A few years ago Sr. Ann Joseph Hartman received a form from our communications office to update information. To the question, “What has being a Sister of St. Francis of Philadelphia meant to you?” Sr. Ann responded, “Being a Sister of St. Francis is a dream come true from my earliest years.” The seed for that dream was planted when Ann, age six, started school at All Saints in the Bridesburg section of Philadelphia. That early relationship with the Franciscans continued and deepened when she moved on to West Catholic High School. Although she met other congregations there as well, she was drawn to the Franciscans. “The Franciscans seemed so pleasant—so friendly, helpful, and happy,” she remembered.
Although Sr. Ann Joseph began her years in ministry as a teacher, most of her life as a Sister of St. Francis has been spent in healthcare ministry. After studying nursing at St. Francis Hospital in Trenton, Sr. Ann began ministering at St. Joseph Hospital in Baltimore and—except for time taken to complete her work for her B.S. in Nursing, continued to work at St. Joseph until 1977. In fact, she was one of the sisters who helped to coordinate the move from the original hospital on Caroline Street to the new facility in Towson. A 1965 photo in the Catholic Review shows Sr. Ann overseeing the transfer of the mother of the last baby born in the old hospital to the new maternity unit in Towson.
Ministry as a caregiver for her parents and at St. Joseph Hospital in Lancaster followed. Then in 1979, Sr. Ann moved to Trenton where she began ministering at St. Francis Medical Center—first as a staff nurse and eventually in the Medical Records Department. The story behind Sr. Ann’s transition from one position to the other indicates the sort of insight that flow from a life of caring and being able to see beyond her own needs. “One of the nurses was going to lose her job if I continued to work,” she recalled. “At the time I was 80 years old and knew it wouldn’t be long before I would retire. I offered the nurse my position in the clinic and volunteered to work in Medical Records.”
Today at 94, Sr. Ann continues to work four hours a day four days a week in Medical Records where she does secretarial work—checking every file for accuracy. When needed she also helps with mailings for both the Foundation and Mission Offices and does “whatever else needs to be done.” Her day begins early—at 6 A.M. After prayers and breakfast, she heads to the hospital at 9:45 and joins the hospital community for their morning liturgy.
When she isn’t working, Sr. Ann enjoys reading, grocery shopping, going out to eat, and attending hospital social functions. And then there’s crocheting! More than just a hobby, crocheting provides Sr. Ann with an additional form of ministry—making baby blankets. “The blankets I make are given to our hospital chaplain who distributes them to employees, doctors, and others in need,” she explained. “When Father Carmen baptizes a baby, he gives the parents one of my blankets.”
What is it that prompts Sr. Ann Joseph and others like her to continue to be so actively involved in life and in ministry? She herself provides that answer. “My ministry brings many blessings,” she said. “Because of my age, it is an example for other people that old age does not necessarily mean a person cannot have a productive life. Being able to meet and spend time with many kinds of individuals is a blessing in itself.”
-Ann Marie Slavin, OSF