Sister Anna remembers 100 years of life

Kingston nun recalls a century, and time spent at Queen’s

Sister Anna smiles beside the only tree older than she is at the Motherhouse.
Sister Anna smiles beside the only tree older than she is at the Motherhouse.

As Sister Anna Moran celebrates 100 years of life, she also celebrates the stories and memories that accompany them — stories set in Kingston, and for over a decade, at Queen’s.

Sister Anna is one of the many Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul in Kingston. 11 of her many years of life were spent completing a degree, at the selection of the Sisters, at Queen’s.

Her first day at the school was in 1940, during the Second World War. The School of Nursing wouldn’t be opened until the following year. The JDUC was built after a sweeping fire in 1947, destroying the old Students’ Memorial Union.

However, the story began long before her time as a student. Sister Anna was only 17 years old when she formally joined the Sisters of Providence.

Intending to complete high school in Toronto, she found herself being called to the sisters in Kingston after learning about the death of another young girl, who was set to become a sister in 1932.

“A boy that I knew on the street told me I had to take her place, and that made me start thinking about the sisters,” Sister Anna recalled, sitting in her home at Providence. 

If she continued on with her plan, she thought at the time, she might be losing out on her only opportunity to try out being a Sister.  “So, that’s what I did,” she said.

“I came here [to Kingston] to try it out. And I never for a minute wanted to change it.”

Once Sister Anna was settled, she continued her education  at Maryvale Abbey — the boarding school run by the Sisters of Providence in Glen Nevis.

After finishing her education, Sister Anna was recruited to teach. She taught for a total of 34 years at nine different schools, in Gananoque, Smith Falls, Kingston, Belleville, and Brantford.

She was also the vice principal at a school in Camrose, Alberta and the principal at a school in Trenton, Ontario.

When teaching in Belleville, Sister Anna explained that the class was a rented room in a house, and that the students had to stay in the classroom for their breaks.

To keep the students entertained during their recess, they would dance.

“My sister sent me records for dances and we danced. All the students, right up to Grade 13, were coming in for the dances,” she said.

In 1940, well into her teaching career, Sister Anna started school at Queen’s upon selection by the other sisters, where she got her degree with a major in English.

She was only a part-time student as she was still busy with teaching, church work and looking after altar servers and classes.

“I didn’t get awful good marks because I never had time to do my homework,” Sister Anna said with a laugh. 

She only spent time on campus during her summers, for concentrated blocks of six weeks at a time.

Sister Anna explained that being at Queen’s during that time was very different compared to what it is now.

“Nobody spoke to you or anything like that.”

She described the school as “business-y” and the students as “focused”.

She recalled that, although she did not speak to many other students, they had “the most wonderful dean, who was especially nice to the sisters.”

After Sister Anna received her degree from Queen’s, she went to teach in Camrose, Alberta. Alberta was at odds with Ontario at the time, she said, and therefore didn’t think much of Queen’s. 

“They assessed my qualifications, I had all the qualifications that I needed for the job, but they still didn’t appreciate that I went to Queen’s.”

In response, Sister Anna was then sent to the University of Alberta to get a second degree, this time in Education.

Sister Anna Moran in 1963. (Supplied via

In 1973, she was asked to take on a new ministry, called the Movement for a Better World. The organization focused on parish renewal.

21 years later, in 1994, Sister Anna returned to the Motherhouse of the Sisters of Providence, as the coordinator of the Marion floor.

She retired at 84 years old, and discovered her passion for poetry, which then led to three self-published volumes.

She also loves to read, consuming around two library books a week. She particularly enjoys murder mysteries.

Sister Anna hopes to continue her daily routines and the things that she loves, such as visiting with the other sisters, for as long as she can.

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