Sister Anna McAnany, MM

Born: July 10, 1908
Entered: October 28, 1930
Died: July 31, 2000

“Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God.” Today, we gather to celebrate the life of Sister Anna McAnany who exemplified this beatitude throughout her long life dedicated to peace and justice. In the Preface to her book “Teaching Peace” which contains the Peace Education Program she developed, Sister Anna writes: “We cannot say ‘Peace is just a dream, an ideal that can never be reached. We have always had wars and will always have them.’ This time we must give peace a chance or settle for annihilation.” Sister Anna McAnany has left a legacy of peace for all of us. As her life was peaceful so was her entrance into eternal life, at the age of 92.

Anna McAnany was born on July 10, 1908 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the second of five children, and only daughter, to Bridget and James McAnany. Anna graduated from John Hallahan Catholic Girls High School and worked in the Philadelphia Public Library as a Children’s Librarian before entering Maryknoll at the age of nineteen. During her seventy-two years as a Maryknoll Sister, Sister Anna shared the transforming love of Christ with people all around the world even in the midst of situations of war, poverty, injustice, and the tragic destruction of the atomic bomb. Throughout her entire life, she searched out ways to extend peace and justice education to more and more people, especially youth. The quilted cover which was placed on Anna’s casket is just one expression of the gratitude and enthusiasm with which her message was received. Her students in Hawaii have woven and written their individual notes of love and affection to Sister Anna on this quilt which they gave her years ago.

At Reception, Anna received the religious name of Sister Francis Regis and after making her First Profession of Vows at Maryknoll on October 28, 1930 she was assigned to Hawaii where she made her Final Profession of Vows three years later. Hawaii was home for Anna for the next 65 years.

Sister Anna’s first 40 years in Hawaii were spent in primary education. During the years following Pearl Harbor, she became involved in the religious education of non-Christian children and adults. The plight of the Filipino, Japanese and Portuguese sugar plantation workers weighed heavily on Sister Anna’s heart during her early years in Hawaii and she became an advocate for them. She taught their children in school and did her best to get them places and scholarships in secondary schools with high standards. Throughout these years, Sister also took summer school courses until she had enough credits to obtain a Bachelor of Education Degree from Mary Rogers College, Maryknoll, New York. She then pursued her studies at St. Mary’s College, Notre Dame, where she received a Master of Arts Degree in Theology and Catechetics in 1966.

At Notre Dame, Sister Anna studied the Old Testament with a focus on the “Prophets.” Her research on the prophets had a great influence on her. She remembered the words one of her professors addressed to her: “Sister Anna, when you go back to Hawaii, remember the prophets and speak out for truth and justice no matter how difficult it may be.” Upon returning to Hawaii, she wrote: “I was more conscious of the fact that our Church seemed to be looking inward, building up its own image, caring for the faith of its members more than for the needs of the oppressed.” She moved to the Leeward Coast and began to teach theology, forming adult study groups. This was the Vietnam War era and along with other religious leaders from a number of Christian denominations she began to speak out against the war. These religious leaders came together because of their desire to create peace and advocated non-violence protests both against the war and against the injustice and violence endured by farm workers in the area.

In 1984, Sister Anna was sent as a delegate to Japan to take part in a Nuclear Freeze Global Conference. This journey was perhaps the most transformative experience during her years of Peace and Justice Education. It was in Japan that she witnessed first hand the reality of Hiroshima, Nagasaki and the nightmare of nuclear war as she listened to the Japanese women survivors and, with them, viewed the film taken after the bombing of Nagasaki by the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey Committee. Unbeknownst to the public, this film had been held for many years at the National Archives in Washington, DC. Japanese citizens organized a campaign to purchase the footage from the U.S. and to produce films based on it. “The Lost Generation” was the first film so produced and Sister Anna, who was profoundly moved by it, took a copy of it back to Hawaii to use in her Education classes.

Because of her work and interest in the Filipino farm workers in Hawaii, in 1985, Sister Anna was selected to go with a solidarity group to the Philippines to learn more about the extreme poverty, the growing malnutrition among children and the ravages of government takeover of land. The group’s purpose was to be in solidarity with the Filipino people as they worked towards the effective, peaceful reclaiming of their land and future. Asked by the Filipino people she met to continue to work in solidarity with them, Sister Anna promised to do so and in her response quoted from the prophet Amos 9:13-1 5: “Once more I will plant them on their own soil and they shall never again be uprooted from the soil that I have given them.”

In 1996, Sister Anna was one of the 25 recipients of the NETWORK Women of Justice award. NETWORK, a National Catholic Social Justice Lobby, sponsored by Congregations of Women Religious recognized her long record of peace education and advocacy. The award was presented to her at NETWORK’s 25th Anniversary Celebration in Washington, D.C.

Sister Anna’s quiet and soft spoken manner will always be remembered. Her gentleness transformed everyone she encountered. She was broad-minded and loved good conversations. She kept abreast of Congregational and World News. She made many friends around the world and continued to keep in touch with them throughout the years. Anna is also known and remembered by those who lived with her in Hawaii for her love of the vastness of the ocean and her daily swim!

This morning, we extend our deepest sympathy to Sister Anna’s relatives and friends and welcome our Maryknoll brother, Father James Noonan, who will preside at this Eucharistic Liturgy of Christian Burial as we join together in thanking God for the life of our Sister Anna McAnany.