Remembering Sister Jane Anne Molinaro
“It wasn’t just the content of what she taught, it was how she taught it,” said Sister Carol Anne Couchara, IHM, Ed.D. It’s impossible to describe Sister Jane Anne without using the words compassion, gentle, faithful, love. These are the things her students remember about her from her 35 years of teaching at Immaculata, not to mention her time teaching in elementary and secondary schools.
She was the sort of professor that you could have for just one class, but she would still remember your name years later. She would recall that you had a husband and a son and a family dog, and every time she saw you, she would ask about them all and expect more than a superficial answer.
She was someone you always knew you could consult if you were having trouble with a paper or with a personal problem. “She was kind of like an Italian grandmother,” said Sister Anne Marie Burton, IHM, Ed.D. There was something about her face, her smile that let you know she was genuinely present with you, genuinely listening. Something about her that made even a 10-minute conversation with her the highlight of your day.
But she was tough, too. A die-hard Phillies fan, she and Sister Carol Anne once had their picture taken with shortstop Jimmy Rollins. Sister Jane took the opportunity to wag her finger at him and say, “The way you go is the way the team goes. So you better step up, because if you don’t do it right, the team is not going to do it right!”
She was firm with her students in a similar way, because she was rooting for them to succeed in their classes and in their futures. She challenged the nurses in her biology classes to recognize their responsibility to their patients. “How would you want a nurse to be treating your mom?” she asked. “Would you want a nurse who wasn’t really paying attention in class, who didn’t know the correct procedure?”
She was tough all right, but she knew how to make things easy to understand. She always said that grade school teachers made the best college professors, and she wasn’t above using simple analogies to explain complex concepts. In the guide she developed about how to write a research paper, she compared doing research to baking a cake. You combine the “wet ingredients” (the subjects of the study) with the “dry ingredients” (the instruments used to gather information), and then you explain the “recipe” you followed to get the results.
“And make every keystroke a prayer,” she advised her doctoral students as they toiled away on their dissertations.
“She was a deep woman of prayer,” remembered Sister Anne Marie. Sister Jane collected favorite prayers and would print them out and give them to people. She would send Christmas cards and birthday greetings to grand-nephews and cousins-in-law and mothers of her friends, always with a prayer or a holy card tucked inside.
Here was one of her favorites: “Our Lady, Our Queen, Our Mother, in the name of Jesus and for the love of Jesus, I implore you to take this cause into your hands and grant it great success.”
And here’s another prayer, to Our Lady of the Smile: “Gentle Mary, my Mother, I place before you the worries, hurts and hopes of my heart. They shrink my soul; I feel heavy and hopeless. Darkness closes in around me. I reach out to you, bright Lady of Hope. Smile on me. Smile on my loved ones and the intentions I place before you.”
Toward the end of her life, some of Sister Jane’s fellow IHMs took turns driving her to the hospital for treatments, and she cherished their simple act of service. She sent them all an email saying, “Thank you so much for…coming on cold, blustery mornings too early to be out and about, opening car doors and fixing seat belts, juggling with an ice-filled glass of water. All this and more. It was done with LOVE and I will never forget it. Someday in heaven you will know how truly GRATEFUL I am.”
They were grateful, too. “It was a gift to be able to be with her,” Sister Carol Anne said.
Imagine all the gifts Sister Jane gave during her all-too-brief 74 years, 56 of them as an IHM Sister. Such a bright woman, not just in her intellect, but in her spirit.