Written by Maria Vincent Brocato, SCN
(The remarks of this interviewer are in italics. Visiting with Sister Anne was an experience of being in the comfortable, joyful presence of a faithful SCN. SCNs were in her family’s history even before Anne was born. Her grandfather Williams grew up in St. Thomas Orphanage; her mother attended Bethlehem Academy, all her siblings attended Bethlehem at some time in their lives.)
Sr. Anne Magruder has many names to remember — Anna Louise at birth and baptism, Sr. Mary William when entering the SCN novitiate, Anne Louise when getting Social Security and other official documents, but she is now simply and beautifully called Sr. Anne. She was born in Bardstown, Kentucky on June 22,1930 to Guy Sr. and Catherine Williams Magruder. Anne would grow up with ten siblings, a loving litany of names to keep in mind and heart: Juanita, Guy Jr. Dorothy, Rose Marie, Anne, Mary Julia, Ruth, Mary Catherine, Carolyn, Helen, Edwin. “All of us were born at home under the watchful care of Dr. Lee Crume,”Anne smilingly shares.
Theirs was a solidly Catholic family who did all things together. Meals, chores, play, attendance at Church were experienced with each other. A special remembrance is all the family going to the Bardstown courthouse at Christmas time to enjoy Santa Claus. A sorrow connected with this latter enjoyment, however, is the death of little Mary Julia who caught diphtheria which was raging in the vicinity near the holiday time.
Guy, Sr. and Catherine’s families had settled in the Bardstown/Bloomfield areas; Guy and Catherine were the oldest in their respective families, Both had lost a parent and needed to leave school in order to help with younger children. They would later pass that high sense of responsibility on to their own children. They courted in horse and buggy, and when they were married, Guy and Catherine boarded a train at Nazareth to take them to Louisville for a honeymoon. (Could they have imagined that someday two of their daughters would answer a call to be Sisters of Charity and call Nazareth home!).
Guy did not receive the Magruder family farm as his father had promised. His stepmother decided to pass it on to one of her sons. Guy and Catherine started over on Boston Road in Bardstown to build a farm and a family. Anne had special memories to share of their growing up years on the farm. Although they had a Model A Ford, they walked to school except for bad weather. On Sundays they would climb into the Model A Ford and go off to Louisville to see little “Rosie” (Rose Marie). She had been born with a dislocated hip and had to undergo surgery at Kosair Children Hospital.
And chores? The boys helped the father outside on the farm; the girls were responsible for helping to care for their younger siblings and for the weekly house cleaning. In their teen years the girls were taught to sew, a skill that would be beneficial in Anne ‘s years in the convent. She remembers, “It was very usual at this time for the farmers to exchange needed services. Harvesting the wheat crop was done with the help of nearby farm neighbors. The same was true when it was time to butcher hogs for the winter. Many tasks were shared and bartered.”
Anne’s generous parents also took in Hattie Thurman, a young girl whose family had lost their mother. Hattie became another sister and assisted Mother Magruder with household chores, cooking and daily childcare. Anne remarks with gratitude,” Hattie was such a blessing for the family. Because of her untiring assistance, we were able to honor our parents’ wishes to stay at home until God called them to Heaven.””
Even though Guy, Jr. and Dorothy had attended a one room school-house for only a short time, all the Magruder children went to grade school at Bethlehem Academy. For high school the girls continued at Bethlehem: the oldest brother attended St. Joseph Prep School there in Bardstown. The teachers whom Anne remembers at Bethlehem is an impressive list: Sisters Lawrencetta Veeneman, Mary Rosine Callahan, Joseph Mary McDonough ,Rose Henrietta Schneidman, Devota Flynn, Mary Clement Wurth (later Sister Rita Wurth), Mary Teresa Ryan, Mary Otto Burkhart, Louis Frances Head, Hugh Francis Blunt (later Sister Mary Blunt), Marietta Grimes, Margaret Rose Griesbaum, Mary de Niri Cahill, and Generose Bryan. Years before Sister Generose had also taught Anne’s mother at Bethlehem Academy. Because she was included in an accelerated school program, Anne entered high school in the same class as Rose Marie.
In 1945 the family moved to a farm in Jeffersontown, Kentucky where they would reside until their father retired and bought a home in town. The girls then attended St. Edward School in Jeffersontown and Mercy Academy in Louisville. Later, Edwin, the youngest son, would attend Trinity High School in St. Matthews.
Next to each in birth order Anne and Rosie became almost inseparable in their teen years. Rosie was involved in sports and all activities despite the physical problems she had as a small child. Anne also enjoyed her high school years and, when they graduated, both had made the decision to answer the call to religious life in the Community of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth. Anne attributes her vocation to the influence of Sr. Hugh Francis Blunt and Fr. James Willett, pastor of St. Joseph Cathedral. He faithfully came to Bethlehem Academy one day a week to teach the senior class religion. Sometime he would ask to see the girls individually and ask what their plans might be for the future. It was through his homily at their Graduation Mass that Anne came to the realization that she could not be happy in life if she didn’t do what God was calling her to do.
At their graduation party with the family, Anne broke the news to the family in this way. When she opened a gift and saw a beautiful crystal rosary that she wanted she said to them all,” You’ll just have to take this back and get me a black one because I’m going to the convent and that’s not all. Rosie is going, too.” Their mother’s loving embrace was all the affirmation Anne and Rosie needed.
Anne and Rosie entered the Nazareth Novitiate in September, 1947. When they left home their young brother Edwin was only a year and a half old. They made first vows in March, 1950. When Anne received the habit she had been given the name, Sister Mary William after her mother and father; Rosie was happy to receive the name Sister Mary Julian, in honor of an Uncle Julian who was dear to the Magruder family. Anne was sent to Annunciation Academy in Pine Bluff, Arkansas for three months to be a teacher assistant in several grades. Thereafter, her missions — educational, pastoral, other — would either be in Kentucky or Ohio. (Over and over, as Anne recalled her various missions ,this interviewer heard these words of openness and dedication, “I loved that mission.”)
The brief experience of teaching at Pine Bluff Anne recalls with a smile. “I had to carry a paper around to be sure I was in the right place. Just nineteen, I was challenged to teach various classes and have the music for the third grade. Two Sisters I remember are the lively Sister Lucy Prud’Homme and the excellent primary teacher Stephen Maria Hayden.”
Her next thin letters of change sent Anne to two Louisville Catholic schools– first, St. Cecilia(7th grade) and St. Thomas More(4th grade.). She remained at St. Thomas More for nine years. Being one of the younger members and having many responsibilities, Anne knew that she needed a change in order not to burn out.
She was very happy to be sent to St. John’s School in Bellaire, Ohio. There were thirty-four SCNs teaching in both grade and high school. The, wonderful, open-hearted families were of different ethnic origins — Polish, Italian, Slovakian. Hardworking parents were employed in the glass factory, in the mines and steel mills. The students at St. John’s reflected similar characteristics in their studies of hard work and earnestness.
Another thin letter in 1960 brought Anne back to Louisville to be superior and principal at St. Frances of Rome School. This mission would last three years, and present the challenge of teaching the eighth grade and being a first time principal. During these same years Anne completed her Bachelor of Science in Education from Spalding College in Louisville.
Anne’s next mission call was to Holy Name School, also in Louisville(1967-1971), Here she became the superior and a fulltime principal. Anne recalls, “A blessing I had there at Holy Name was a very supportive pastor, Fr. Henry Stuecker. We had seventeen Sisters, six of whom resided there while taking nursing classes at Spalding College and two Sisters taught at St. Patrick School. At Holy Name we had several lay teachers, which we now know would become the pattern of the future.” It was in 1971 that Anne received her Master’s in Education from Spalding College.
Back to the future — that‘s what happened as Anne was again missioned to St. Thomas More School where she had taught twenty years before. At the same time Anne had begun to take classes in religious education. She remained at St. Thomas More for five years but began to think of other avenues of mission’ It was becoming clear that certification for principalship was going to be required in addition to any degree one held. Anne also observed the new ministry of three SCNs (Nardine Aquadro, Dorothy Thomas, Patricia Clark) who lived at the St. Thomas More Convent and served two parishes ,“Tom More” and Saints Simon and Jude. These SCNs were well accepted by the parishioners and involved themselves in religious education, youth ministry and other aspects of pastoral ministry .
Anne ‘s next happy mission was in rural Meade County/Rhodelia where she developed a religious education program. This was a small farm community where everyone knew one another, where Sunday Mass gave opportunity for social gathering. Anne’s “I loved it,” was very strong here; however, she worked herself out of a job by training lay teachers who could take her place in the religious education program.
The Louisville Parish of St. Elizabeth Seton was her next mission which had a focus on social work as well as religious education. Anne had no background in social work so she knew she was not suited for this ministry. For five years (1982-1987) she did direct a religious education program and led an RCIA program for St. Lawrence Parish, also in Louisville. In 1984 Anne completed her work for a Master’s degree in Pastoral Studies from Loyola University in Chicago.
Anne now lived in a community who had not come together because of one shared ministry but because of a desire to share life and faith. There were usually four of them in this community: Sisters Mary Terence Coyne, Margaret Regina Murphy ,Luke Boiarski and Anne, with other Sisters for shorter stays.
Anne was stirred by the words of Sister Gwen McMahon who had challenged the SCN Community with these words,” If every one of us SCNs would take a turn serving our retired Sisters, that would be a great benefit to our Community.” In 1987 Anne took these words to heart and applied for the position of Director of Volunteers at Nazareth Home in Louisville. Anne received a special blessing in accepting this new position.
Her dear sister Rosie had been experiencing the hip problems she had from birth. Rosie had surgeries again and the doctors gave her what they considered proper treatment, including needed transfusions. The great grief for the Magruder family and the SCN Family was that some of the blood Rosie received from a hospital in another city was contaminated with the HIV/AIDS virus.
(Early in 1986 SCN leadership had made a special request to the Kentucky Cabinet of Human Resources to set aside two beds at Nazareth Home where AIDS patients could receive care. The request was granted in July of that year. SCN leaders had asked for a waiver from a Kentucky State regulation which did not allow persons with communicable diseases to be admitted to a nursing home. The State Instead changed the regulation and it was signed by Governor Martha Layne Collins. Both Community leadership and the leadership of Nazareth Home were courageous and untiring in giving education to all concerned as well as giving attention to the training of those who would be serving residents living with the AIDS virus. This ruling from the State of Kentucky, was a first and the SCN Congregation can be proud of this pioneering effort. The SCN Archival Center holds wonderful information about this heroic chapter in SCN history.)
Rosie could now be admitted as a resident to Nazareth Home in order to receive the medical care she needed. Although it was hard to witness her suffering, Anne was grateful to be able to visit with Rosie each day. As Providence would have it, not Anne, but her sisters Ruth and Kitty were with Rosie when she left for Heaven in October, 1988. Anne was brokenhearted not to have been with Rosie. When Anne first saw her mother after Rosie’s death, her mother greeted her with great faith and gentle kindness, “It was not intended for you to be there.” Anne now realizes and says with gratitude,” I know Rosie’s pain and suffering have brought healing and comfort to others.”
(The beautiful life of Rose Marie Magruder is a story waiting to be told. From her birth in 1928 until her death in 1988 she lived her name – rising from pain and handicap to full life as a very fine primary teacher and a brave religious woman facing an illness which bore a stigma. Her brief, final letter to the SCN Community is a testament to her deep faith and courage. Also the suffering of Rosie’s mother, Catherine — Guy was already deceased — needs to be noted. This was the loss of a second child, a grief no parent can describe.)
By 1990 the house on Wampum where the Sisters lived was going to be razed because of the Louisville airport expansion. Anne and Luke moved from Louisville to Ohio, “ the Valley” where Anne had spent happy years in Bellaire. Sister Luke needed to move closer to her home in the Valley in order to be near her aging mother. Eventually Anna Boiarski, Luke’s dear mother, lived with Anne and Luke because of her failing health. They cared for Anna with loving patience and tenderness until her death in 2007. At separate times Sisters Rita DeMatte and Rose Johnson lived in community with Anne and Luke.
Anne and Luke had taken up residence in Tiltonsville, Ohio, but there was no pastoral ministry position available there for Anne so she sought ministry which gave her a series of experiences in adult education. These were government or private programs that served those who needed basic education, such as a GED. The unusual and different aspect of this ministry was, that in at least two situations, Anne gave adult education classes at the person’s worksite. “I taught adult classes to carpenters on site in Richfield, Ohio and also at a Barium Company. This was a rewarding experience of being able to empower persons who needed a second chance, those living in poverty or need.” This ministry was sometime dependent on whether there were funds from grants so Anne’s ministry future could not always be certain.
From 2000 until 2008 Anne volunteered at their parish, St. Joseph, by visiting the homebound. She also assisted Luke in carrying out Luke’s challenging ministry as SCN Director of Vocations. In 2008 Anne was invited by the Office of Congregational Advancement to accept the position of Mission Appeal Coordinator. This ministry calls for contact with pastors throughout the United State to arrange for Sisters and Associates to give presentations to Church congregations regarding the mission of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, Anne could not say enough about the enjoyment and satisfaction that has come from answering this call from OCA.” I have never worked with a more committed and supportive group of people. We are blessed to have a leader who enables us to give our gifts for the sake of the SCN mission.”
(As we completed our visit together Sister Anne said to this interviewer, “I think the driving force of my life has been that I knew I would never be happy unless I did what God wanted me to do.” Anne’s joyful spirit testifies that she has made every effort to do this.)