March 7, 2023 at 6:25 p.m.

SISTER OF HOPE

SISTER OF HOPE
SISTER OF HOPE

By EMILY BENSON- | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

Sister Ann Elizabeth Norton, CR, always knew she wanted to be a teacher.

In her hometown of Spencer­ville, Ontario, Canada, Sister Ann often played school at home, usually with her younger brother as her pupil of choice.

“I came out of the cradle saying I wanted to be a teacher,” Sister Ann told The Evangelist.

After years of teaching in the classroom, it seemed fitting then that Sister Ann, 54, who never considered religious life until her 30s, would go on to join the Sisters of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Through many things, the Catholic sisters in our local communities have an organic way of teaching. Through their education, they teach wisdom. Through their charism, they teach joy and love. But most of all, through their strong faith, they teach a love for the Lord.

This Catholic Sisters Week, March 8-14, helps to shine a spotlight on the spirituality, mission and community building done by women religious. Sister Ann, whose work has stretched from Castleton to New Jersey, hopes that the work she does — and that all sisters do — helps to spread love and brings hope to a world that needs it.

BORN TO TEACH
Growing up, Sister Ann was the only daughter of four. Her family was -— and still is — very close. The Nortons are a big “cards and board games family,” and they keep in touch with their Scottish roots through bagpiping, which her oldest brother, Allen, still plays.

Every summer her family would rent a cottage for a couple weeks to BBQ, fish and swim. The tradition continues to this day: While her father has since passed away, her mother, brothers, sister-in-laws, and all seven of Sister Ann’s nieces and nephews still go every summer.

Sister Ann attended St. Laurence O’Toole Catholic Church and Catholic elementary school, but she never had exposure to nuns in habit. All of her teachers were lay, and after attending public high school, she knew that she wanted to teach in a Catholic school.

“One thing we always talked about was educating the whole child,” she said, “and I never could understand how you could educate the whole child without (educating) their spiritual side.”

Sister Ann holds a bachelor’s in English and education from Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, and a master’s of science in education with a concentration in Catholic school leadership from St. Joseph’s College in Maine, which she completed while preparing for final vows.

After leaving her undergrad, Sister Ann went on to teach Catholic school for 12 years in Durham, an area east of Toronto. It wasn’t until a fellow teacher invited her to a Catholic women’s breakfast that she even considered a religious vocation.

“As I pulled into the parking lot of the venue a sister in a habit and veil got out of the car right beside me, and something inside me went, ‘Click!’ ” she said. “I was 30 already, and I just say something went ‘click’ because I don’t have any other way to describe it.”

One day, while praying over what to do, Sister Ann felt God calling her, saying: “I want your life, and I want all of it.” In the following weeks, she came across the Sisters of the Resurrection in a profile on the back of Columbia magazine, a publication run by the Knights of Columbus.

Through time, Sister Ann found herself visiting the Motherhouse in Castleton-on-the-Hudson in 2008. “When I saw the convent on the left, and I pulled my car into the drive, I immediately had a great sense that I was home, and I never lost that,” she said.

SISTER OF THE RESURRECTION

Sister Ann made her first vows in 2011 and professed final vows in August 2016. While leaving her family, especially her nieces and nephews, was hard, she knew that following God’s call was the right example to set.

“Am I going to let them grow up and be the Aunt Ann who had a vocation to religious life and stayed home, which gives them permission, if they have a vocation, to do the same?” she asked. “Or is it better for me to do what God’s called me to do and show them this is what you do in life. You do what God’s asked you to do and you live it with all your heart.”

For the past seven years, Sister Ann worked as the director of religious education for St. Veronica Parish in Howell, N.J. where she oversaw the RCIA program, youth ministry and religious education.

Her mission there ended this past summer, but being back in Castleton also meant being back in the classroom. Since returning to the Diocese, she started teaching second grade at St. Jude the Apostle School in Wynant­skill.

No matter where she goes, or where she is called next, Sister Ann strives to bring her faith, her love and her hope with her.

“Our charism is to bring that resurrection joy to a world that really needs it,” she said. “We have a world that doesn’t have a lot of hope and we bring hope.”

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