Sister Michael Ann O’Donnell, OSF

Sister Michael Ann O’Donnell reflects on her call to be a Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity.

Hometown: Hopewell, Ohio

In the Fall of 1942 “Teresa” arrived in the O’Donnell Granville, Ohio household. Her father, Aloysius Michael O’Donnell, her mother, Anna Catherine Musselman O’Donnell along with three older sisters and three brothers were present to welcome their newborn member. It wasn’t long before a larger home was needed as our family grew. Thus, about two years later, with a younger sister joining our family, we moved to a size-able farm near Hopewell, Ohio. Still, the family flourished with two more boys. This location, about 10 miles east of Zanesville, made it possible for us to rejoin St. Thomas Aquinas Parish where our mother had attended school. Thus, memories of our Sunday morning journeys to Mass and Religious Instruction from the Dominican Sisters, offer many laughable accounts of unexpected events in our old station-wagon!

The farm on which we lived had been well established by a Mormon family who no longer desired to remain in the midst of a flourishing Methodist neighborhood.  Our own presence as an Irish-Catholic household received tentative acceptance until new friendships were formed in the Public School we attended. Being a small school of about 300 students, grades 1-12, there were not enough boys to establish a strong football program. However, we did become noted for having a strong music program involving nearly all of the students in our own Marching Band and Concert Band. (I remember the year Rosecrans Catholic School asked us to play/perform at all of their home football games.  Our boys, especially, enjoyed those nights.)

Participating in all the usual school activities still allowed time to weekly babysit our neighbor’s young family. When I first began tending to their two youngsters I had no idea it would continue over the years until there were five children altogether. Our time together was so enjoyable I was eager to babysit my own nieces and nephews as they came along. Even now I enjoy tending to three-six-year old’s during large Parish Liturgies.

During my senior year of schooling I began considering horticulture to be a possible future occupation. I especially enjoyed gardening and any type of outdoor work. But the sudden unexpected death of my father meant our plans needed to be recalculated. It was during a visit to Manitowoc, Wisconsin while attending the profession to Religious life of my sister, Rita, that I met Sister Brideen Long. Sister Brideen, President of Holy Family College, shared how it would be possible to live nearby, work, and study at H.F.C. Thus, the plans were fulfilled and, as a lay student, I became acquainted with all the young Franciscan Sisters also attending classes. When several Sisters were killed in Oneida that year, I was speculating “Who’s going to take their place?” Then came the thought, “Why don’t you?” Sister Nathanael Jenks led me through the process and I entered Holy Family Convent later that year. About that same time, my mother married my father’s younger brother, a widower who had fathered 9 children. That’s when our first cousins became our step-brothers and sisters. Instead of being 7th in a family of 10, I became 13th in a family of 19 siblings.

As my journey unfolded I became “Sister Michael Ann”, a combination of my father and mother’s names. When my years of teaching began there was also a need for Sisters to do full-time Religious Education. Convinced that our Lord accepted my offer to “be where He wants me to be, doing what He wants me to do” I willingly responded. A number of other unexpected assignments have followed over the years leading me to many Native Tribes, cultures, pilgrimages, various age groups, etc. All wondrous people in God’s Kingdom.

“To one and all I say, “Let the Holy Spirit lead you moment by moment. Your years, too, will fly by quickly.”