Sister Ann Vincent Kucirek, SSMN, skilled teacher and administrator, dies at 98
FORT WORTH -- Not everyone can say they remained friends with a former teacher for 69 years. But Sister Ann Vincent Kucirek was someone special, according to Dr. Ann Tucker.
“I’m not Catholic but my parents sent me to St. Alice (now Holy Family) School where Sr. Ann taught me in the fourth grade,” remembered the former student. “We stayed in touch and became close friends. She was a big influence on my life and we shared a lifetime of memories.”
A skilled teacher and administrator who served at several schools operated by her religious order, the Sisters of St. Mary of Namur, Sr. Ann Vincent passed away Aug. 13 at the age of 98. Fort Worth Bishop Michael Olson celebrated a Mass of Christian Burial Aug. 16 at Our Lady of Victory Center. Interment was in Mount Olivet Cemetery.
Although trained as a clinical psychologist in behavioral medicine, Dr. Tucker learned more about dealing with people from Sr. Ann Vincent than she ever did from books.
“She always talked about being ‘present’ and I never really understood what that meant until I watched her,” the psychologist said. “She met people wherever they were in life — whatever faith group or background, rich or poor. She was wonderful to everyone.”
Sr. Ann Vincent was a member of her religious community for 71 years, joining the SSMN order at age 27. Born in Omaha, Neb. and the oldest of six children, she attended a Benedictine Academy in Lisle, Ill. As a young woman, she worked in accounting at a large factory in Omaha.
It was during this time that her brother, stationed in Waco during World War II, would visit the Sisters of St. Mary at Sacred Heart Academy. When a teaching position opened at the school, he recommended his sister, Frances (her baptismal name), for the job.
After working with the sisters for a year, the new teacher felt called to join the order.
Fellow sisters who knew Sr. Ann Vincent during the early convent years recalled her fascination with Texas and how different it was from Omaha.
“For example, she had never seen magnolia trees in bloom and loved looking at them when we went walking around the yard near Our Lady’s grotto behind the building,” they said.
Years later, the nature enthusiast showed the same delight for the “steep red canyons where Indians once roamed” while visiting Copper Breaks State Park with other members of her religious community for a sunrise breakfast.
Sr. Ann Vincent was older for the novitiate than some of the sisters who joined after high school, “and I think that, coupled with her maturity, is why she became a teacher and principal at a very young age,” said Ann Tillery Edmonds, an alumna of Our Lady of Victory Academy and longtime friend. “She always had a very cool head and a great deal of common sense.”
The seasoned educator loved working with students. As her health failed, Edmonds often visited the ailing sister and the pair spoke about her years in the classroom.
“She really perked up when I told her that OLV was getting ready to begin the school year,” Edmonds added.
Sr. Ann Vincent served as a teacher and/or principal at St. Alice (Holy Family) School, St. Anne in Beaumont, St. Mary in Fort Worth (now closed), St. Maria Goretti in Arlington, and Our Lady of Victory.
After retiring from Catholic education, she joined Sister Rita Claire Davis, SSMN and Sister Mary Michael Dittoe, SSMN, in pastoral ministry at the rural parishes of Rhineland, Knox City, and Crowell. The sisters founded the House of Prayer in Rhineland and helped the area’s undocumented farm and ranch families begin the immigration process.
After returning to Fort Worth, the energetic sister went to work for Catholic Charities Fort Worth as an administrative assistant spending the last few years involved in the agency’s Casa Inc. program. The outreach provides affordable housing for low-income, elderly, and disabled senior citizens.
“She was very good at that job,” said Dr. Tucker who was also employed at Catholic Charities for a short time. “I got to watch her work with some very low-income people. Ann was very caring.”
Often recognized because of her height — she measured a statuesque 5 ft. 10 inches — Sr. Ann Vincent was known as an avid walker.
“Anytime she could walk somewhere, she would,” said Dr. Tucker, describing her friend as a “giant” walker who probably acquired the habit from her father. “Ann walked during lunch every day. When she broke her hip, the surgeon was amazed at the condition of the ligaments and muscles at her age.”
Linda Kuntz, principal at Our Lady of Victory, was an OLV eighth grader when Sr. Ann Vincent was chief administrator at the school. In addition to duties as principal, her predecessor also taught religion classes.
“When I was teaching kindergarten at OLV, and the children were out at recess, we would see Sr. Ann walking around the grotto and Stations of the Cross,” Kuntz reminisced. “I would walk over to say hi and all my students would follow to say hello as well.”
Sr. Ann Vincent was always happy and had a smile on her face, she added.
Her friends attribute Sr. Ann Vincent’s long life to her penchant for fresh air, exercise, and a resolute prayer life.
“Her siblings all predeceased her,” Dr. Tucker explained. “She was very prayerful and contemplative, but funny as a train wreck. Ann had a very good, dry sense of humor and never got depressed like a lot of older people. Her outlook was always positive.”
Survivors included extended family members in Omaha, many friends, former pupils, and her religious community.