Sister Annette Baxley, MSC
Sr. Annette Baxley, MSC
Sister Annette, an only child, was born June 21, 1935, in Denver, Colorado to Robert John Baxley and Ann Susan Lambrecht Baxley. From the time her German grandmother insisted that Annette be baptized until the time of her death, Divine Providence was a constant in her life.
Being the child of a military family meant that Uncle Sam dictated her comings and goings across the USA and parts of Europe. Annette and her mother traveled to many places via the Greyhound bus in order to visit and be with her father while he was on maneuvers across the USA. It was at a Greyhound bus station that she informed a group of nuns that she was going to be one of them when she grew up.
When time came for her to make her first Holy Communion, Annette pleaded with her mother and father to receive with her, to the point that her Protestant father eventually converted and was baptized when Annette made first vows. When she was only ten years old, World War II made a lasting impression on Annette as she witnessed German tent cities of concentration camp survivors, bombed homes, and collections for food and clothing.
The influence and encouragement of two people completely changed her life. The first was the new Air Force Chaplain who greeted her when her family arrived in Neubiburg. He immediately scheduled her for confirmation class, convinced her not to miss Sunday Mass, and urged her to participate in a Good Friday pilgrimage to Konnersreu. There she witnessed the passion of Christ through the story of Theresa Neumann which story she claims changed her priorities. The second was Father Roman Schaefer who was transferred, along with her father, to Riverside, California. Taking an interest in Annette’s religious formation, he introduced to her “The Story of a Soul,” daily Mass and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. She developed a great devotion to St. Therese of Lisieux who became a friend.
It was the next transfer of her father’s military career that began the Marianite story. “When I met the Marianites of Holy Cross in Lake Charles, I knew that this is where I belonged.” It took many prayers and promises to convince her parents to allow her to enter the convent in February of her senior year. They reluctantly agreed, hoping that she would be home again soon.
Annette entered the Marianites at age seventeen on January 30, 1953 and professed her final vows on August 13, 1957. Although she had no idea of what specific ministry she wanted to pursue, she was very adamant about working with the poor, with inner city students, and with people of all cultures. With a diploma from Our Lady of Holy Cross College and a degree in School Administration from Xavier University in New Orleans, Annette began her ministry in education. She spent eleven years teaching middle school students in New Orleans, Plaquemine and Lake Charles.
In 1966, her dream of working in a different culture, another country, was realized. She gladly accepted an assignment as teacher, but was quickly re-assigned as school administrator in Comilla, Bangladesh, for a total of four years. Upon her return to the USA because of unrest in Bangladesh, she was assigned as principal of St. John’s Elementary School in Plaquemine for a period of five years. Given an opportunity, Annette promptly accepted a position with the San Jose Dominicans in Mexico, teaching English to children and adults. After only one year, she was summoned home to take over as principal of Opelousas Catholic Elementary School.
Well known for her administrative skills, Annette quickly fit into the role of principal at St. Mary of the Angels (New Orleans) for ten years, then librarian at St. Rita and back into administration at St. Rita School (New Orleans) for twenty years. During her years at St. Mary of the Angels and St. Rita, she took special interest in training students for the state Geography Bee and for her love, Speech Tournaments. A firm believer that speaking correctly and well is an asset, especially to inner city children, Annette and her students won many trophies.
One hundred percent retirement was definitely not part of Annette’s plan. Upon leaving St. Rita School and moving to Holy Angels Convent, she quickly went back to her great love – books and the library. For two years she worked as librarian at St. Stephen’s School; distributed clothing to the homeless at the Bishop Perry Center Outreach Center, and assisted with various tasks asked of her by the Congregational Leadership Team. Any free moment of her time was spent reading. One would always see her with a book.
After gallbladder surgery, spending a month in the hospital was very trying for Annette, yet one witnessed her constant ministering to the nurses, aides, and even the doctors who cared for her - finding out little tidbits about their families and work. Annette made her way into the lives of many students, parents and community contacts even to the very end. When receiving word that the Lord was calling her home within the week, Annette laughingly chided her local community members, “I already know where I will be living when the sale of Holy Angels is final, but not you.” She called and received calls from her Marianite Sisters, cousins, teachers, students, and friends, giving each word of praise, compliments, and thanks.
The sisters of St. Joseph and Holy Angels (her local community) gathered around her a few days prior to her death to pray one of her favorite devotions, the Seven Dolor Beads. She received visitors and special friends during that week. On the evening of July 16, Annette was transferred to Our Lady of Wisdom Health Center receiving the services of Notre Dame Hospice.
Annette’s plan to vacation in California did not materialize. Instead, first cousin, Sharon Hewitt from California, arrived to spend the week of July 12th, and a surprise visit from her very dear friend, Becky Jemenez Pacheco, also from California added to the closure. Becky had the privilege of being with Annette in the early morning hours of July 18th, when the Lord called her home with great peace.
True to her practical nature, Annette donated her body to science. A memorial mass of the Resurrection was celebrated at St. Rita Catholic Church in New Orleans on July 31, at 10:30 a.m. with six priests concelebrating. Father Dennis Hayes gave the homily. The celebration continued in the school cafeteria as all shared stories of her life and enjoyed food prepared by the school families and parishioners.
A message to Annette from a colleague states it beautifully…
In your face, I see courage.
In your face, I see determination.
In your face, I see compassion.
In your face, I see dedication.
In your face, I see mercy.
In your face, I see conciliation.
In your face, I see Jesus!