By Vicki Schmidt, Women Before God Community, Springfield, IL
I first met Anne in 2004 at a meeting of Theresians of the United States (TUS) in Phoenix. Anne wasn’t serving in leadership but was there to help provide hospitality at the home of Kathleen Karol in Glendale. The board was holding a quarterly meeting there. I knew right away that Anne would be a great leader and I invited her to consider joining the TUS board the following year. Anne was particularly interested in the early discussions about the process we had begun to discern if TUS and TWM should merge into one Theresian organization.
Within just a few years, Anne was serving in leadership and she willingly shared her gifts in leadership. Anne impressed everyone with whom she engaged. Having been a former Notre Dame Sister and a teacher, Anne brought to the table great organizational and communication skills. She held a deep understanding of consensus decision making. I believe Anne taught Sharon Benson’s children in Phoenix and had wonderful memories of those years.
As the TUS and TWM boards moved slowly toward making a final discernment about merging into one organization, Anne was serving on the TUS board 2005-2007 and then was called to serve as President of the new organization named Theresians International (TI) in 2008. It was a stressful time and Anne’s leadership kept us on task and moving forward by firmly establishing a new board of directors to lead the ministry of Theresians. For the sake of continuity, those serving on the first TI board were asked to serve two consecutive terms so the board could continue working toward projects that were essential for the board to move forward. Anne served on the TI board until 2012.
Celebrating Our Story (COS) was a workshop which Anne helped to create in order to help members understand the amazing journey of the Theresian organization. She wanted to celebrate our story! The workshop was circulated within the USA, Ghana, and the Philippines. A new paradigm was in place after the merger of TUS and TWM. During this time, Anne lost her husband, Murph, who was the love of her life. Yet she persisted in completing the calendar of commitments we had scheduled.
In 2010, Anne and Kathy Scott from New Iberia, LA journeyed to Ghana to present the Celebrating Our Story workshop. The women in Ghana were thrilled to welcome them. They visited all nine communities in Accra and Kumasi. Kathy said this about Anne’s presentation of the workshop. “True to form, Anne presented an excellent workshop. She was spent at the end of the day...used up in service for the Lord and for Theresians. We have a treasure in her.”
In June, 2014, Anne assisted the USA NLT Spirituality Committee in writing a new resource on the Five Dimensions. Holy Newness and the Five Dimensions developed under Anne’s direction. The document they presented for publication received high praise from members and it is still an important resource for every member and community in 2023.
Anne and I surprised each other each year with a new book in the field of spirituality. We would read them together and then spend time talking about the teaching and how it could apply to Theresians. We were particularly taken by the writing of Margaret Wheatley and the work of the Institute for Communal Contemplation and Dialogue. Co-founder Sr. Nancy Sylvester, IHM spoke at the international conference in Ghana in 2012.
In the early years of the formation of TI, it was Anne who led us to reflect and discern that this body of women, Theresians, would be a “partnership of equals.” No one would stand before, no one stands behind, we all stand together. It may sound like a simple statement, but it was this theme that opened the hearts of women in international leadership to fully embrace each of our sisters in the eight countries within Theresians. Anne played a significant role in guiding TI in its earliest days, 2008-2012. She reminded us often of a quote from Julian of Norwich, “All shall be well, all manner of things shall be well.”
Anne will always be known for her generous distribution of silver bracelets that had her favorite words engraved, “Embrace the Journey.” Many Theresians will remember exactly where they were when they received her gift of love. Rita Freeman from Reflections Community in Fort Bend, TX shared with me just the other day that she was so touched when Anne sent her a bracelet after her son was killed in a tragic car accident. It meant so much to Rita; she treasures it.
Anne was a friend and mentor to her former students who still reached out to her as did Theresians around the world. I will always be grateful for her presence during my term with Theresians. We shared conversations and processed questions, all focused on the furtherance of this ministry and the support of existing communities. As I write the history of Theresians from 1999-2021, there are hundreds of outstanding women who were extremely generous with their time. Today let us recognize Anne for all she accomplished during her time with Theresians. May the seeds Anne planted continue to become fruitful.
Please join me in thanking God for the gift of Anne Murphy, a loving Theresian sister who journeyed with us faithfully and made a difference with the offering of her life to us.
A poignant thought from her letter in early January telling us she was entering hospice, “God has a plan… not always clear day to day, so I find myself repeating: “All that I am, all that I have, and all that I am to become, I offer now to You”. I do not see it as an appointment with death, but a choice I have made to find the means to live each day to the fullest.”
“All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.” (Julian of Norwich, 14th Century English Mystic)