In Loving Memory of Sister Anne Marie Knawa
Birth date: June 22, 1929
Entered into Religious Life: January 27, 1952
Born Into Eternal Life: October 12, 2022
“With all my heart I seek you, do not let me stray from your commandments. In my heart I treasure your promises.” (Psalm 119 10, 11)
Sister Anne Marie Knawa
Jean Knawa was born in Chicago, Illinois, on June 22, 1929, and was baptized a couple of weeks later on July 21, at Five Holy Martyrs Church. She was the daughter of John and Mary Knawa, both of whom were immigrants from Poland. Jean, the youngest of seven, had five sisters and one brother.
Jean attended Five Holy Martyrs School and St. Joseph High School. After graduation, Jean was an usher at a Chicago theater for several years. It wasn’t until 1951 when Jean first visited the Franciscan Sisters of Chicago to ask for an application to enter the community. During that visit she was interviewed by Sister M. Gonzaga, the community’s historian. At the end of the interview, Jean was given a copy of the first history book, The Rys, to take home to read. When she arrived home, Jean gave the little history book to her mother saying “This is what I am going to do.” It was Jean’s way of telling her mother of her decision to enter the convent.
On January 22, 1952, Jean joined the Franciscan Sisters of Chicago. She became a postulant on February 2, 1952, and later that year on August 12, she entered the novitiate and received the name of Sister Anne Marie. Two years later, Sister made her First Profession of Vows on August 12, 1954, and her Final Profession on August 12, 1959.
As a postulant, Jean went to teach the fourth grade at SS Philip and James in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1952. As a second year novice, she taught the sixth grade at St. Stanislaus Bishop & Martyr in Chicago, Illinois. This led to a 21 year teaching career at St. Leo The Great in Cleveland, Ohio, SS. Philip and James in Cleveland, Ohio, St. Louis de Marillac in La Grange Park, Illinois, and finally at Madonna High School in Chicago, Illinois. During these years, 1952 to 1964, Sister taught grades 5 through 8. Sister taught English, Religion, and Novels and Cinema at Madonna High School, 1964 – 1972. Though Sister was no longer teaching at Madonna High School, she continued to live at the Madonna Convent until 1988. During this time, she was local secretary for a year and local treasurer for five years and was commissioned to write a comprehensive history of the community.
Sister Anne Marie obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Humanities cum laude and a Master’s Degree in English from Loyola University in Chicago, Illinois. Sister also participated in postgraduate studies at the University of Notre Dame, in South Bend, Indiana, Rosary College, in River Forest, Illinois, Fordham University, in New York City, New York and Bracenose College of Oxford, England. She has been published in numerous publications including a book of essays on Polish American studies, the St. Anthony Messenger magazine and the Chicago Catholic. Sister also wrote eight articles for the Archdiocese of Chicago on its history. Sister considered herself a movie buff and she loved mystery and murder stories as well as classical literature and she enjoyed musical theater.
One of Sister Anne Marie’s greatest accomplishments was to write the history of the Franciscan Sisters of Chicago. She started her work with one blank sheet of paper and ended up with 18 boxes of notes. She chewed bubble gum to help get her through the anxiety and stress she experienced as she outlined her text, conducted research, documented dates and talked with countless people in an effort to capture the community’s history. It took ten years to complete the book titled, As God Shall Ordain, which was published in 1989. Sister Anne Marie said of her book, “My book will not be a mere compilation of dates, facts, and names in mere chronology. Rather, I shall attempt to write a factual story of magnanimous persons whose hopes, joys, and failures will be an inspiration to all who read the book.” Sister always gave credit to Sister Mary Jude Kruszewski, who edited the book and provided encouragement along the way. She also stated that “I would like people to know that the Sisters are just ordinary people who have an extraordinary love of God.”
While Sister Anne Marie was stationed at the motherhouse for two years from 1988 to 1990 she was the community historian and caregiver to her friend, Sister Mary Jude. In 1990, Sister was transferred to St. Anthony Convent in Crown Point, Indiana. During the 11 years that she was in Crown Point, Sister had a variety of responsibilities. In 1990, she was the local secretary and assistant local minister for a year while she revised the Constitutions of the Congregation. Sister was a member of the Board of Directors at St. Anthony Medical Center, a Catechist for CCD classes at St. Matthias Church and a Member of Gary Sisters’ Council in 1992-1993. She was part of the Public Relations for the Gary Diocese Chancery Office and the Franciscan Sisters of Chicago Chapter Planning Committee in 1993 and a Board Member at St. Jude House, Crown Point, Indiana in 1996. Also during these years she was the caregiver to Sister Mary Jude.
In 2001, Sister moved to Our Lady of Victory Convent in Lemont, Illinois. She planned and executed the completion of Heritage Hall and was responsible for several updates years later. In 2003 and 2006, Sister planned an exhibit for the Archdiocese of Chicago at Navy Pier and Rosemont Center. For six years (2006 – 2012) Sister was a Catechist at St. Alphonsus Church in Lemont, Illinois, teaching grade 5. Finally in 2013, Sister Anne Marie retired from all these activities and responsibilities to spend more time in prayer and caring for her health.
In the 70th year of religious life and at the age of 93, Sister Anne Marie peacefully entered into eternal life at 11:00 p.m. on Wednesday, October 12, 2022, to be with Jesus whom she loved and served with all her heart.