Remembrance of the Life of Sister Anne Michelle LaMarre SL
Nov. 24, 1928 —Nov. 28, 2016
Sister Anne Michelle LaMarre was born into a devout Catholic family in Kankakee, Ill. As Monica Margaret LaMarre, she grew up with two brothers and four sisters, all of whom attended Loretto-taught St. Patrick’s grade and high schools in Kankakee. Their father, Eugene Jerome La Marre, and their mother, Mary Louise Legris, were both natives of Bourbonnais, Ill., an early settlement of French Canadians north of Kankakee. We are blessed to have Monica’s story in her own words:
“We children all received our greatest heritage, the Catholic faith, in our home and in the parochial schools we attended. Nearing the end of my high school education, when I announced to my parents I wanted to enter the novitiate of the Sisters of Loretto … I think there was a little laughing and a little crying. Can this be, that their one daughter who they actually had to trick into going to school because she’d rather be at home keeping mom company, wanted to enter a group of Sisters whose main occupation was teaching? Dad said I would be home by Christmas.
“My entering date was in October 1946. If it had not been for the love and care of dear Sister Lucy Marie and Sister Dafrosa, I’m sure I would have been long gone. Thanks to the grace of God, I am still a Sister of Loretto. Perhaps I could say that it was because I found learning so difficult as a young child that the Holy Spirit led me to this wonderful group of educators who had also shown love and understanding to me.”
Young Monica received the habit and the name Sister Anne Michelle on April 25, 1947. She made her first vows two years later and her final vows on Aug. 15, 1952.
“After my novitiate training, … my teaching career began at Loretto Academy in El Paso, Texas, where I lived and taught first grade for 10 years. I had lots to learn along the way … but I was determined to become the best teacher ever. My goal was for both the students and myself. I started working on a college degree, which I received from Loretto Heights College in Denver in 1963.
“I loved El Paso, great superiors, principals; and I really thought my world was about to end [when in 1959] I was transferred to Loretto Academy, Kansas City, Mo. I really thought my world was about to end. But guess what? It didn’t. After about two days in KC I knew it was home for me. I lived at Loretto both old and new until 1971 and I really loved every minute of it, teaching mostly second grade.
“In 1972 I began to feel I needed a change. I went to Our Lady of the Americas in Kansas City and remained there until 1977. The opportunity arose for me to start working on my master’s degree, which I received from Webster University in 1978. During this time I also [worked] with young teachers doing practice-teaching, a very rewarding experience simply because it kept me striving to be the best and trying to help other young teachers to do the same.”
In 1979, Anne Michelle accepted a position at Our Lady of the Presentation School in suburban Kansas City. But after just one year, Anne Michelle returned to Illinois to care for her mother, who was dying of cancer. Following her mother’s death in late 1981, Anne Michelle began to teach at St. Paul of the Cross in Park Ridge, Ill., about two minutes away from her residence in her brother’s home. She wrote that this was her first real taste of parish life and she really enjoyed her work there. From 1982 until 2006 she taught full time, first primary grades and then preschool. She spent another three years at St. Paul School as teacher assistant and librarian before retiring to Loretto Center in St. Louis in 2010 where she described herself as “retired and keeping busy.”
“What a wonderful way to end my career with God’s little ones. Yes, I have loved every minute of it. Forming the minds of God’s little ones has always been a most rewarding and exciting experience for me. I realize that at this young age their little minds are like clay in the potter’s hands—scary but true!
“[As for my doing] peace and justice, in the classroom the little ones are learning to love and respect one another and all of God’s creation — learning to share toys, take care of things in the classroom and all around the school, being kind and understanding when others make mistakes. Each day I try to create an awareness in the children of the special gifts and talents that each one of them possesses. Once they recognize the goodness within themselves and that they truly are a reflection of God’s love, I challenge each of them to share those gifts and talents with those less fortunate.”
A handsome plaque rests among Anne Michelle’s mementos. It reads, “Heart of the School Award, presented to Sister Anne Michelle La Marre, S.L., in recognition of special service to Catholic Education, the Archdioceses of Chicago.” For 60 years, Anne Michelle shared her gentle heart and her deep faith with the youngest of God’s children. And for almost 70 years, God has blessed Loretto with the gift of Anne Michelle’s faithful heart.
– By Eleanor Craig