Remembering Sr. Ann Teresa

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Sr. Ann Teresa was brought to her final resting place, accompanied by her Assumption Sisters, the Klucharich family and many friends, on June 25th.  Below are the words of remembrance given by Sr. Nuala Cotter, U.S. provincial superior, at her funeral Mass.  Danke schoen, Sr. Ann, and auf wiedersehen!

Mass of Christian Burial, Sr. Ann Teresa Klucharich, R.A. 
June 25, 2016    *    10:30 a.m.
St. Stanislaus Church, Lansdale, PA

Words of Remembrance 
I’m Sr. Nuala, the provincial superior of the Assumption Sisters in the USA, and that’s why I have the honor of sharing these “words of remembrance” with you, even though others among us – family, Sisters and friends – undoubtedly knew her longer than I.   Still, my experiences with Ann Teresa offer me some insight into who she was.  In addition, her death has brought many many notes and Facebook posts that also speak volumes about our Sister whom we’re remembering today.

I just want to start by observing that friendship is a very strong tradition in the Assumption.  Our foundress, Saint Marie Eugenie Milleret, made good friends and kept them throughout her life, which was just a little shorter than that of her daughter Ann Teresa.  For example, we know that she wrote about 4000 letters just to one person – a man, in fact!  (Well, he was a priest and her spiritual director, but still…that’s a lot of mail to send in 19th century France or anywhere else for that matter!)  In addition to Father d’Alzon, Mother Marie Eugenie kept in touch with many others, men and women, religious and laypeople, for her whole life.  

And that’s the story of our Sister Ann as well —she had a genius for friendship that has brought you all here today and that brought you often to be with her on some project she was working on, whether that was the RCIA or the annual Summer Festival here at St. Stan’s. It brought you to our house.  And then, when her world contracted still further, thanks to her physical decline and real pain, it brought you to her bedroom, first in the convent itself and then finally at St. Mary’s Manor for these last two months.  But wherever you met her, and in whatever condition you found her, you knew that she was glad, very glad, to see you and to hear what was going on in your life and in the life of your family.  

In addition to family news, however, she was also concerned with your soul, and didn’t hesitate to offer advice, to propose prayer, and to promise to pray for your needs.  When she did that, you knew that it wasn’t simply a pious way to say goodbye.  It was going to get done, and “Mother Mary” in particular was going to hear about you from the mouth and heart of someone who cared about you and who had total faith in both the Virgin and her Son. Her mystery, that little extra “word” after her name on your  program there  – Sr. Ann Teresa of Jesus and Mary – gave her a framework for her outlook on life. 

Ann Teresa’s concern for you and your family was a reflection of her concern for her own family -- the whole Klucharich tribe that populated Coplay, PA and environs.  She chose her religious name to show her love for her two sisters, Anna and Teresa.  She treasured her father’s old German Bible and prayer books and would occasionally explain something by calling on a German word to define it.  She kept tabs on all the children and grandchildren of her siblings, and they responded warmly to their “Aunt Mitzi,” visiting, sending all kinds of gifts of food and clothing, not only to her but to all the Sisters of the Lansdale community.  We say in the province that Lansdale’s clothing budget is almost zero thanks to Ann Teresa’s family!  

Ann was also a consummate professional, whether in pastoral affairs here at St. Stan’s for so many years, or as a nurse, which was her first calling   She was deeply proud to call herself a Registered Nurse, a graduate of the Sacred Heart Hospital of Allentown’s School of Nursing.  And we Sisters benefited from her knowledge and expertise; if we had a health problem, Ann T. would know what to do.  

Going through her papers, I found a letter that had been sent to the Mother General of our congregation back in May of 1980.  It’s from a staff nurse anesthetist at a hospital in Greensboro, NC, where we had a community for a short time.  Ann was working in the operating room with this nurse, who says:  “I have been in this position for 17 years.  To have a NUN in a religious habit giving care to patients is quite a miracle for this missionary area of North Carolina.  This hospital has been traditionally non-Catholic and the administration predominantly Baptist.  So you may understand what an impact she has had, just being on the scene.  The quality of nursing care given by those young girls under her direction has been improved greatly.” 

Improving greatly – a very Ann Teresa kind of goal.  Get things right.  Get them better.  Throw yourself into the fray and get others to join you.  And all the time, pray hard!

I don’t want to end without quoting from another note that was sent to our RA-USA Facebook page the other day.  The writer begins by saying, “It is with a heavy heart I write to you.   I raised my boys in Lansdale and we struggled.  My husband’s job was on and off.  I married at 18 and had my sons right away.   Sister Ann and all the sisters were so kind to us.   Our boys worked as 12-18 year olds at the parish and in the summer worked cutting the grass.  They would give them a glass of cold tea.  We loved all the sisters.  When our son was making his Holy Communion Sister Ann found him a used suit to wear.  I don't tell many how we struggled; I was embarrassed, but Sister Ann made sure we had food.   I will miss her dearly!  I don't mean to ramble just want you to know that Sister Ann was the kindest, caring and loving Sister.” 

I want to thank that letter writer on behalf of all of us Sisters.  It’s always a joy to hear about one of our own who came through in ways that Jesus would recognize and rejoice in. 

And with those wise and loving words as our background, I can end my own “words of remembrance” with one last little point for all of us to think about and to smile over:  Ann is at last back home with her “Mother Mary” and Mary’s Son Jesus.  She is with her parents, with her brothers and sisters.   But she is also back with the other two members of the famous Trinity of St. Stan’s:  Sister Bene and Sister Clem.   Talk about a trio! What rejoicing must have been heard in heaven on Monday night when Ann knocked on the door!  

Danke schoen, liebe Schwester Ann, und Auf wiedersehen, -- Thank you, dear Sister Ann, and farewell.  Until we see each other again.  

Please join us right after the Mass for a very light lunch at our house before we go down to Calvary Cemetery in West Conshohocken – we know that many of you won’t be able to come with us there, but we didn’t want to miss the chance to spend a little time with you in a place that so many of you know so well thanks to Ann Teresa.  Thank you.