Anne McSweeney, ¡presente! - Maryknoll Lay Missioners
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Anne McSweeney working as a Maryknoll lay missioner in Barrio Oswaldo Manzanares in Managua, Nicaragua, in the 1980s

Returned Maryknoll lay missioner Anne McSweeney (Class of 1984) passed away July 17, 2023, after a long illness.

Anne served with Maryknoll Lay Missioners in Nicaragua from 1984 until 1989. She continued to live with her family in Nicaragua until two years ago, when she and her husband, Mark Lester, a former Maryknoll associate priest, moved to Dubuque, Iowa. We give thanks for the life of Anne and ask you to join us in praying for her and her family: May God grant Anne eternal rest, and may God’s light shine on her forever.

The following tribute was written “in gratitude for the life of Anne McSweeney” by fellow missioner and housemate Patty Butler. a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur:

Beginning with our meeting in language school in Cochabamba, Bolivia, in January 1985 and continuing for the past several years, I have considered both Anne and her husband, Mark, good friends. Starting with a phone call with Anne a few weeks ago and looking back over the years, there is so much to remember and be very grateful for about her.

Anne with a neighbor family in Nicaragua

Anne was a woman who loved everything about life. Of course, our time in Barrio Oswaldo Manzanares in Managua, Nicaragua, gave us some opportunity to learn about who we each were among poor people in the midst of a low-intensity war. She was a serious and honest individual. Anne always maintained a demeanor of compassion, loving-kindness and joy. Her smile and laughter could light up a room. My expressions would often need translation, even in English, due to my heavy Boston accent. As a result, we had many a laugh.

Anne had many gifts. One, probably the lesser known, was that of being an architect. She designed our barrio home with precision and loving care in order for it to not look out of place among the homes of our neighbors. Anne wanted our home to be a place where all were welcome, from the young children, toddlers and the older children to adults and our ancianos, the older members of our community. Her welcome extended beyond our community to those visiting Nicaragua from different countries.

Many times, she welcomed Maryknoll lay missioners, Maryknoll sisters and other communities of religious men and women. The overnight accommodations were very simple, but people seemed to like to stay with us.

Most importantly, on almost every Saturday, a solidarity group, wishing to know the story of Nicaragua firsthand, came for a visit. This feature of our barrio ministry highlighted Anne’s ability to invite our people to leadership. Better said, she had the gift of knowing how to empower those around her, from the smallest child to the oldest adult. This was very evident when our people told their own stories of their lives under a dictator and how they were trying to rebuild after the Somoza dictatorship. All ages took pride in doing some part of this program.

Yes, I knew Anne to be a serious, honest, just, loving, kind and compassionate person. Those qualities enabled me to live happily with the challenges of life as a first-time missioner, and to grow with life’s challenges after my time in Nicaragua. Maybe it is why we continued our friendship for the last 24 years.

Mi amiga, ¡reste en la paz de nuestro Dios! Anne McSweeney, ¡presente!

You can read Anne’s obituary here.

A funeral mass will be held on Aug. 18 at 10 am at St Agnes Parish in Roeland Park, Kansas. The Mass will also be livestreamed for those interested on the parish’s YouTube channel. A reception will be held after the Mass in the church basement, where there will be an opportunity for people to share stories about Anne. Those interested in participating online can do so by registering to access the zoom link.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions in loving memory of Anne may be sent to Fe y Alegria in Nicaragua, which supports education in marginalized communities in Nicaragua, and to Iowa Migrant Movement for Justice, which provides support to migrants in Iowa. Both organizations were important to Anne.

Online condolences may be expressed here

Sister Patricia Butler, SNDdeN
Sister Patricia Butler has been a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur since 1963. Among other responsibilities, she has taught and been an administrator in Catholic schools and has served in mission and worked on international justice issues.