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April 2008
On September 8, 1954, Sister Mary Ann’s mother brought her to St. Francis Convent. Mary Ann had decided to follow God’s calling as a Hospital Sister of St. Francis and as a parting gift, Mrs. Minor wrote this poem for her daughter: “An angel walks among us, upon this very day; I used to have her with me to brighten up my day. Then Jesus called her to Him, His bride of love to stay. Although it makes me lonely as you can readily see, some day we’ll meet in heaven with joys eternally.” Prayer was important in their lives and may have been the beginning of Mary Ann’s calling to religious life.
Mary Ann was born on September 4, 1936 in Taylorville, IL and was raised in nearby Stonington. Her father worked in the coal mine but also had a welding business in his back yard. She enjoyed watching her father work and frequently helped him weld and fix motors in cars. He died in 1948 when she was 12 years old.
Beginning a career in healthcare
Upon completing high school, the first thing Mary Ann wanted to do was get a job. Her mother had been working in Springfield since her father’s death, so Mary Ann thought it would be nice if they could work in Springfield and ride together. This worked out perfectly when Mary Ann was employed at St. John’s Hospital as an aid in the X-ray department doing things like transporting patients, polishing door knobs, and making barium.
In June 1954, as she began her job at St. John’s, her mother needed to have gall bladder surgery. “My grandfather took me to St. John’s to see my mother after Mass and breakfast. The smell of the anesthesia got to me and I passed out. Sister Alverna, who was caring for my mother that morning, also took care of me. I developed a friendship with Sister Alverna from that incident,” she said.
Early signs of being a Sister
Sister Mary Ann recalled that God must have called her to religious life as a young child when she used to dress up like a Sister with a towel on her head. “I was not totally aware of God’s working in my life, but as I look back, there were experiences that led me in this direction,” she said. “Deep down I knew that I wanted to be a Sister but I didn’t know which Order.” Fortunately, God made the decision for her and she chose the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis. “This Order fit and it just felt right. It was God’s leading and I just followed,” she said. At the age of 18, she began her religious life.
Caring for the patient
Following her graduation in 1961 from St. John’s School of Nursing, Sister Mary Ann served as a nurse in Highland, Decatur, and Eau Claire. “I liked nursing and enjoyed caring for the patients and worked to always give them good care and meet all their needs.” She later earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Loyola University (Chicago) and a master’s degree in nursing from DePaul University (Chicago).
Servant leadership
After that, she served 10 years in Hospital Sisters Health System in various roles. In 1988, she was elected as the Provincial Superior of the Hospital Sisters and served in this role for six and a half years until 1994 when she was elected the General Superior of the Congregation whose headquarters are in Münster, Germany. She was in this role for 12 years and she was the first non-German General Superior in the Congregation’s history. She was responsible for the Provinces in Germany, Poland, USA, Japan and the Region in India along with the Sisters serving in the Czech Republic, Korea, Africa, and Haiti.
A friend shares a sentiment
More than 20 years ago, Lee Dondanville served on the Board of Directors at St. John’s Hospital with Sister Mary Ann. “Along with many others, I was pleased to see Sister Mary Ann progress through positions of increasing authority and responsibility until she eventually led the Hospital Sisters worldwide,” Lee said. “None of us were surprised, and all were happy for the success which she has earned.” Currently, Lee serves on the Hospital Sisters Health System Board of Directors.
Looking back
“It was my privilege to serve as the General Superior with all the opportunities to learn and take part in the different cultures, to know each Sister individually, and to follow their development,” Sister Mary Ann explained. “When I was elected to this responsibility on September 14, 1994, I could not speak German nor did I know their culture. The Sisters were extremely kind and patient with me and I felt very blessed to be with the Sisters and become a part of the life and culture of this international congregation.” As this woman from Stonington, IL traveled the world, she just knew that her parents were looking down from heaven and sending blessings.
She returned to America in 2006 and currently serves as the Chairperson of the Hospital Sisters Health System Board of Directors.
In conclusion
“From my own life experience, I found it best to listen and be open-minded to wherever the Spirit may be leading me. Whatever you do, pray for wisdom to always trust in God. God leads all of us in ways that we can never imagine, so it is good to pause each day – knowing that you will be blessed when you trust in the love and wisdom of God,” she concluded. 

Hospital Sisters of St. Francis 4 849 LaVerna Road, Springfield, IL 62707 (217)522-3386
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