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Feature Articles

Continuing to Serve – S. Mary Ann Flannery
By AJ Keith, Communications intern

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S. Mary Ann Flannery (right) has encountered many faithful people in her current volunteer ministries.

The rich tradition of the Sisters of Charity continues to inspire S. Mary Ann Flannery since her semi-retirement from active ministry in 2014. Through her ministry in spiritual direction and freelance writing on social justice issues, S. Mary Ann has recognized the good in others and allows God to work through her in all of her ministries.

Sister “dared to risk a caring response” through her active ministry in spiritual direction. As the former executive director of the Jesuit Retreat House in Parma, Ohio, and a retired associate professor of journalism, she felt that her faith would be rejuvenated through retreat work. Not only did she help to nourish the faith of others, but she found that she was challenged in her own faith by some of the thought-provoking questions her retreatants had. “They forced me to answer questions that I didn’t even know that I had,” she says. Because of this ministry’s impact on her life, Sister partakes in parish renewals, retreats and spiritual direction to this day. “I’ve always had a passion to help others see that they’re loved by God,” she says. “I find that your faith is stronger when you explore it. You have to ask what people do beyond Sunday Mass for their faith.”

Sister notes that, “People are good, by and large.” Recognizing the good in people was the most important influence on S. Mary Ann because it inspired her to use her skills as a freelance writer to address social justice issues in America. This included volunteering with the Cleveland chapter of Nuns on the Bus. Her experiences in various social justice marches and protests allow her readers to learn from her firsthand encounters. She conveys these experiences through the art of investigative journalism, a branch of journalism that she taught for many years at John Carroll University in Cleveland, Ohio. By establishing a story objectively, people can use their feelings to interpret the facts presented and then to take a stance on a given issue. Informed citizens can then ease the transition into a just society.

Her strides towards a just society and her ministry in spiritual direction have helped her to appreciate God’s presence in all people. “People have to know how special God made them,” she says. She feels that there is a mutual benefit in spiritual direction because, as she says, “[My retreatants] lead me as much as they want me to lead them.” This constant dialogue with those seeking spiritual guidance encourages a more prominent dialogue with God in her life.

S. Mary Ann allows herself to be an instrument of God through her service in spiritual direction and freelance writing. Using her impressive, God-given talents, Sister comes closer to recognizing a just society in which all people can realize their own talents and use them for the common good and their own spiritual growth.