Mary Ann Mankowski was born on April 10, 1942, in Milwaukee to Leonard Mankowski and Margaret Sheerhan. Her brothers include her twin, Michael, of Ottawa, Canada; the late Joseph; the late James; John, of Mequon, Wisconsin; and Thomas, of Waukesha, Wisconsin.
Mary is a twin who had to be in an incubator for a month since she was only 4 lbs. at birth. She went to St. Lawrence Grade School (Class of 1956). She then attended Mercy High School down the street from here, and was proud to be a bugler in the drum and bugle corps that played taps for the VFW and the American Legion funerals and memorial services. She remembered the resounding echo of the horns still hurting her ears.
She also loved playing sports and claimed that with five brothers, she had better be good. She was an exceptional athlete in high school, earning major letters in basketball and softball. It was noted humorously at a family function that in a family that included five boys, she was the only member to have won and worn a “letter sweater” in school!
After Mercy High, she attended Alverno College and was involved in the Civil Rights movement as an active participant. She worked at various jobs, including a time at Allen-Bradley, where she earned enough money to buy herself a totally cool, fire-engine red 1965 Mustang, the envy of the whole neighborhood.
Mary entered the School Sisters of St. Francis in 1971. She ministered as a teacher, principal, and was administrator at St Joseph Convent in Campbellsport. That ministry as administrator was her favorite. She shared that she enjoyed many ministry positions, yet Campbellsport with the older sisters was her very favorite.
She was also the Ministry Director for our Wisconsin Province. During her time as Ministry Director, she served as a mentor for one newly appointed director for another area of the province who states that she “was inspired by Mary Ann’s compassion, concern, and caring for those she served.” Mary Ann also served as a human “Garmin” when anyone needed navigational directions in or out of the city.
After she retired, she started the Women On Wheels (W.O.W.) driver program for sisters needing rides to medical appointments. She found sisters who would volunteer to drive and accompany other sisters as needed to their doctors’ visits and tests.
Mary celebrated her 50th Jubilee in 2021. Many sisters shared their memories of Mary at that time. Here are a few of the comments:
“While serving in her many and varied positions, the sisters she served remember Mary Ann for her kindness, interest in them, loyalty, sense of humor, generosity, graciousness, and flexibility with her time. Nothing ever seemed too much or too hard for her to undertake.”
“Mary Ann was the giver of life who acted on good judgment and concern for others and did not take credit for the praise of her generosity. She never took credit for the many mountains she helped move and situations that needed a resolution. One example of this would be when she took on the role of a negotiator for one of our sisters who encountered an unjust practice with her working diocese. Mary Ann met with the diocesan board and was successful in working out a just agreement for both parties. The sister involved said that when Mary Ann returned to the car where she was waiting, she came with a twinkle in her eye, rubbed her hands together and said, ‘Mother Alexia would be proud of us!’”
Mary loved photography and watercolor, day trips on Wisconsin rustic roads, and vacations up north at a cabin on the lake with three of her sister friends.
Mary would want you all to know that she hopes you can tell that “I’m just an everyday, normal, left-handed person (Only left-handed people are in their right mind.) And that “I am someone who is grateful for my family and to be a School Sister of St. Francis whose mission, values, and charism I cherish. It has been a wonderful gift to be a part of my Irish family and to be a School Sister.” Her Irish wit will live on in us —her family, friends, and Franciscan community.
Mary Ann lived a full life and did it her way, dying so quickly on July 12. I would like to close with a blessing from John O’Donohoe. Mary Ann, may you continue to inspire us:
To enter each day with a generous heart
to serve the call of courage and love
Until we see your beautiful face again
in that land where there is no more separation,
where all tears will be wiped from our mind,
and where we will never lose you again.
Mary, we thank you for being you, and we know that God’s Light shines within you forever.