"There is a place inside us where each and every one of us is being touched and held unconditionally in love by God" (Ronald Rolheiser).
Sr. Annette Margaret entered the Congregation at the age of 22 on August 13th, 1978 in Boston, USA, pronouncing her first vows on June 28, 1981. Following her juniorate, with the exception of 3 years in Miami, Sr. Annette spent most of her professed life in the community of Boston, first as manager of pre-press and graphic design, then as director of publishing, followed by director of publishing and finally as director of the apostolate until she was diagnosed with metastic cancer in 2005.
Something that always stood out in Sr. Annette Margaret was her deep love for her Pauline vocation and her total dedication to the mission. It didn’t seem to matter where she was or what she was assigned to do, be it direct evangelization, impagination, design, marketing, the Spanish Distribution Center or even helping out with mini media projects – everything was done with so much passion and love! Her vision was set on the needs of the people, what would do more good and what would appeal to the receivers. Sr. Annette loved the mission and never withheld her time, energy, creativity or organizational talents. She was a great team player and knew how to engage those she worked with. She valued the gifts of those around her and offered encouragement and ideas.
Sister was a “forward thinker”, someone who was always looking to the future. She was willing to accept the challenges and the risks that change entailed in order to find the best way to reach the people of today. Part of the “risk” meant putting out the ideas and the proposals and being willing to be an agent of change and development. She was willing to try something different and face the mistakes, the set backs, the misunderstanding, and even the suffering that often accompanied change.
She was also a networker in the truest sense of the word. In her years in the Marketing Department she served as a member of the Catholic Press Association – to name one of many associations. She used these positions to connect with other Catholic publishers.
Sr. Annette was blessed with a decisive and cheerful character; she was an even-tempered person who could laugh easily at herself. In the midst of intense apostolic projects and the coordination of the publishing house she knew how to balance both prayer life and apostolic initiatives. Both were important to her and both were well integrated.
She was passionate about the apostolate and able to impassion others; she was responsible, generous, sociable with everyone and had a wonderful sense of humor – even in these last years of painful illness.
Sr Annette’s diagnosis of cancer came when she was in her late 40’s in the midst of a very active apostolic time of her life. She did not lament what was taken or lost, instead she repeatedly said that her journey over the past 6 plus years was one of growth in the appreciation of how every aspect of her life as a Daughter of Saint Paul is valuable.
During the first two years after her diagnosis, Sr Annette underwent aggressive cancer treatments. However, it became clear early on that she would never be cancer free, thus the goal became one of minimizing the spread of the disease while providing the best quality of life. As is so often the case with treatments, the side effects were severe, yet Sr. Annette approached them with real courage and equanimity in the midst of the suffering. Sisters and caregivers often commented on how she continually showed them graciousness and a real appreciation for the help given her.
Even as the disease progressed, she still continued contributing to apostolic work in whatever way she could. As hospital stays became more frequent she began to acknowledge even more the blessings of life, recognizing even the smallest gifts that God provided and would comment on how she understood more deeply the significance of the saying to “keep the small things small” and to focus on what is most important and essential in life.
A couple of months ago Sr. Annette began to pray even more intensely about what the Lord was asking of her. The treatments were taking more of a toll, the hospital stays were more frequent and nothing seemed to stop the progression of the cancer. When she finally decided to stop treatments she had a great sense of peace and felt this would allow her to be more aware as she prepared to meet the Lord. She wasn’t afraid to die, and as time drew closer, she was actually looking forward to the imminent encounter with her spouse.
In her final days when she could not leave her room, she stated: “you know, one of the best hours for me to talk to God is in the heart of the night. Everything is so quiet and still and we can have some great conversations.”
Sr. Annette had a great artistic eye. One of her favorite pictures, which hung on her wall, was that of Renoir’s painting entitled The Promenade. It is a picture of a young bride being led by the hand by her lover up a lighted path. “That’s what’s going to happen when I close my eyes to this life. Jesus will meet me and lead me into His home.” Now Jesus has come to take Sr. Annette Margaret up the light path of His love, leading her with infinite tenderness home.