So back to Webster I went.

The Christmas of 1941, in my senior year at Webster, I spent in Denver with my friend, Mary Jane Nolan. I intended to marry a “boy” who had been at Missouri School of Mines, had graduated and was working in California; he was a very close friend of my brother’s. However, I had a long chat with Elmer J. Trame, S.J., a friend of both Mary Jane and me. After several hours of talk, he asked what I was going to do after I graduated. My answer: I am going to the convent. I think I was as surprised as he was; maybe not, maybe he knew and I didn’t! He tried to sell me on the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati, since he worked with them at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Denver. But I said only Lorettines. From there on, it was something I had to do but I did not want to talk about it.

My next problem was telling Joe and my brother. The former was not happy but didn’t believe in “fooling with God; if you are going, go.” My brother was irate. Didn’t I know there was a war going on, didn’t I know teachers were needed, wasn’t I prepared to teach? Etc., etc. And his parting shot was, “You are unpatriotic.”

Sisters Roberta Hardesty and Rita Ann Snyder were instrumental in getting me ready and put up with my disinterestedness. I left on October 25th, 1942.

For my two and one half years in the Novitiate my brother and father had no communication with me. They did not approve of my life style and made it very clear. However, on my first mission, Bishop Toolen in Mobile, my father sent my brother down to check it out. Lewis came and went, unscathed, even liked it—however he still thought me out of my mind. My father came for a visit and spent the entire time trying to talk me out of staying, or at least taking a year off to “come home.” Home being in El Paso where he lived. He had married a very good friend of my mother’s (while my mother was till alive!!!) It was not the best place for me to spend a year of my already well-liked life. Needless to say, I did not go. We did begin to correspond, spasmodically. Thanks to Sister Mary Bede Colzer, I made a home visit in 1957. This took place at Lewis’ home in Pinole, California, since my father was living in Chapala, Mexico, having retired there after years of working for Standard Oil of California. Sister Emmanuel Tonne was my companion. She and her sister Ann succeeded in charming all the Gleasons. This concludes my early life.

The first part of this has been verbose—long, long, long. However, my reason for telling it is that I believe, deeply, that God entered my life way, way back and that, as it unfolded, I was moved in “mysterious ways.”

The list of where I have been and what I have done is in the Archives. I have never been in a place that I haven’t fallen in love with, have never had any living experiences except happy ones. I have continued to LOVE the sisters. When choices became ours to make, I chose Santa Clara, then I chose Denver and now I am basking in my last choice, life once again at Loretto in Kentucky. This just might be the second-best choice of my life. Second, because going to Loretto in 1942 was my first, best choice.

I thought I might mention my assignments (Bulls, as we knew them):

  • 1945-51, Bishop Toolen High School: Superiors, Sister Marian Alberta and Sister Charlene Keanney.
  • 1951-54, Loretto Heights College as Dean of Women: Sister Orlene Tepfer, Superior; Sister Frances Marie Walsh, President; Sister Eileen Marie Heckman, Dean of Studies.
  • 1954-61, Nerinx Hall High School: Sisters Timothy Reidy and Joanna Marie Steely, Principals.
  • 1961-69, Loretto High School, Louisville: Sisters Martha Redmond, Ann Virginia Tighe and Frances Jane O’Tolle, Superiors; Sister John Carroll, Principal 1961-62; I was Principal 1962-69.
  • 1969-1998, St. Lawrence High School, Santa Clara California: Sister Sara Frink 1969 Superior, and that was the end of Superiors; Sister Anne Greenslade, Principal. In 1970 we merged with Archbishop Mitty High School (Archdiocesan) and Mother Butler High School (Religious of the Sacred Heart). It was a struggle but we made it. Only three of us Lorettines stayed with the merger. Finally in 1975, I remained. I retired as Registrar in 1998.
  • 1998-2001, Loretto Center, Denver: I was part of a three-member team of coordinators.
  • 2001, Loretto Motherhouse: I moved from the Motherhouse Convent to the Infirmary in 2004.

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  1. Avatar Diann Ryan on December 5, 2013 at 12:00 am

    I worked with Sister Ann Francis at Archbishop Mitty High School for 12 years. She was an inspiration to all who knew her. I especially admired her sense of humor, her practicality, her strong faith, and her smile! We missed her after she left Mitty and were glad when we received news about her. I am saddened by her passing but believe she is receiving her heavenly reward. Sincerely, Diann Ryan, English teacher and Asst. Principal.

  2. Avatar Eleanor Finnegan Warzoha on February 18, 2014 at 12:00 am

    Requiescant en pace, dear Sister Anne Francis. We were privileged to know you at Loretto Heights from 1950 -54.
    What a wonderful, inspiring story of a life well lived. And a lady who listeded to God’s voice and followed His promptings. We are better people because of your influence.