St Paul reminds us that those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. Saying that someone is a “Child of God” may seem trite because it is said so often, yet it is the most profound, intimate expression there is. Sister Agnes Ann knew and lived and responded to that relationship.
Agnes Ann, the daughter of Joseph and Anna Svec was born into this world on December 31, 1924. She was one of four children. Two of her siblings, now deceased, include Father Denis of St. Procopius Abbey, and her brother Frank (married to Elaine and parents of six children). Sister Barbara Ann last living member is the third of three of the four who became a Benedictine.
Sister Agnes Ann’s introduction into the Benedictine world began at St. Vitus where she was baptized by Father Hilary Jurica, OSB a weekend priest from St. Procopius Abbey. It would be Father Hilary who spent many Saturdays taking a group of children to the Field Museum, the Adler Planetarium and even to parks and zoos. Sister Agnes Ann talked fondly of those kinds of trips and of Father Hilary as well.
After grade school at St. Vitus the family moved to Traverse City, Michigan where she fell in love with nature and gardening, growing vegetables and flowers of all kinds. Her family did return to Chicago to seek medical treatment for her sister, Sister Barbara Ann. During her visits to the hospital where her sister was receiving care, Agnes Ann solidified her desire to pursue nursing.
Agnes Ann had a passion for learning. She completed nursing school at St. Anthony’s Hospital in Chicago and then worked as a surgical nurse at St. Anthony’s and earned a Bachelor’s of Science degree at DePaul University.
What brought a surgical nurse, who loved her work and the staff at St. Anthony’s to Sacred Heart Monastery in Lisle? Her answer was simply, Sister Immaculate asked me to consider religious life.
The truth was Agnes Ann had always been open to listening and responding to being a child of God and this was yet another way for her to deepen that relationship and doing God’s will. She allowed herself to be mentored by both God and Sister Immaculate as they became best of friends. She understood that what St. Paul wrote is true
Later she would get a Master’s in Guidance and Counseling at Loyola University. She was the first sister who earned a degree at Illinois Benedictine College in their Institute for Management Program.
In 1998 she graduated from the Lisle Police Department citizens Police Academy – a ten week course designed to give citizens a better understanding of how the Police Department operates Agnes Ann loved learning and using her many skills for the good of the people she served through traveling. In her lifetime she was able to partake in a three week “Third world conscience raising experience in Cuernavaca, Mexico.”
She and Sister Immaculate accepted the invitation of Father Albin to go to Taiwan, where for six weeks they taught English to children in various age groups.
A good friend and stain glass window designer and maker, Marie Tatina, gifted Sister Agnes Ann with a pilgrimage to Rome, Lourdes and Fatima.
As a Child of God, Agnes Ann was always open to the will of God and always open to adventure. Her life of prayer and work was well-balanced.
In addition to her nursing career, she was a teacher at many schools including Sacred Heart Academy, a Guidance Counselor at Benet Academy for 18 years and in 1985 became the first Administrator of the then Queen of Peace Center, now Villa St. Benedict.
During the summer and in-between her ministry one could find Sister Agnes Ann heavily engaged in the annual Great American Yard Sale, taking care of and filling our gift shop with useful items, growing a flower garden outside our kitchen window, learning the art of stained glass window making with one of our former sisters and friend, Marie Tatina.
Throughout her life Agnes Ann was a model for being present for prayer, not only community prayer but personal prayer. She was faithful to the exercise programs available around the Monastery, namely chair yoga, Sister Carolyn’s times together and upon occasion one could find her sitting on the bench outside our monastery absorbing some sun.
She found it difficult to be admitted to a nursing home but she and we understood that the care she received was more than what we could do for her. She never complained and always asked “what is happening at Sacred Heart? Her theology and spirituality included the words of St. Paul where he writes:
It was Good Friday, 2016, after becoming somewhat weak and incapacitated that Agnes Ann fell, broke her arm and ultimately ended up at St; Patrick’s nursing home where she was visited at least two times a week by her sisters and often on Sunday her niece Mary and family would stop by and visit her after Mass and take her to her room. Renata was there often as well.
Sister mostly suffered from memory loss but at times was more present than others. A good time for conversation was when Barb and I went to see her in July after we had come back from Minnesota where we not only visited her nephew and nieces but also the grave site of her brother and sister-in-law’s family. Showing Agnes Ann the pictures was a thrilling moment because she connected. On August 30, 2018 she was diagnosed with a brain bleed, from there she was put on hospice. Before going to the hospital that Sunday, she was not able to get a clear word out of her mouth, however, when undergoing blood draws and tests she and I would clearly recite the Hail Mary. She loved Mary and praying the rosary.
On September 12 after having had Sister Christine at her bedside most of the day, nine of us went to St. Patrick’s and prayed the prayers for the dying and the next morning during our morning prayers she died. We pray that this child of God is now experiencing her God face to face.
Sister Agnes Ann would have celebrated her 65th jubilee of monastic profession along with her Sister, Sister Barbara Ann celebrating her 60th on October 5th of this year-now she celebrates in heaven. We offer our condolences to Sister Barbara Ann and her family who suffer this loss. However, as Christians, we know that life is changed not taken away and that those we hold dear never leave us. They live on in the kindness they showed, the comfort they shared and the love they brought into our lives. Thank you, Sister Agnes Ann, for your example and presence in our lives.
Enjoy eternity with God your Creator and all who are there!
Who knew in the early months of 1925 when Benedictine Father Hilary Jurica baptized little Agnes Ann, that God would call her to become a Benedictine? God knew because this was her destiny.
In the words of the Book of Wisdom, the souls of righteous people are in the hands of God for they are at peace. God finds them worthy because during their lifetime they find truth in their lives. They live lives of grace and mercy because they God gives them a glimpse of eternity. This is the life of Sister Agnes Ann.
I remain fascinated with Sister Agnes Ann’s biography that speaks of God working through people who lead her further and further into eternity. Her sister, Sister Barbara Ann, needs medical treatment when younger, and, Agnes Ann pursues nursing, and, not just nursing, but surgical nursing. Her close friend, Sister Immaculate invites her to monastic life and she becomes a Benedictine sister. In the words of our Lod and Savior, Jesus Christ, those who see the Son, not only see the Father, but they begin to possess eternal life. For Sister Agnes Ann, eternal life is not only caring for people, but it is also learning about them. Learning eternal life leads her to a science degree at DePaul and to a guidance and counseling degree at Loyola. Sister Agnes Ann even ventures into a course at the Lisle Police Academy to understand how our first responders operate in our society. In the words of St. Paul, we people of faith know that the world around us is transitory. But since we people of faith are involved with the project of eternal life, when we enter into the transitory we introduce people to the Lord. According to Fr. Gabriel, pastor of St. Joan of Arc, Lisle, this was evident one year when he participated as novice in Benet’s Christmas Drive. He was assigned to drive and deliver packages with Sister Agnes Ann and Sister Immaculate since they worked at Benet and volunteered to drive. Not only did she drive “like a bat outta hell,” but, when she knocked on the door of someone who lived at Four Lakes, Sister Agnes Ann wanted to hug the female resident. The resident resisted the hug and remarked with a deep, deep voice, “Oh Sister, don’t hug me…I’ve got a bad cold and you might give me other germs.” As they dropped off boxes of food, the woman complained box after box. Knowing eternity, Sister Agnes Ann smiled.
Thank God Father Hilary Jurica, O.S.B., was available to baptize little Agnes Ann Svec sometime in early 1925. She taught us much about faith in God, Benedictine Life and about those deeds that belong to eternity. May she rest from all her labors as God restores the memory she lost on earth.
Eternal rest grant unto her O Lord and let perpetual light shine upon her. May she rest in peace. Amen. May all the souls of the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace. Amen.
As she reflects back on her fifty-two years as a Benedictine, Sister Agnes Ann Svec recalls a path to profession that included five distinct life chapters. First, she credits her Catholic upbringing. She was born in Chicago and grew up in St. Vitus parish where Benedictines taught her. Her family moved to Traverse City Michigan after eighth grade and her high school years formed Sister Agnes Ann’s second life chapter. During this period, and having grown up a ‘city girl’, she enjoyed the exposure to nature.
Chapter Three: the family returned to Chicago to seek medical treatment for Sister Agnes Ann’s young sister. During her visits to the hospital where her sister was receiving care, Agnes Ann solidified her desire to pursue nursing. The next life chapter found her in training at St. Anthony Hospital School of Nursing, an institution run by the Franciscan Sisters. Here, she discovered her passion for surgical nursing. The administrator of the nursing school offered Agnes Ann a glorious opportunity: she would take the State Boards, attend DePaul University and be offered a job in the surgical unit at St. Anthony’s.
Sister Agnes Ann’s final chapter involved her introduction to the Benedictine Sisters. While working at the hospital she came to meet two Sisters who inquired if Agnes Ann’s brother, Denis, was at the Benedictine Abbey in Lisle. When she replied that, yes, that was her brother, Agnes Ann was encouraged to visit Sacred Heart Monastery. With some hospitable follow-up by the Benedictines, Agnes Ann came to Lisle and ultimately found herself teaching Anatomy, Physiology and Biology at Sacred Heart Academy. Within a year’s time, Agnes Ann had entered Sacred Heart Convent. Several years later, when talking to her friends the Franciscans, one asked Sister Agnes Ann why she had entered the Benedictine community rather than the Franciscans with whom she’d worked for so many years. Her answer was simple: “You never asked me”.
Sister Agnes Ann’s ministry has taken on a variety of forms over her years in the Benedictine community. First, she taught the Academy, then she held the position of Guidance Director at Benet Academy until she became Administrator at Queen of Peace, the Benedictine Sisters’ assisted living community. Sister Agnes Ann also spent a year teaching in Texas. Sister Agnes Ann reflects back on her years as a Benedictine with great pride and affection. She has had the opportunity to travel extensively and use her medical training on behalf of her community. She especially enjoyed the opportunity to learn the art of stained glass when Sister Marie Anne returned to the monastery with her glass studio. Sister Agnes Ann eagerly trained to do leading, soldering, cementing, glazing and the final detail work on some beautiful stained glass windows that were designed and built at the monastery and installed in churches around the country and even overseas. These days Sister Agnes Ann is indispensable in the work she does at the monastery. She is responsible for procuring and handling all of the medication that is needed by the community and she handles all the medical bills and Medicare paperwork.
“Sister Agnes Ann was taught by the Benedictines at St. Vitas School.”
“She lost track of the Benedictines when the family moved to Traverse City, Michigan. When the family returned to Chicago in order to provide better medical care for her sister, Sister Barbara Ann, she became interested in nursing and later graduated from St. Anthony Hospital School of Nursing and later from DePaul University.”
“One day, she met Sister Immaculate who invited her to spend time with the Benedictine Sisters in Lisle. Gradually she took steps to become a Benedictine Sister.”
“We all know Sister Agnes Ann for her public speaking and reading with perfect diction.”
“We depend on her at the Liturgy of the Hours as a leader in prayer.”
“She loves flowers and for many years had a spot on campus growing a variety of colorful flowers.”
“She finds humor in the ordinary happenings in life; her sense of humor is refreshing.”
“She was a Guidance Counselor for eighteen years at Benet Academy and then became Administrator of Queen of Peace Retirement Center.”
“She helped in the St. Walburga Care Center for several years ordering medicines, advocating good nutrition and providing diagnostic services.”
“She is now spending her years living the monastic life in a more quiet way, seeking God, listening to God’s voice and keeping up with the daily horarium.”