Sister Agnes Ann Pisel: A COVID-19 Transition

Everyone has a COVID-19 story. That includes Sister Agnes Ann Pisel, who at the height of the pandemic found herself making the move “home” to Sacred Heart Convent. When she arrived on campus she first needed to quarantine. She had just gotten settled in her room when she learned she needed to move again as the local community prepared for the renovation of Regina Coeli, the nursing care facility where our frailest sisters live.

It’s sisters like Sister Agnes Ann and others living at Sacred Heart Convent who will benefit from your donation to our Christmas appeal this year. Your gift is the gift of good health for so many of our sisters!  Thank you!

Even as things settled down into a new routine, Sister Agnes Ann said “I knew life would be very different here at SHC and I knew—I was pretty sure—that I would miss teaching, and I do.” She says she enjoys the extra time to pray, read, socialize, work a puzzle, if she wants. And there is decidedly less pressure living at the motherhouse than there was teaching at Marian Catholic, where she spent a total of 32 years in ministry. Still, she said, “I feel like I was born to be a teacher and my whole life was dedicated to that. I still miss the students but there is another phase of life that I’m facing now and life goes on.”

In 2013 Sister Agnes Ann was honored with a lifetime achievement award by Marian, where she taught for more than three decades. Greg Bimm, long-time director of Marian’s award-winning bands, said of her "Your kind, gentle, and always-solid spirit have profoundly affected us all."

That wisdom was gained over Sister Agnes Ann’s 63 years of dedication to God and the people of God. During that time, she gave herself to a variety of educational ministries including elementary school teaching, religious education, high school theology, and tutoring.

“A great foundation”

Now what gets her up and moving every day is the time she spends assisting the community archivist. “I find it extremely interesting to go through all the stories again of our sisters, of our congregation,” she said. “It makes me so proud of all the sisters who’ve gone before me, all they’ve contributed to our congregation, the great foundation they’ve made possible for us to continue this lifestyle.”

“A Spiritual Experience”

One of the highlights of this pandemic-restricted year seems to have come as a surprise event to Sister Agnes Ann herself.

She was invited by another sister to attend a bird banding at Jubilee Farm. “After they banded them they asked if we wanted to hold a bird and let it go free. Of course, I didn’t want to,” she said in her matter-of-fact way. But then, she says, there was this darling little finch that caught her attention. “I thought, ‘oh, I’ think I’d like to set that bird free,” she said. Holding him was sort of a spiritual experience, she explained, one she says she will remember for a long time. “That tiny little beautiful body! He didn’t even weigh an ounce, so small, so pretty, so beautiful. I held him for a little while then let my fingers relax and he just flew off into the freedom of the air again, into the trees.”

The Springfield Dominican Sisters are committed to teaching, living, and encouraging care of creation and the healthy, sustainable living that is so critical at this time in human history. Your gift to the Dominican Sisters of Springfield enables moments like the one Sister Agnes Ann experienced with the little finch. Your gift promotes our sisters’ health, health enables awe and awe, the praise of God. Thank you!

“Who doesn’t love Christmas?”

Now that winter is slowly settling in, Sister Agnes Ann’s thoughts turn to winter, Advent, and the wonderful celebration of God’s Incarnation. “Who doesn’t love the Christmas season?” she asked rhetorically. “I love the Christmas season. It comes to us at the darkest time of year when we need some brightness into our life. The bright colored lights, the gift, the tinsel, all of that: the warmth when we are at the coldest part of the year and the memories that keep us warm all year long.”

Simple, secret gifts

“Among my favorite Christmas memories are the time I spent with my family as a child,” Sister Agnes Ann said. “It was always a thrill when Dad turned on the lights of the Christmas tree. We even had to run outside and see what it looked like through the window. Mother was an artist with cookies so we learned to bake cookies. We made hundreds of Christmas cookies. I loved buying gifts for my family, they were simple little gifts, but we always kept them a secret and hid them and tried to surprise people on Christmas day.”

Christmas was also a time of faith formation, she recalled “One of my favorite things at church besides the Christmas mass, the Christmas songs, and the Christmas trees was the Christmas crib. Every year we made our little journey up to the crib and dad gave us some money to put in as we said knelt down and prayed to the baby Jesus.”

Sister Agnes Ann and all our sisters are grateful for your kindness, care, and financial support. Thank you for your gift to our Christmas appeal! “Good tidings” to you and yours during this holy season.

This Christmas, we are highlighting a few of our retired sisters. Visit our Good Tidings page to see interviews with Sisters Gabriella Luebbers and Rosemary McGuire.

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