Sisters Ann and Mary Joyce Kernen, August 2013

I, Sister Ann Kernen, was born on October 18, 1931 to Pauline Dorothy Taylor and Ernest L. Kernen. I was the youngest of five children. My siblings were: Jean, Ernie, Leonard and Joyce. Ernie was killed in World War II at age nineteen, and our siblings, Jean and Leonard have died. Joyce entered the SCN Community in 1948, and I entered Nazareth a year later. Joyce and I are only fifteen months apart in age and have always been close. We were blessed with good parents who accepted our entrance into religious life. I believe it was hard for my father to understand our vocations as he was not a Catholic. Later he converted to Catholicism and understood better Joyce’s and my choice of religious life. Our father died in 1969 and our mother in 1973.

Sister Ann’s mother and father, Ernest and Pauline

My first mission was immediately after making first vows in 1952. I was sent to Somerset, Kentucky, in a rural part of the state. I stayed for ten years teaching piano, organ and singing. I also taught kindergarten, first, second and third grades (all in one room.) From there, I was sent to St. Ladislas in Columbus, Ohio. While there, I taught fifth and eighth grades, in addition to teaching singing and conducting a choir.

My next mission was in Louisville at St. Lawrence where I was assigned junior high classes and in addition, I was superior of the convent of eleven sisters. After three years at St. Lawrence I was sent to Spalding College to complete my first degree and then to Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan.

In 1977, I was granted a year of prayer by the Community and was also appointed Motherhouse Coordinator with Sister Emiliana Cryan. We seemed to make a great team and shared many a laugh together. One unforgettable incident from this time was a smoke-filled Motherhouse caused by a circuit breaker in the church basement. I rang the church bell to alert everyone since it was the middle of the night. Everyone was directed to the auditorium where we stayed for six or seven hours. It was a scary situation!

Barbara Thomas, SCN, Superior General, asked if I would be Formation Director and later Novice Director. So, in 1972 to prepare for these daunting tasks, I went to Aquinas Institute in Dubuque, Iowa. As part of the program, I spent the summer doing CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education) in the California Hospital Medical Center at Los Angeles. I loved the experience and the amenities that went with it.

Good Shepherd Church in Frankfort, Kentucky during the 1937 flood.

Additional Missions:

1979-1980 Mokama, India
1980-1981 Kathmandu, Nepal
1982-1984 St. Joseph Hospital, Lexington, Kentucky
1984-1988 San Ignacio (Cayo District) Belize, Central America
1988-1990 Marymount Hospital, London, Kentucky- Chaplain and Vice President for Mission
1995-1998 Appalachian Outreach Program from St. Joseph Hospital, Lexington, Kentucky
1999-2002 Associate Southern Regional with Sr. Marlene Lehmkuhl, as Southern Regional
2003-2013 Chaplain and Volunteer at Flaget Hospital

So many things have happened in my life and I am grateful to God for all of them. Religious life has meant so much to me. There are many things for which I pray. Climate change is one of them. I found this on a little card:

“Let us be gentle with everything on the earth. Let us count as friends the land and sky, the waters, and all the creatures that live.”

I enjoy writing poetry and had one published at age fifteen. (Toot your own horn if you can.)

Oh, and another thing, I do find it hard to throw away all the little pieces of paper on which I write meaningful quotes. But I know I must clean out my stuff.

Poignant memories:

When I was in Somerset, Kentucky, I learned of a five-year-old kindergarten girl from a nearby rural area who was quite talented in finding melodies on the piano. I offered to include the child in piano lessons, free of charge. When recital time came Sister Mary Bennet Cecil made a beautiful, frilly, pink dress for the little musician to wear. I learned a great deal about service to the poor from Sister Mary Bennet.

When I was helping to give a retreat in Belize many years ago, we were showing a film about Jesus Christ and just as it finished a five-year-old grandchild of one of the women ran up to me and grabbed my leg. With deep emotion, she said, “He is mine! Jesus is all mine! ” I have thought of that so often, and it expresses my own feelings about how much I love Jesus and how much Jesus loves me. Indeed, out of the mouths of babes…

While in India, I met a distraught woman with a very sick baby in her arms when I was visiting the Hospital in Mokama. I stopped, smiled at the mother, and placed my hand on the infant’s forehead. This so touched the mother that she knelt and kissed my feet—a gesture that I will never forget.

Many memories come from the directed retreats and spiritual direction that I gave in the USA, India, Nepal and Belize.

Sister Ann with Belizean children in the Cayo District, 1988

Currently (2018), I live in Carrico Hall at Nazareth and am in the ministry of prayer with other retired SCNs. It is truly a time of changes—a time of giving and a time of receiving. So often I think of the hymn: “Take, Lord, receive all I have and all I am.” And then on the other end of the spectrum, I receive so much from our employees: the nurses who give me many things in the way of assistance, understanding, medicine and their cheerfulness; the housekeeping staff who keep things spotless; dietary who feed and nourish with ever so much patience; maintenance workers…goodness, I cannot begin to name all the helpful departments. But at the end of the litany, I say: “Thank God for giving them all to me.”

Sisters celebrate the 100th anniversary of SCNs receiving Papal Approbation in September 2010.
L-R: Sister Maria Vincent Brocato as Mother Catherine Spalding, Sister Ann Kernen as Marie Menard, Sister Charlene Jacobs as Dula Hogan, Sister Sarah Ferriell as Mother Eutropia McMahon, Sister Theresa Knabel as Mary Stephen Durbin, and Sister Carol Rogers as Mary Ignatius Fox.

Interviewed by Sister Elaine McCarron

If you would like to read more about Sister Ann, click here for an interview by Sister Patricia Worley in 2006.

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