Remembering Ann O’Neill, CSJ, ’60

Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet, alumna, and former faculty member Ann O’Neill, CSJ, ’60 died on January 15, 2021 at Carondelet Village.

Sister Ann was born on February 18, 1936 in Williston, North Dakota. She entered the novitiate in 1955 and professed final vows in 1963. During her novitiate, she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Biology from St. Kate’s in 1960, and later went on to earn a Master of Arts in Immunology from Wayne State University Medical School in 1970. She served as a biology instructor at St. Kate’s from 1976–1978 before returning to teach at the Minneapolis campus (then St. Mary’s Junior College) from 1991–1996. During her career Sr. Ann also worked as a medical technologist at Trinity Hospital in Jamestown, North Dakota, and St. Michael’s Hospital in Grand Forks, North Dakota, as well as at 3M as a technical services representative.

In 1990, fulfilling a lifelong dream, Sr. Ann took a year-long sabbatical to Japan and stayed with the CSJ Japan Vice Province in Tokyo, where she studied Japanese language, religion, theater, and meditation. She also visited Nagasaki as a member of the St. Paul-Nagasaki Sister City Delegation. After returning from sabbatical, she served on the St. Paul-Nagasaki Sister City Committee Board of Directors, and later the planning committee for a 1995 event recognizing the 50th anniversary of the bombing of Nagasaki and the 40th anniversary of the sister city relationship.

Sr. Ann's devotion to Native American peoples’ rights and issues was rooted in her rural North Dakota upbringing. An avid reader and learner, she often shared her many learnings, especially in relation to water, Black Elk, Laudato Si’, Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, and more. Her enduring involvement as an advocate and ally spanned organizations such as Peta Waken Tipi (Dream of Wild Health), Church of Gichitwaa Kateri, and the B’Dote Project. At St. Kate’s, Sr. Ann worked closely with the Office of Multicultural and International Programs and Services (MIPS); the Abigail Quigley McCarthy Center for Women; the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; and the Myser Lecture Committee. In 2000, she co-founded the Justice Commission Native American Awareness Working Group of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet and Consociates, of which she was a member until her death.

“Ann is remembered as a woman who loved life, believing in the joy and resiliency of life,” said Sister Sharon Howell, CSJ, director for the Center for Spirituality and Social Justice and Archbishop Flynn Endowed Chair for Catholic Identity. “She was always willing to take a risk to learn or do something new. She believed in sharing her knowledge — always with the hope that it would make a positive difference.” 

Sr. Ann’s legacy as a passionate student of and advocate for Native American issues, and her dedication to educating and welcoming others into allyship, will continue to inspire those who knew her and those who carry on her life’s work.

She is preceded in death by her parents, her sister Mary (Grim) O’Neill, and brothers Joseph, Patrick, and Thomas O’Neill. Sr. Ann is survived by her brother James O’Neill, many nieces and nephews, grand nieces and nephews, dear friends and colleagues, and the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet and Consociates. Her funeral was held at Our Lady of the Presentation Chapel, St. Joseph Provincial House in St. Paul in a Catholic Native American ceremony. She is interred at Resurrection Cemetery.