A SERVANT OF JESUS — A LIVING LEGACY: SISTER SARA ANN ABELL
Helping educate people was the focus of Sister Sara Ann’s 84 years as a Sister of Charity. Like her mother before her, and many of her siblings, Sara Cecelia Abell attended St. Mary’s Academy, which was run by the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth. After graduating in 1930, she entered their convent at the age of 18. Two of her sisters later followed.
There in Kentucky, she earned her undergraduate degree in social sciences from Spalding College, and later, two masters degrees: one in history from Catholic University of America, and another in religious education from Spalding. In her years as an educator, she served as a high school principal and an administrator, and taught at the high school and college levels in several states, including Kentucky, Maryland, Tennessee, Ohio and North Carolina. Sister Sara Ann studied journalism at Seton Hall University in New Jersey and sponsored high school newspapers and yearbooks at six of the schools in which she taught. She was a member of the Catholic Historical Society, Quill and Scroll journalism honor society, and several religious and charitable societies. Added to all that, she was a certified catechist. And for all of this, she never took a salary!
Having taught throughout the country, she returned to Southern Maryland in 1972 to, as she put it, “look in on my mother, who was getting older,” and to teach at St. Mary’s Academy.
Back in St. Mary’s County, Sister Sara Ann did not take it easy. She started a service program for St. Mary’s Academy seniors in 1980 so they could practice putting their faith into action, visiting nursing homes, working in homes for the developmentally disabled and working with less fortunate people in a variety of ways.
When the academy closed in 1981, she wanted the program to continue. With donations from the United Way, civic groups and private individuals, Sister Sara Ann established the Literacy Council and served as its first president. Thousands of people have learned to read thanks to the efforts of Sister Sara Ann and her tutors. Their work continues today and is a marvelous testament to Sister Sara Ann, who was “a teacher always.”
Sister Sara Ann was not just an ordinary teacher — she was a teacher who was committed to teach as Jesus did! She went out and met people in need, ministering to their spiritual needs by taking the Blessed Sacrament to folks in the hospital tirelessly. She ministered to their physical needs by carrying food and gifts to homes around the county, making Christmas special for many families and often arriving last at her own family’s Christmas dinner.
Sister Sara Ann ministered to people’s intellectual needs as an instructor, as a catechist, and through the work of her beloved Literacy Council. At the age of 102, Sister Sara Ann died at the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth home in Louisville, Kentucky, on Jan. 24, 2015.
Now, her legacy of teaching and ministering will continue through the newly established Sister Sara Ann Abell Memorial Scholarship. This scholarship will benefit students in need who also demonstrate a passion and commitment to serving others.
To donate to the Sister Sara Ann Abell scholarship fund that was established in 2019, you can make a secure gift online by using the form below, or can also mail a donation to:
St. Mary’s Ryken High School
Development Office (Attn: Sister Sara Ann Abell Scholarship)
22600 Camp Calvert Road
Leonardtown, MD 20650