Sr. Anne Amati, OSF

Meet Sister Anne Hedwig Amati

Sr. Anne Amati brings countless gifts and deep experience to her ministry as charism ongoing formation minister. As she explains, “I’ve always been interested in ongoing formation. The ministry energizes me. I love planning, researching, working with a committee, presenting themes, and engaging others in dialogue.” Sr. Anne has brought this same energy and dedication to all of her life and service as a sister of St. Francis of Philadelphia.

As a schoolgirl, Sr. Anne was taught first by Felician sisters and then by Mercy sisters. Then from fifth to eighth grade, her teachers were sisters of St. Francis. Sr. Anne tells about her own path to becoming a sister of St. Francis: “When I went to high school, I had Mercy sisters again. At some point I felt I wanted to be a sister; I liked what I saw. In fact, the sister I felt closest to in my life was a Mercy sister. I remember her being disappointed when I said I was going to be a Franciscan. But there was something about the Sisters of St. Francis that I was drawn to. It’s interesting how you’re drawn in a certain way, even when you’re not mature enough to understand its course.” After entering the congregation, Sr. Anne earned a B.A. in English from Neumann University and an M.A. in religious studies from Villanova University.

Sr. Anne grew up in a Polish neighborhood in Trenton, New Jersey. Her mother was born in Poland, and her father was of Italian ancestry. Nine years after Sr. Anne entered the congregation, her parents moved to Atlantic City, a place her mother had always loved. Sr. Anne recalls, “So once we could start visiting home, I visited my parents in Atlantic City. In the beginning we were not permitted to go home except for unusual reasons. Our parents and other family members came on ‘visiting day’ to see us in what we now call Bachmann Hall. Even for my parents’ silver jubilee, I couldn’t stay at home. I had to stay in a convent. Although my mother had been in favor of my becoming a sister, it was hard on her because I was an only child.”

Sr. Anne speaks at a 2013 program recognizing the 150th anniversary of Mother Francis Bachmann’s death. The 200th anniversary of Mother Francis’ birth will be celebrated in 2024.

Sr. Anne began her ministry as an elementary-school teacher. She tells the story: “The sister who was the director of schools was interviewing us as novices. I remember her asking, are you happy that you’re going out to teach? And I said, not really. Having been an only child, I wasn’t used to little kids. She said, well, what did you think you were going to do here? And I remember saying, I just wanted to be a sister. I had no thought of what I would do. I must have known that the sisters taught because they taught me in school. I think I also knew they were in the hospital—St. Francis in Trenton. In fact, I worked there in the summer before I entered. So I knew they did those jobs, but it never crossed my mind what I was going to do. The thought of teaching young children was not something I was happy about, but I loved the life with the sisters.”

After about 10 years, Sr. Anne began teaching high-school students at the Catholic High School of Baltimore. She enjoyed those four years very much: “You could talk about things; you could discuss ideas. It was the kind of thing that I could do best. I felt more at home than when I was teaching younger children.” Sr. Anne also enjoyed the college courses she had the opportunity to teach at Neumann University.

During the 1980s, as Sr. Anne explains, “Having spent many years teaching in grade school and high school, I was elected as our assistant provincial in the Trenton Province.” When that appointment concluded, Sr. Madonna Marie Cunningham, then congregational minister, asked me to consider being local minister of our motherhouse, where approximately 100 sisters were living.”

Among Sr. Anne’s greatest joys are discussing ideas with others and sharing laughs with her fellow sisters.

Further adding to her breadth of experience, Sr. Anne began serving in healthcare, first working in nursing homes in Pennsylvania and Delaware. She then had the opportunity to explore hospital mission and ministry. In that service, she notes, “You’re creating an atmosphere in a hospital, not only for the sisters but also for the doctors and patients, but you’re also having to do a lot with finance, and that wasn’t my calling.” After her two years in healthcare, Sr. Anne was hired by then spiritual center director Sr. Christa Thompson. During her more than a decade with the spiritual center, Sr. Anne discovered her love for giving retreats and “sitting with people, discussing deep issues.”

Meanwhile, a motherhouse chaplain invited Sr. Anne to consider becoming a staff person for Franciscan pilgrimages. So for 17 summers (“I always said somebody had to do it!”) she traversed the streets of Rome and Assisi—leading, facilitating, lecturing, and celebrating with groups of pilgrims as they visited the sacred sites of Saints Francis and Clare in Italy. In addition, in 2015, Anne was invited by our spiritual center in the West to lead a pilgrimage to the sites of the first Christian communities in Greece and Turkey. These are the cities mentioned in the Book of Revelation and include the ancient city of Philadelphia. “Leading Pilgrimages was a significant impact on my growth as a Franciscan. I see that as a turning point bringing me into a bigger world and deeper understanding of our charism—it was my being in Assisi, working with priests who were immersed in it, having to prepare homilies for the programs, and meeting all the different Franciscans who came. It was so wonderful.”

In 2008, Sr. Anne was elected to the congregational council. Considering that experience, she shares, “My six years in leadership were among the best of my life. I found the time energizing and uplifting. The team worked together well, and it was an honor to be able to be with and to get to know so many sisters. That was a very moving experience for me. You know, you see yourself as just an ordinary person, and then you are surprised by the direction your life takes and the opportunities you are given.” Sr. Anne continued some retreat ministry while she was in leadership and afterward returned to giving more frequent retreats.

Sr. Anne’s current ministry, serving as charism ongoing formation minister, began when the charism office was reorganized using the concept of collaborative circles. Her responsibilities extend to collaboration with the Franciscan Federation, for which she chairs Region Two. Sr. Anne’s ministry now comprises two committees—the Ongoing Formation Committee and a group preparing for a three-year anniversary celebration (2023-25) honoring Mother Francis Bachmann’s life and legacy, the founding of the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia, and the early years of the congregation. The celebration may include a special Mass at St. Peter Church in Philadelphia, where Mother Francis and the early sisters worshiped. Another idea is a celebratory concert, perhaps in collaboration with Neumann University.

Sr. Anne speaks to a visiting Muslim group about her understanding that the people of the world are one; she contributes often and meaningfully to interfaith conversations and mutual respect.

Describing her approach to her work, Sr. Anne says, “I want to keep active. I’ve never been somebody who worries about counting my time. It’s a mission, a purpose, and I enjoy it. Officially my job is part time, but I am often tempted to work in the evening. Sometimes I might be watching television when an idea comes to mind. I turn off the TV, go to my office, and start working on the idea. Though some arthritis finds me walking with a cane and having some discomfort, I always say that ‘from the neck up’ I have lots of energy. I read a lot and dig into topics. And I love exploring ideas and topics with other people.”

When she does have a little spare time, Sr. Anne enjoys music: “I play the guitar. I’m not Willie Nelson, but he’s one of my favorites. I used to give piano lessons, and I played the accordion. I cantor a lot in Assisi House now, and I’m happy about that because it reminds me of my mother, who loved to sing, and my father, who didn’t take lessons but could play the piano and accordion by ear. I like to read novels, books on religious topics, and everything Franciscan. I enjoy going out with a friend to dinner, to visit the friend’s family, or for a pizza night. I enjoy sunsets and clouds and wind and rain. I especially love being near water. Since I was an only child, I can always entertain myself.”

Although Sr. Anne Amati speaks of herself as a “Jack of all trades and master of none,” she is, instead, a person of enormous learning, experience, insight, and understanding. Throughout her retreats and previous ministries and as ongoing formation minister, Sr. Anne uses her profound gifts to share the Franciscan charism and inspire Franciscan lives.

Winnie Hayek