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Then and Now

Ann (Marie Nora) Nett, IHM

I was born on Nov. 24, 1940, the first child of my mother, Clara and her second husband, Gordon Nett (the nephew of her first husband.) My mother’s first husband was August Nett, with whom she had five sons, three of whom served in WWII. When August died, their youngest son was only six months old. Unfortunately, her second marriage ended in divorce in the late 1940s due to my father’s alcoholism. I attended St. Catherine Catholic School on Detroit’s east side for 12 years. Until we moved, we lived only one block from my school. I hoped to enter the convent after graduation, but my mother opposed the idea. My brother closest to me in age had been helping to support the family and it was my turn. I began working as a cashier at the A&P Supermarket (the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company). I was there for four years. The idea of joining the IHMs stayed with me and my mother finally agreed I could join the order in September 1962.

I did my student teaching in a first-grade classroom at St. Thomas Grade School in Ann Arbor, Michigan. My first mission was a third-grade class at Holy Name School in Birmingham, Michigan. I was there for two years. In 1970, I taught third and eighth grades at La Merced in Cayey, Puerto Rico. After a year there, I went to Brazil. Initially, I was involved in an evangelization program headed by Dom Helder Camera and a team of sisters, priests and lay people. Our group consisted of six IHMs and two diocesan priests. Three of us lived and worked in the Nova Descoberta parish and the other three in a neighboring area. Each week, groups would gather to use the Catholic Action Method of “see, judge and act.” These were the early years of liberation theology.

In 1976 with my mother suffering from cancer, I returned to Michigan to be with her. She died in 1979 and I returned to Brazil that year. Eventually, I moved to a rural area, Cabo de Santo Agostinho and was very involved in the work of Doctor Celerino Cariconde and medicinal plants. We produced many plants in various areas and made them available to multiple communities, who used them for teas, salves and medication. I began taking some young people from rural areas by pickup truck to work with children in the sugar cane fields. They became wonderful teachers of children; what they could do was amazing. It was wonderful living in Charneca, a large community of hillside people. There were groups organized within the community: youth groups, women’s groups, worker’s groups and others.

In 2005, I returned to Detroit and worked in the area. I began an herbal garden, named Hilde-Garden, on the campus of Marygrove College. Many products from the garden were used to produce medications, teas and salves. In September 2021, I moved to the Motherhouse, where I participate in many activities. It is wonderful living with so many incredible women religious here on campus.

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