Sister Margaret Ann Zinselmeyer, OSU: “She’s worth her weight in diamonds…”

“It was 1968, they didn’t have the treatment back then, there was no chemo,” Sister Margaret Ann said. “She also wouldn’t have surgery until after Thanksgiving and Christmas.”

The Ursuline rules in those days limited sisters in their postulancy to one visit per month, and they weren’t allowed to call home. But Sister Margaret Ann got permission to call home once a week to check on her mother.

Sister Margaret Ann smiles next to a card made by Adasia.

“She told everyone I was not to leave the convent because she was sick,” Sister Margaret Ann said.

Virginia Zinselmeyer died in May 1968, leaving behind four sons and two daughters. Sister Margaret Ann remembers her mother as very giving, someone who created a wonderful home environment.

“Holidays were so important to her,” she said. “She felt so strongly about family. I pray to her a lot with Adasia. I don’t know how she did it with six kids.”

Eight months after his wife died, Arthur Zinselmeyer remarried. His new wife, Mary Spillane, had four daughters and had been a widow for 10 years. The Zinselmeyer family faced some awkward times.

“When my dad got sick in June 2006, we gathered as a family and it gelled us,” Sister Margaret Ann said. “I could see how much he meant to them.”

Her father was a banker who believed the customer came first. Late in his career, he lost his sight, but could still recognize regular customers by their voice. He died in December 2006.

“I miss him a lot,” she said. “It’s still difficult to let him go.”

Everything is a teachable moment at Hope House, including how to eat lunch at the table.

On the mission

The late ‘60s were an odd time to be in religious life, Sister Margaret Ann said. “They were changing what they could wear, if they could minister other than teaching,” she said. “The sisters were divided into camps.”

Sister Margaret Ann had a degree in math and elementary education, but at her first teaching job in 1972, at Saint James School in Louisville, she didn’t teach math. She stayed there for a year until an opening came in 1973 to be a math teacher at Saint Bernard in Louisville. She lived with many sisters, including Sister Mary Irene Cecil.

“She was a very enthusiastic teacher, especially in math,” said Sister Mary Irene, who now works in pastoral care at the Motherhouse. “I thought she would stick with teaching math for quite a while, but the Lord leads us to a different path.”

From 1975-79, Sister Margaret Ann taught at Mount Saint Joseph Academy, and it was during those years that she began to think teaching was not the vocation she wanted.

“We had a lot of kids whose parents didn’t know what to do with them,” Sister Margaret Ann said. “We didn’t have any counselors on the staff.” With a boarding school, the teaching staff always had to be ready to help a student, and that started to weigh on Sister Margaret Ann.

“I think I would have liked a regular high school,” she said. “But I’d never go back to teaching now.”

In 1979, the community sent her to Eastern Kentucky University to get a master’s degree in math. When Sister Margaret Ann got her bachelor’s degree from Brescia in 1973, there were no computers in use, but by the time she went to EKU, she had to learn a computer language to keep up with the classes.

When she completed her degree, she returned to the Motherhouse as an assistant to Sister Joseph Angela Boone in the business office, where she stayed for 10 years.

“We introduced the first computers at the Mount,” Sister Margaret Ann said. “I did a tax program so I didn’t have to do the W-2s by hand anymore.”