Full Circle

Full Circle

Provincial Sister Kathleen Harmon, SNDdeN, Ann Becker, and Senior Development Officer Gina Huiet.

If you visit the Mount Notre Dame Health Center any Sunday or Monday, you will likely run into Ann Becker. 

It's quiet on those days, as on most others. There is Mass and visiting among friends, but also reading and walking the grounds. Time is quick. 

For Ann, and for the Sisters she visits, it has not always been so. 

Ann was taught early on by the Sisters - first through fourth grade at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart in Reading, Ohio. Then, later, it was grades nine through 12 at Mount Notre Dame High School, also in Reading and within walking distance of Ann's home. (And next door to our present Health Center.)

Times then were not so relaxed. Vietnam raged. Civil rights were front and center. Assassinations came one after the other.

In the Church, Vatican II changed the conventions of Catholic life.

"When I was a freshman [in high school], the Sisters were all in habits," says Ann. "by my senior year, some were in street clothes and living in apartments."

And everyone was in a state of motion.

Ann Becker and Director of Development Kevin Manley

Ann was accepted to the newly co-educational Xavier University and would, in a few years, take on research and leadership roles in clinical hematology at Cincinnati Children's Hospital. Meanwhile, many of the Sisters traveled across oceans and continents, advancing their mission of education and service in places far removed from the traditional American classroom.

Years passed, then decades. Ann retired in 2011. Limited by age, the Sisters returned or relocated to Mount Notre Dame. Things slowed down.

Ann, having cared for her father during his battle with dementia, wanted to volunteer on behalf of people who were elderly. Many retired Sisters, without husbands or children and some without close relatives, now wanted conversation and occasional assistance. 

“I wasn’t sure how things would go when I started,” says Ann. “I think I was a little scared of them. I was used to them as teachers when they were in authority.”

But that apprehension soon faded.

Ann saw that even as the Sisters were physically declining, they nevertheless focused their energies not only on helping one another but on helping others throughout the world. They gathered they discussed, and they took action to make things better. Though their ministries may have diminished, their sense of mission did not and has yet to.

For one another, those elderly Sisters can volunteer to care for others who are infirm. They serve as drivers, medical advocates, stewards for gatherings, and in many other roles.

And even those Sisters debilitated by age or disease find ways to help one another.

“A 95-year-old will go and sit with a 94-year-old who is dying,” says Ann. “You just don’t see that. Or they’ll wheel their chairs up to one another and hold hands and just talk. You just don’t see that in other places. They are such a community.”

Ann, on those Sundays and Mondays, for over seven years now, has been at the Health Center convent between 8:30 and 1:00, but those are the official hours. Unofficially, she is there whenever needed. She’s there on holidays, to help at funerals, and in those difficult times such as in the aftermath of Covid when she organized visits with family members. She’s there to read to Sisters who can no longer see, accompany Sisters outside who can no longer walk, and hear the stories of family members who have long since passed.

“It’s given me a new sense of purpose,” she says. “It’s wonderful to be with people who are happy to see me. They’ve become my family.”

First published in the 2023 Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur Ohio Province Annual Report.