Looking back, Sr. Marie Annette finds herself filled with a twofold gratitude – to God and to Notre Dame. As she expresses it: “The Sisters of Notre Dame have gifted me and invited me to serve in a variety of ways – as an educator, liturgist, vocation minister, chaplain and spiritual director. I never dreamed of such opportunities the day I entered. All I wanted then was to live with and help the Sisters. So now in these later years I find that I have come full circle in numerous ways to be of service to the community.”
She attended Notre Dame High School in Alameda, and entered the novitiate in 1957. As an educator, Sr. Annette taught at elementary and high schools in Salinas, Los Angeles, Marysville, Millbrae, Redwood City and Honolulu, and at the then-College of Notre Dame. She earned a master’s degree in musicology at Boston University.
Sister sees the education she has been provided by the Sisters of Notre Dame as the umbrella for all the ministries in which she is involved. Her music background is integral to her work and part of who she is. For her, music is not performance, but prayer. As a chaplain, she has used song in accompanying patients in their last moments.
Annette has used her music extensively in liturgical ministry, including her service as Liturgy Coordinator for the Cathedral in San Jose. A musical high point for her was the Easter that Father Xavier Harris invited her to sing the Exultet at the Vigil in Belmont. She also coordinates the liturgies for the Sisters’ Jubilee celebrations and funerals.
Sister served for seven years as director of spiritual services at the Alma Via retirement and assisted living center in Union City. Now she brings that experience to the Mercy Retirement and Care Center in Oakland, where she volunteers and stays in touch with the Sisters and others living there.
Annette is active with the Tri-City Volunteers, a food bank and thrift store in Fremont. She is a member of the Tri-City Interfaith Council and was part of the Interfaith Women of Peace. She was instrumental in having the City of Fremont claim the title of “Compassionate City” in 2016 and “Sanctuary City” in 2017, and is the spokesperson for the Compassionate Fremont organization.
“In social justice, Sr. Annette walks the talk, that’s for sure!” says friend and Fremont resident Margery Leonard. “She has a particular gift for celebrating her Catholic faith, while reaching out to people of all different faiths.”
In Annette’s words, “Life continues to unfold, and I cannot help but see all as blessing, echoing St. Julie’s ‘How good is the good God!’” She cannot imagine life outside of the Notre Dame Community. From the time she was a child, she wanted to be a Sister. She is “awestruck with how good God has been to me!” All has been blessing.
At this time of Jubilee these words of Dag Hammarskjold are especially meaningful to her: “For all that has been, thanks! For all that shall be, yes!”
By Sr. Katherine Nelson