Sister Mary Ann (Mary Leo) Fessler, OSB
March 2, 1934 - August 21, 2014
Sister Mary Ann Fessler, OSB, 80, a Benedictine sister of Mount St. Scholastica, Atchison, Kans., died Thursday, August 21, 2014, at the monastery. The vigil service will be Sunday, August 24, at 7:00 p.m. in the monastery chapel, and the Mass of Resurrection will be celebrated there Monday, August 25, at 10:30 a.m.
Sister Mary Ann Fessler was the youngest of nine children born in Wien, Mo., to Anthony and Anna Palms Fessler, on March 2, 1934. After graduating from Bucklin High School in Bucklin, Mo., in 1952, she entered the Mount community the next year. She made her monastic profession in 1954. With a BA in education from Mount St. Scholastica College, she taught in elementary schools in Missouri, Kansas, and Colorado from 1954-79. From 1980-2000, she was a teacher at St. Mary’s Regional School in Panama, Iowa. She was a founding member of Covenant Monastery in Harlan, Ia., a foundation of the Atchison Benedictines, where she was oblate director and did pastoral ministry. After returning to the Mount community in 2005, she performed varied ministries at the monastery until her illness.
Sister Mary Ann was preceded in death by her parents, Anthony and Anna (Palms) Fessler, and by her brothers Lawrence, Andrew, Clarence, Leo, Virgil and Wilfred. She is survived by her sister Genevieve McGraw and by nieces, nephews, and her monastic family. Memorials may be sent to Mount St. Scholastica or made online.
Sister Mary Ann's memorial card
You yourselves are our letter...written not with ink
but with the spirit of the living God, not on tablets
of stone but on tablets of human hearts.
2 Cor 3:2-3
Kind and patient, Sister Mary Ann Fessler bore her infirmities graciously. She was the youngest of nine children born in Wien, Mo., to Anthony and Anna Palms Fessler, on March 2, 1934. After graduating from Bucklin High School in Bucklin, Mo., in 1952, she entered the Mount community the next year. She made her monastic profession in 1954. With a BA in education from Mount St. Scholastica College, she taught in elementary schools in Missouri, Kansas, and Colorado from 1954-79. From 1980-2000, she was a teacher at St. Mary’s Regional School in Panama, Iowa. She was a founding member of Covenant Monastery in Harlan, Ia., a foundation of the Atchison Benedictines, where she was oblate director and did pastoral ministry until 2005. After returning to the Mount community, she performed varied ministries at the monastery until her illness. She enjoyed crocheting, nature, listening to music, cooking, poetry, and visiting with friends. Her delightful sense of humor endeared her to many. Let us remember her in grateful prayer.
Reflection for Sister Mary Ann Fessler’s Vigil
by Helen Mueting, OSB
First, I would like to offer my condolences to Sister Mary Ann’s sister, Genevieve, and to her nieces and nephews and their families, to her friends, and to the Mount community who will miss Mary Ann’s presence.
How fitting are the readings for tonight and the quote on Mary Ann’s card. Mary Ann was indeed God’s letter written to us on a loving human heart. What was written was proclaimed in the second reading we just heard. God’s chosen ones are clothed in compassion, kindness, humility, thankfulness, patience, and above all in love. The reading describes Mary Ann’s letter to us. She was a woman of compassion to those who were sick or who suffered. She had special compassion, especially for those who were considered the lowly ones of our world. She gave extra time to students who had difficulty learning and when she was communion minister to shut-ins, she spent extra time visiting them. Tragic events in the news saddened her, and she responded to them in prayer.
Kindness, expressed in generosity, was another of Mary Ann’s qualities. She was always willing to help when needed. She, Linda Zahner, and I spent many hours picking up branches, pulling weeds, and harvesting vegetables together. She was very selfless, giving generously of what she had. She made her second graders' first communion special by making each child a personalized decorated sugar egg. During her summers at Dooley, she enjoyed offering her help in the Echo kitchen. In the winter, she helped Sister Mary Grosdidier with the pecans.
Those who knew Mary Ann also recognized her humility. She knew her self well and accepted who she was. She thought of others first before thinking of herself. She could laugh at herself and felt free enough to be the catalyst for laughter at faculty parties and other gatherings.
Patience was another of Mary Ann’s great gifts. She patiently accepted her growing loss of memory and could even joke about it. She welcomed visitors when they came, not demanding more time but grateful for the time they gave. This patience was practiced from her childhood on and made her the loving, effective teacher she was.
Most of all, Mary Ann was a woman of love. She loved her family, especially “Pop” and “Mom,” about whom she spoke often. She loved her brothers and sister and their families, frequently sharing their pictures and telling about what was happening in their lives. She loved her many students, still fondly remembering them after her retirement. She loved community and most of all loved God and rarely missed spending time in chapel after lunch. She loved all of creation and found God in growing things and in animals, including her beloved Lucky.
Mary Ann was a woman of gratitude long before we had gratitude as our sesquicentennial theme. No matter how little or how much time people gave her, she was grateful, thanking them for coming to visit or for doing some little task for her. Hers was a grateful heart.
Mary Ann took the small mustard seeds of life and planted them. In the small things, she brought forth life. She nourished the seeds with her great love and faith, and these seeds continued to be her letter written with the spirit of the living God. A poem given to Mary Ann from one of her students expresses well her influence on others. It is entitled “I’d Like to Make a Difference.”
God has given me a place on earth
To be here for a while.
I hope that as I’m passing through
I will make somebody smile.
I want to make life easier
For all the ones I meet.
I ask God for his blessings
To the strangers on the street.
I hope I’ll never fail a child
If I can help somehow.
I want to be as generous
As my resources will allow.
And when my life on earth is done
It will be my final plea:
Let someone, somewhere think or say
“You made a difference to me.”
Mary Ann, you did make a difference in our lives.