Sister Ann Zager, OSB

April 23, 1915 - February 24, 2016

Sister Ann ZagerSister Ann Zager, OSB, 100, a Benedictine sister of Mount St. Scholastica, Atchison, Kan., died Wednesday, February 24, 2016, at the monastery. The vigil service will be at 7 p.m. Monday, February 29, in the monastery chapel, and the Mass of Resurrection will be celebrated there at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, March 1.

Sister Ann was born in Kansas City, Kan., to Blaz and Gertrude Stimec Zager on April 23, 1915. After graduating from Mount St. Scholastica Academy, she entered the Benedictine community in 1939, and made her monastic profession in 1941. For 32 years she taught in parish schools in Kansas, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, and Colorado. In 1974, she began working in the library and the English as a Second Language program at Donnelly College in Kansas City. Later, she assisted with services to the aging in Kansas City, Kan., and tutored in the GED program at Donnelly College. She observed her 70th anniversary of monastic profession in 2011.

Sister Ann was preceded in death by her parents, her brothers Joseph, Anthony, Peter, Frank, Louis, John and Fred Zager and her sister Mary Skovich. She is survived by her sister Frances McMahon of Kansas City, Kan., and by nieces, nephews, and her monastic family. Arensberg-Pruett Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements. Memorials may be sent to Mount St. Scholastica or made online at the Mount's web site.

Reflection for the Vigil for Sister Ann Zager, OSB

February 29, 2016

By Sister Mary Collins, OSB

Readings: Isaiah 59:6-9, Romans 11:33-36, John 14:33-36

On behalf of the Sisters of Mount St. Scholastica, I extend our condolences to Sister Ann’s sister Frances, to her niece Karen and nephew Terry, to her longtime friend Cathy Schulte, to her extended family, to her classmate Sister Brendan and her novitiate-mate Sister Paula, and to her many former pupils, some of whom are also members of Mount St. Scholastica today.

Who was Ann?  She was a middle child among Blaz and Gertrude (Stimec) Zager’s ten children.  Her parents were members of the Yugoslavian immigrant community that lived on Strawberry Hill and who founded Holy Family parish so they could pray in their native language.  Her 2nd generation immigrant experience shaped much of who she was.  Whether teaching in elementary schools in her early decades or in later decades at Donnelly College, she was remembered by many as a teacher with high expectations who drew out of her pupils gifts they did not know they had.  When she taught English as a Second Language to new generations of immigrants, she had a personal memory of the difficult transition to becoming American while honoring the homeland of her parents.

I lived with Sister Ann in Antonito, Colorado, during the 1960-61 school year, the year John Kennedy was elected and installed as the first Catholic president of the United States.  I got to know “the essential Ann” during that year, and stayed connected these 56 years since. Among others who knew her well there is a common response to the question “who is she?”  “Forthright and direct” they said. With Ann “you knew where you stood?” one of you told me.  But the same women who valued directness valued her softer side, too – calling her “generous,” “welcoming,” “mischievous,” “funny,” and “fun to be with.”  

And she was always prayerful.  In the few notes she had left in her folder, she had noted the verse from Isaiah, chapter 59: 6-9: “Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer.”  How direct is that as summary of prayer?  So also the continuation of the verse, “you shall cry for help, and [GOD] will say “Here I am.”  God who created and sustained her surely loved Ann”s directness.

We also heard tonight the verse from Romans, chapter 11: 33-36:  “O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!”  O the depth, indeed.  “How unsearchable his judgments, how unscrutable his ways! “  This sister whom we cherished as “forthright” some called “gruff,” even “harsh,  wondering quietly “Did God know what he was doing?”  Yet St. Paul invites us to reflect on God’s gift to us: “who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his councilor?” 

The "essential Ann" has indeed been a gift to us. How did she show her love for us?  There is another note among her papers. Once again she is direct, “ I pray for them and show concern for their welfare.”  But there were concrete ways she showed us too.  Who has not seen her pedaling backwards in her wheelchair to the Dooley desk, leaving money for the driver to pick up a few pears for her to share with someone who had helped her? 

At Paula’s suggestion I asked Ann’s classmate Sister Brendan her memory of Sister Ann.  She told me she had just one thing to say.  When they were getting acquainted in the novitiate back in 1940, Ann told her how she had come on the first day of the entrance period “to get a good start,” while Brendan acknowledged “I came on the last day, to have as many days at home as possible.”  Two holy and prayerful women, two personalities, one common search for the living God.

Now Ann is gone, trusting in Jesus’s words to her and to each of us.  “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places.”  If I go, “I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, you also may be.” ( John 14:33-36)  May Ann be enjoying now the fruit of her long years of prayer and her loving ministry to those put in her care.