Sister Dorothy Anne Jackson

Sister Dorothy Anne Jackson“My experience of reflecting on my 70 years as a School Sister has been a gift to me. At this time in my life, I’m certain that the charism of the School Sisters of St. Francis is what attracted me and still sustains me. I celebrate a lifetime of discovering and moving with the Spirit.”

Sister Dorothy Anne was born in Milwaukee in 1936, the oldest of five children. As a second grader, she attended St. Matthew’s School, on 25th and Scott Street, passing St. Joseph Convent Motherhouse daily on the streetcar. Why did she travel five miles each way from her home to school? Her convert father was a good friend of the parish priest.

When the priest was transferred to St. Rita’s parish in 1945, Dorothy Anne transferred to St. Rita’s School, where she met the School Sisters of St. Francis. Their sense of community and her experience with them attracted her to join them. So, upon graduation in 1950, she asked her mother if she could go. “Not yet,” her mother said. So, while two of her classmates entered St. Joseph Convent, Dorothy Anne registered at Pius High School.

A year later, she again focused on her call. Despite the fact that her mother’s sister was a Dominican sister from Racine, Dorothy Anne’s love was for the School Sisters. On September 1, 1951, Dorothy Anne entered the Aspirancy at St. Joseph Convent, joining her two classmates, one becoming her “Guardian Angel.” Two years later, these three St. Rita’s girls were received. Dorothy Anne became Sister Gordon, her father’s name.

Entering Alverno in autumn 1954, she graduated in 1966 with a BA degree in biology and education and math minor.  The 12 summer sessions offered Dorothy Anne a unique college experience. Every summer she loved exploring new understandings of theology, especially the contributions of Father Parr and Father Roets. Little did she realize then that by 1975, she would earn a second degree - a BS in nursing.

Many of us know Dorothy Ann more as a nurse than a teacher. Yet she spent her first ten years in St. Nazianz, Wisconsin, teaching elementary school, followed by two years at St. Lawrence School as eighth grade teacher and principal. At that time, the role of principal and local coordinator was emerging as separate roles, yet she was successful in growing a completely new faculty into a teaching community while orchestrating sisters’ lives together as they moved into a new convent.

Her 12-year teaching career took a different thrust in 1967, when Wisconsin’s Provincial, Sister Colman, asked her to consider the request for a local coordinator position at Maryhill Convent, a loan request of the Health Care Agencies Provincial.  Dorothy Anne accepted, unaware that for the next 54 years, health care would become her calling.

Recognizing the need of sisters in the nursing field for continuous renewal following Vatican II, she created an enrichment program with interested Health Agency members. Her influence was both noticed and appreciated, enabling her decision to join the Health Agency Unit. Shortly after that she was elected counselor serving with Thea Stessman and Provincial Dolores Gencuski.

With her love for biology and seeing the needs of the elderly, she requested permission to pursue a nursing degree that she attained in December 1975. While studying, she spent summers at Clement Manor and Marian Catholic Home, experiencing the vital work of certified nursing assistants. Upon graduation, she continued at Marian Catholic Home as staff nurse while occasionally being asked to serve as the weekend supervisor until 1979.

That same year, she was invited by the Salvatorian Provincial to serve as the nurse manager at Salvatorian Heights. This request was of great interest to her because it gave her an opportunity to create her dream of home care for sisters, often a topic on the Interprovincial Retirement Board. She accepted and was blessed serving ten years among them…while sharing life as local Maryhill coordinator.

In 1989, Dorothy Anne took a much-needed sabbatical, created to meeting her own needs, including a three-month renewal program at Spring Bank, South Carolina. 

Upon returning in 1990, she served five years as evening staff nurse at St. Mary’s Hill Hospital. Since that time, she has been available for basic foot care and as a health advocate for the U.S. Province.

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