Sister Mary Ann was born in Denver, Colorado. She was received into the Sisters of St. Joseph in 1943 as S. Ellen James. She received a bachelor’s degree in music education from Fontbonne College in 1957, a master’s degree in music education from Duquesne University in 1961 and a doctorate in music education from the University of Colorado in 1973.
Sister Mary Ann has spent the majority of her service in music ministry. Although she taught kindergarten at St. Philip Neri Grade School in St Louis, Missouri, her first year of teaching, she quickly transitioned to follow her passion of music. In 1946, Sister Mary Ann began teaching music at the Academy of Our Lady in Peoria, Illinois (1946-48). She moved to Waco, Texas and taught private piano lessons through St. Mary of the Assumption Grade school (1948-55).
Returning to St. Louis in 1955, Sister Mary Ann continued teaching private lessons through Saints John & James Grade School. Two years later, she took on two roles: novitiate choir director at the St. Joseph Provincial House and music teacher when needed at St. Mary Magdalen Grade School. In 1961, she left these positions and returned to the Academy of Our Lady to serve as the choral teacher until 1967. She then moved to Kansas City, Missouri, where she was a faculty member at Avila College for two years.
Continuing to pursue her passion of music, Sister Mary Ann worked on her doctorate at the University of Colorado in Boulder from 1969 to 1971. She served as an assistant professor of music at Georgia State University in Atlanta from 1971 to 1977, completing her doctoral work in 1973 while there.
Sister Mary Ann returned to St. Louis and chaired the music department at Fontbonne College until 1986.
She served her CSJ community from 1987 to 1995 as the Colorado development director. Sister Mary Ann then served from 1995 to 2000 as a library clerk at the Denver Public Library. Her final 12 years in Denver were spent teaching private piano lessons.
Sister Mary Ann retired to St. Louis in 2012 and, since 2013, has resided at Nazareth Living Center where she continues to carry out her ministry of prayer and presence.