September 6, 1935 – May 23, 2022
“To God be the glory, To the Church be the Service. To all be the Love.” ~ Sister Ann Porter’s greatest wish
Ann Therese Porter was born September 6, 1935, in Manistee, Michigan. In danger of death, she was baptized at birth by a Sister of Mercy, then later with a more official ceremony by the parish priest. The early danger passed, and she had a healthy, happy childhood with her brothers Jim and John. Her parents, John and Lillian (Ferguson) Porter provided a peaceful Catholic home where faith and unselfishness were the warp and woof of their family life. Ann learned to play the organ at age 13 and, thereafter, played and sang the daily High Mass, developing a life-long devotion to the Eucharistic Celebration.
After graduating from Custer public school as valedictorian, she enrolled at Aquinas College where she received a full scholarship. There she was inspired by both the Sister faculty and postulants. After two years at the college she entered Marywood, returning for classes wearing the uniform of a postulant. In 1956 she became Sister Ann Elizabeth of the Holy Spirit.
Sister Ann spent sixteen years as a high school teacher. She served at Muskegon Catholic Central; St. Joseph, Bay City; St. John, Essexville; and Bishop Borgess, Redford. Through summer study she received her M.A. in Religious Education from Aquinas College, and a Theology degree from Manhattanville College, New York. Although she enjoyed teaching, she found it was not an entirely good fit for her.
So it was that in 1974 Sister Ann turned from the classroom to pastoral work. At St. Bernadette Parish, Dearborn, she served as Director of Religious Education pre-school through adult, and she directed Christian service of every kind, including liturgy and music, purchasing and cooking. She also served on the diocesan, vicariate, parochial and civic committees. Besides this very full schedule of parish responsibilities, she was elected to serve as our Grand Rapids Dominican Community representative for the Archdiocesan Council of Religious in Detroit. She loved all of it, and especially came to appreciate the Palestinian-Lebanese people who lived in the neighborhood. Here she learned first-hand the struggle of immigrants as well as the prayerfulness of the Arab people. Most importantly, she found immense joy, freedom, and happiness in pastoral ministry.
Feeling an even deeper call to serve those who were poor, she responded to the opportunity to work for nine months in Acatenango, Guatemala. Here she witnessed the suffering and strength of the Cachiquel Indians, a persecuted people whose prospect of martyrdom made them live their faith deeply. In Guatemala, she found in her own words: “a new Church is being born, its body that of the poor, its spirit that of Christ.”
Returning to the States she went to St. Joseph’s Parish in Beal City for two years as Director of Religious Education and then to St. Mary Parish in Big Rapids as Pastoral Associate and Director of Religious Education. Her desire to minister among Native Americans was never far from her heart and this was fulfilled with eight years at Sawmill, Arizona among the pines of the Navajo Nation Forest. She shared the ministry with a lay woman, Kelly Kielce, with whom she had worked for four years in Michigan. Sister Ann found this partnership to be energizing and essential as together they experienced the challenges of pastoral work each day.
Thanks to the years of a Franciscan presence in the area, the people of the village of Sawmill accepted them with open hearts. She wrote, “It is true – God walks in beauty in the Southwest.” Her missionary spirit is expressed in her own words penned at the time of her 25th Jubilee. “My great joy . . . has been in discovering the goodness of people: Americans, Arabs, Guatemalans; the unity of humankind, and the love of Christ which encompasses all.” Now she would add Navajo Indians to her list. Working at Sawmill was a particular blessing for Sister Ann. She reflected the following about this place: “God walks in beauty. . . The star-studded night sky, the extravagant sunrises tell of the glory of God.” Here she found a home, and shared faith in God’s marvelous deeds and delightful creation with the Navajo people. She joined the Navajo community in bringing cattle from summer to winter pastures, made music at Mass with organ, xylophone and/or tambourine as the situation required, and celebrated festivals of the Navajo and her familiar Christian traditions with equal fervor. Enthused about using the Navajo language in liturgy, Sister Ann tried her best to study the language, but found it a challenging task indeed.
Sister Ann returned to Michigan to serve for six years at St. Mary in Manistee while caring for her aging parents. She served as Pastoral Associate and Director of Religious Education at the parish and offered RCIA to prisoners at the Oaks Correctional Facility in Manistee.
Our Lady of Grace and St. Thomas in Muskegon was her next ministry where she continued to serve as Director of Religious Education and Faith Formation until 2012. From that year until her final days, Sister Ann lived at the family home in Kaleva, Michigan and served in both family ministry, caring for her brother, Father John Porter, as well as ministering to Grand Rapids Dominican Associates, the Manistee, Frankfort Catholic Communities, and prisoners in the local penitentiary. She was especially enthused about her work with the Associates in Muskegon. “I have been blessed by the dynamism and commitment of Associates. Thank God for this flowering of our Dominican presence,” she said as she reflected on her recent years.
Her hobbies and interests included people, politics, advocacy, RCIA, writing, gardening, cooking, scripture, theology, and travel. She loved the symphony and would go whenever possible. On a pilgrimage with her brother, Father John, they visited Lourdes, the Holy Land, Egypt, the Footsteps of St. Paul, and other places too numerous to mention. She felt privileged to take part in the last trip of the Lands of Dominic sponsored by the Parable Conference. She loved to garden and cook and was ever eager to share her talents with her many friends.
Her classmates remember her as a generous, bright light and gifted poet, a lover of philosophy, theology, and the arts, yet at the same time, humble and down to earth. She always searched for, and invariably found, the goodness in every person she met. We will miss her.
Sr. Ann is survived by many cousins, friends and members of her Dominican Community.
Entered eternal life on May 23, 2022 at the age of 86 after 66 years of religious life.
We commend Sister Ann to your prayers.
Pray for people who are hurting, especially refugees and immigrants
Sister Ann Porter with the Dominican Associates in the Frankfort, Michigan area.
Sister Ann found immense joy, freedom, and happiness in pastoral ministry.
At St. Bernadette Parish, Dearborn, Sister Ann served as Director of Religious Education pre-school through adult, and she directed Christian service of every kind, including liturgy and music, purchasing and cooking.
Sister Ann (seated center) during her 60th Jubilee celebration.
“God’s Mercy gave me a Dominican family to grow up in, with the community emboldened by prayer and action to strive for justice and peace.” ~ Sister Ann
Sister Ann Porter shared her thoughts during the Sisters’ annual Dominican Days gathering.