2013 Jubilarian – Ann (Marie Nora) Nett
Sister Ann Nett was inspired by the commitment to education of the IHMs who taught at St. Catherine in Detroit. She wanted to join the community right after high school but stayed home to help her family financially. She worked at the A&P grocery store for four years before entering the community.
Her first mission was teaching third grade at Holy Name in Birmingham, Mich., followed by teaching at St. Regis in Bloomfield Hills and assisting with religious education at St. Ives in Southfield.
Then she went to Puerto Rico for a year, teaching third grade and then junior high. She took Spanish lessons with Sister Helen Smith to help her teach.
Puerto Rico was followed by five years in Brazil, working with the poor as part of the New Discovery Parish, a project of the Archdiocese of Detroit. Sister Ann helped organize people in neighborhoods to work toward bettering their circumstances and worked with a Catholic action program called See, Judge, and Act, part of a larger evangelization project begun by Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Olinda/Recife.
“Whenever we met with certain groups or communities we would start out asking ‘what have you seen in terms of the social and political things that have happened in your life? And then judge it by the light of the Gospel and try to act on it to bring about change.’”
The groups in Brazil worked relentlessly, and Sister Ann was inspired by even the smallest changes. To alleviate some of the stress of such intense work, she enjoyed going to the beach. She also enjoyed celebrating with the Brazilians. She says, “The Brazilians, no matter how poor they were, knew how to party and celebrate. I enjoyed joining in…Oh Carnival in the streets…”
In 1976, Sister Ann returned to Michigan for more than two years to care for her ailing mother. She returned to Brazil in 1979 after her mother’s death and worked with various groups and people. Among them were a Brazilian doctor and his wife who worked with medicinal plants. They taught her to produce simple remedies such as cough syrups, tinctures and salves. She was able to help start a health center in a rural area, producing medications for use by the local government in their health posts in poor areas. (Currently, she is working to start a medicinal herb garden at Marygrove College.)
Accompanying people on their personal journeys has always been a priority, and Sister Ann continues that now as part of Monroe County Guardian and Compassionate Companions.
As she reflects on her time in the IHM community, she says, “I think my greatest joy was going overseas. Being present to the poor. Lots of times we would see ourselves going and preaching, doing things, but we received so much more than we gave. The IHMs and Detroit priests with whom I worked and reflected were very important.”