Some of the first qualities one experiences in meeting Sister Mary Ann Schmidt are her kindness, gentleness and her love for others.
She is an urban person, born and raised in Milwaukee with her mother, Bernice, her father, William, and her two sisters, Catherine and Margaret Mary. Mary Ann, the oldest of the three children, describes her parents as “good folks” whose life revolved around Holy Redeemer Parish. All three girls went to Holy Redeemer Grade School, where the School Sisters of St. Francis served and influenced Mary Ann to join our community.
The girls’ mom stayed at home to care for her daughters and, later, for their grandparents. Her father worked on a train mail car for six-day stretches at a time sorting and delivering mail from Illinois to Michigan. When he came home, everyone was delighted. He had a voice like Bing Crosby and often sang the girls to sleep. Mary Ann’s folks, and all three girls, had a gift for singing. Their parents had them take piano lessons and this laid the foundation for Mary Ann to serve as a musician for liturgies, school music teaching, and giving lessons. After entering the community, she learned to play the violin and the organ.
Mary Ann related that Cathy was the most talented in music and art of the three girls and how beautifully she could sing “Jerusalem.” Cathy was Sister Marthene, Class of 1956, in the School Sisters of St. Francis for a time. After she left the community, she met Raymond Leannah, a widower with 11 children. They married and had four more children. It was a sad thing for the family when Cathy died in 2004 from a knee replacement complication.
Margaret was a Sister of Misericordia for a while and she left that community. Margaret received a degree in nursing and continued her parish music work. She took care of their mother until she died at 95 years of age in 2007. It is interesting that Margaret and their mother adopted five children. When all three of her girls were in the convent, their mother had thought she would never be a grandma – never say never!
Mary Ann worked as a musician in Lemont, Skokie, and Summit, Illinois as well as Waterford, Wisconsin. When an ad came out that Alverno College was looking for a music librarian, she and another woman, Lola Stoller, applied. Both were hired and enjoyed working with each other for many years. Mary Ann received a bachelor’s degree in Library Science from the University of Wisconsin. For 40 years, Mary Ann did a variety of works in the library, including converting the card catalog into a computerized system. She retired in 2012.
Today, Mary Ann enjoys crossword puzzles, good music, and word-finds. For many years, she has had great interest in the vastness of the universe and the exploration of it. It is easy to understand how she enjoyed watching the Star Trek series on television (“Not Star Wars!”) She also loves the changing liturgical seasons. She was aware of these as a child because her mother would decorate their home accordingly.
Sister Mary Ann is a prayerful woman who relishes each day in her ministry of prayer and presence. She enjoys being helpful in the company of others by rolling-up the silverware for the meals in the San Damiano Cafe.
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