We join you in grieving the loss of our dear Sister Ana Maria. How fitting that she should be united with our Lord during this Easter season. She often told us that she was ready for the call home, and we reminded her of how much we needed her right here interceding for God’s continued blessing on the prison ministry she began here in Florence at the Arizona State Prison. We will continue to rely on her intercession for this important work.
We joined Sr. Ana Maria when we moved to Florence, Ariz. from Dubuque, Iowa. We wanted to become involved in prison ministry after our retirement and, at the suggestion of our longtime friend, Brother Regis, we contacted Sister to see if she needed help. Her response was “What took you so long!”
Working alongside Sister Ana Maria was a joy and an inspiration. She helped us to navigate the State prison system, encouraged us to step into the work when we were ready, and showed us the powerful value of faithful service to those behind bars. We served with her from 2008 until her retirement in 2014. We counted her as part of our family and enjoyed visiting with her each week. She shared her memories of Bogota and her family life with us. Sister told us that she always wanted to be a mother after caring for her younger brothers. Some of her happiest years were spent caring for orphans in North Dakota with the sisters there. She also counted the many inmates whose lives she touched as her children. They absolutely considered her a mother and to this day, remember her in the Prayer of the Faithful during our Communion Services.
Many memories flood our hearts as we deal with the reality that she is no longer with us. She had a tremendous impact on us and all who knew her without saying a single word. She was always ready to serve. Those who lived in the low rent housing units alongside her often asked her for rides to Walmart in Coolidge or rides to doctor’s appointments. Her policy was to ALWAYS say yes to what was asked of her regardless of how she felt. We know that fatigue and back problems plagued her during the years that we knew her, but she once told us, “doing what you are asked to do has nothing to do with how you feel.” She said, “I never ask myself how I feel.” She treated each request as if it came from Our Lord. I’m sure He knew He could always count on her!
I believe that she was leading 11 services each week at the State Prison when she retired at age 82, in addition to being involved with hospitality at parish funerals and coffee gatherings after daily Mass for the snowbirds. She was a servant to all who needed her. Her work here continues to grow and flourish with the recent addition of 6 new volunteers at St. Michael the Archangel and 2 new volunteers at Assumption parish. We know that prayer is the foundation of any worthwhile work in God’s kingdom and so we ask your continued prayers for the work that Sister Ana Maria began in the hearts of countless men and women during her lifetime of service. We are with you in spirit today and ask God to continue to bless the Salvatorian Community.
John & Pat Hail