Sister Mary Ann Donovan Leaves Her Mark on Kansas City

With a move to the motherhouse in St. Louis,
Sister Mary Ann leaves her long-time role in the
Kansas City Development Office. 

“When I think what I did not know,” Sister Mary Ann Donovan laughed, as she reflected on opening the Kansas City Regional Development Office in 1992. For twenty-five years, the first ten as director and since 2002 as director emerita, she has provided a steady presence, raising funds, maintaining friendships and providing a wealth of wisdom to all.

In April, she will move to the motherhouse in St. Louis, leaving an indelible mark those she has touched.

Although Sister Mary Ann opened the office in 1992, she had been approached several years before by Sister Mary Ann Nestel, former director of development for the province, to lead Kansas City’s development efforts. However, soon after being asked, Sister Mary Ann was called to care for her ailing mother. She did this for the next three years, while still teaching part-time at Visitation Parish Church. After her mother’s death, she taught for one more year and then was again asked to open a development office.

This time, Sister Mary Ann accepted. “You know there are times when the Holy Spirit speaks to you, and there was just this urge saying, ‘maybe I can do this.’ Then I hated myself and wanted to pack my bag and leave, it was so awful,” she joked. “I was scared to death, I didn’t know how to run an office.”

Indeed, prior to this Sister Mary Ann had devoted forty years teaching at parish elementary schools, including twenty-four years at three parishes in Kansas City. “I know I was just one teacher among many who helped to form these [now] wonderful adults, but it’s a great feeling to know that I was partially responsible for their success.” However, the transition from the classroom to the boardroom was arduous for her.

It was civic leader and friend, Don Foley, who stepped in and volunteered to serve as chairperson of their first capital campaign. Committee members didn’t believe the campaign would raise $500,000. Instead, they raised over $800,000 in a three-year period.

In addition to the campaign, an event was created to “pull people together.” This, ironically, didn’t dissuade Sister Mary Ann. “I was good at events, I was no good at the other,” she recalled. It was her friend, Mario Scaglia, who suggested the idea of a St. Joseph Table.

The first St. Joseph Table was held on March 19, 1995 at St. Elizabeth’s Church. Sister Mary Ann and her band of volunteers, led by Virginia Coppinger, were prepared to serve 1,000 guests. However, over 1,500 guests attended. “If it hadn’t been for friends, I couldn’t have done it myself,” said Sister Mary Ann.

As the St. Joseph Table grew, the number of volunteers grew to more than two-hundred. “People loved coming, they had so much fun,” said Sister Mary Ann. After two years at St. Elizabeth’s, the Table then moved to St. Joseph Medical Center. The final Table was held in March 2010.

Sister Mary Ann, along with her many volunteers and friends, transformed the event from a “glorified bake sale,” into a first class dinner. “I got it done, because everyone did it for me,” she said. “And I think they were so pleased.”

On March 25, Sister Mary Ann’s friends will honor her at a Mass and reception at Visitation Parish in Kansas City. It is their way of thanking her for her devotion to the dear neighbor in the classroom, boardroom, and their hearts. Click here for information about the event.

Posted 3/9/17


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