May 12, 2017

Paintings commemorate anchoress’ dedication to angels, adoration

New paintings of the archangels adorn the walls of the Divine Mercy Perpetual Adoration Chapel in Indianapolis on April 19 as an honor to the chapel’s co-founder and former custodian, the late Sister Mary Ann Schumann. (Submitted photo)

New paintings of the archangels adorn the walls of the Divine Mercy Perpetual Adoration Chapel in Indianapolis on April 19 as an honor to the chapel’s co-founder and former custodian, the late Sister Mary Ann Schumann. (Submitted photo)

By Natalie Hoefer

Friends of the late anchoress Sister Mary Ann Schumann speak of her devotion to Divine Mercy and her love for angels.

Fittingly, commissioned paintings of the three archangels were hung in her memory in the Divine Mercy Perpetual Adoration Chapel she helped found on the west side of Indianapolis. They were blessed in a special ceremony in the chapel on April 19.

The service was led by Msgr. Joseph Schaedel, pastor of St. Luke the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis. He helped found the chapel and was a close friend of Sister Mary Ann.

“She would be thrilled, but she would also be embarrassed,” he suspects of the anchoress’ response to the memorial if she were still living. “To have something done ‘in her honor’ would not be her style. She was unassuming, humble and always pointed toward the Lord in the Eucharist. These angels on the wall will do the same.”

The story actually begins in 1970, when Sister Mary Ann left the Sisters of St. Francis of Maryville, Mo., with whom she had professed vows in 1956.

She pursued a nursing career, which brought her to Indianapolis, where she put her degree to use for 15 years at various locations. She also earned a master’s degree in pastoral care from Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis.

On Sept. 14, 1989, with the help of Msgr. Schaedel, Sister Mary Ann opened the Divine Mercy Perpetual Adoration Chapel—the archdiocese’s first perpetual adoration chapel. Located in a former convent on the campus of Cardinal Ritter Jr./Sr. High School on the west side of Indianapolis, the chapel has served as a model for 12 more perpetual adoration chapels that have opened in central and southern Indiana during the last 28 years.

In 2000, Sister Mary Ann became a professed anchoress in the archdiocese—a form of consecrated life in the Church in which a woman, living under vows, dedicates herself to solitude, prayer and penance.

She lived in a room of the former convent now housing the perpetual adoration chapel, serving as the chapel’s full-time guardian and sacristan, and dedicating herself to spreading the message of the Divine Mercy devotion throughout the archdiocese.

One day while Dyan Huey, a member of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis and now the day sacristan for the chapel, was praying at the chapel in 2015, an idea came to her.

“I remember being up by the kneeling rails looking at the Blessed Sacrament, thinking, ‘We need angels painted in here,’ ” Huey recalls.

“I told Sister. She said, ‘I love the idea, but who could do it?’ I Googled [it], but we never did find something that would work.”

In December of 2015, Huey’s parish had a ceremony blessing a Divine Mercy image that Michael McCarthy, a St. John parishioner, had been commissioned to paint for the parish.

“Lo and behold, here was a young sacred artist, a member of St. John!” says Huey. “I bee-lined over to him and said something like, ‘You don’t know me, but you’re going to do a project for me!’ ”

Sister Mary Ann never saw the project come to fruition. On Jan. 29, 2016, she died in hospice after a battle with cancer.

“As soon as she died, I had a number of people say, ‘What will we do in tribute of her?’ I thought again of the angels,” says Huey.

Thus began a fundraising campaign. Within six months, nearly $15,000 was collected, enough to cover the cost of the commissioned paintings of the archangels Gabriel, Michael and Raphael, plus frames, a dedication plaque and other expenses.

Huey says intercession by Sister Mary Ann has been present “all the way through” since the anchoress’ passing. She cites the first of those “intercessions” as occurring when the archdiocese’s second anchoress, Lisette Shattuck, consecrated in 2005, agreed to move into Sister Mary Ann’s apartment and take over as the chapel’s guardian, night and weekend sacristan.

“After Sister died, everyone thought the chapel would close,” Huey recalls. “Almost immediately, we had a full schedule [of adorers]. And then for the archdiocese’s second [anchoress] to move into the apartment, it was like icing on the cake. I know Sister Mary Ann was up there orchestrating this!”

Father Ben Okonkwo, a chaplain for St. Vincent Indianapolis hospital who offers Benediction at the Divine Mercy Perpetual Adoration Chapel on Tuesday evenings, was set to lead the April 19 blessing ceremony, when his chaplain duties called him away. Msgr. Schaedel stepped in to lead the ceremony.

“Sister Mary Ann had a great devotion to the angels,” he says. “The paintings of the angels will remind us that the angels are constantly adoring God in heaven and in the Blessed Sacrament—just as we do in the perpetual adoration chapel. They will be a visible reminder of what we already know is there.”

(To sign up as an adorer at the Divine Mercy Perpetual Adoration Chapel, 3356 W. 30th St., in Indianapolis, call Lisette Shattuck at 317-283-5422 for English, or Lupe Orozco at 317-979-0410 for Spanish.)

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