Sister Bridget Ann Henderson, BVM, 85, died Oct. 4, 2013, at Caritas Center in Dubuque, Iowa. Visitation will be from 9–11 a.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013, in the Marian Hall Chapel followed by a prayer service at 11 a.m. Funeral liturgy will be at 1:30 p.m. Burial is in the Mount Carmel cemetery.
She was born Sept. 17, 1928, to John Joseph and Ann Elizabeth Connolly Henderson. She entered the BVM congregation from Help of Christians Parish, Chicago, on Sept. 8, 1946. She professed first vows on March 19, 1949, and final vows on Aug. 15, 1954.
Sister Bridget Ann was an elementary school teacher and administrator in Pasadena, Tujunga and Los Angeles, Calif.; Phoenix, Ariz.; and Lincoln and Chicago, Ill. She served in parish ministry in Chandler, Ariz., and as religious education director in Newnan, Ga.
She was preceded in death by her parents and sister Mary Zerblis. She is survived by a niece Bernie Parks, Newnan, Ga.; a nephew Jack Zerblis, Conyers, Ga.; and their families; and the Sisters of Charity, BVM, with whom she shared life for 67 years.
Sister Bridget Ann Henderson, BVM
Marian Hall, Oct. 23, 2013
Good afternoon and welcome to the celebration of life of our Sister Bridget Ann Henderson.
Ann Bernadette Henderson entered this world on Sept. 17, 1928, the only living child born to John Joseph and Ann Elizabeth Connolly Henderson of Chicago, Ill. Her father was a widower with a young daughter, Mary Gertrude, when he married Ann’s mother, who had emigrated from Ireland. Her parents had already lost two children at birth and her mother was six months pregnant with Ann when she went into labor. Since Ann weighed only two pounds, a nurse baptized her immediately. When her father arrived at the hospital, he insisted on taking both wife and daughter home. On the way home, her mother baptized her with a small Holy Water bottle she carried in her purse. Three months later, she was formally baptized. In her autobiography, Ann wrote, “Years later I presented my baptismal certificate to Sister Mary Sheila Cannon who was helping me get ready to enter the BVM novitiate. In an attempt to impress her, I told her the story of my three baptisms. Sister simply smiled and said, ‘Is that why you have water on the brain?’”
Ann’s father was a Chicago fireman who died when she was 2 years old. Her mother found a job on the packaging assembly at a cookie factory. One week after Ann celebrated her 10th birthday, her mother died after suffering a severe pain in her side and lapsing into a coma. Ann’s half-sister Mary Gertrude, who was 22 years old at the time, became Ann’s legal guardian. They moved in with Ann’s uncle and aunt, her mother’s brother and wife who were Ann’s godparents. To keep his promise to raise Ann in the Catholic faith, her uncle enrolled Ann at Our Lady Help of Christians School and later at the Immaculata.
Ann Bernadette entered the congregation on Sept. 8, 1946, and received the name Bridget Ann upon her reception on March 19, 1947. She professed her first vows on March 19, 1949, and lived 67 years as a BVM. Bridget Ann taught in elementary schools for 15 years with missions in Pasadena, Calif.; Phoenix, Ariz.; and Lincoln and Chicago, Ill. She served as principal at Our Lady of Lourdes in Tujunga, Calif.; as the supervisor for the Los Angeles Archdiocese; as the superintendent of elementary schools in the diocese of Phoenix; and as an administrative assistant at St. Agnes School in Phoenix.
Bridget Ann was the adult education coordinator and worked in family ministry at All Saints Parish in Chandler, Ariz., for 12 years. She was the first woman in the diocese of Phoenix to receive the Bishop’s Medal. She moved to Newnan, Ga., in 1995 and served eight years as the coordinator of religious education and pastoral associate at St. George Parish, teaching adult education courses and RCIA and establishing a preschool program. In an interview for Salt, she was asked what she enjoyed most about her ministry, and said, “I just love working with individuals interested in the Catholic faith and others desiring to deepen their faith roots.” The article noted that “Her joy is ministering to people of all ages and seeing their faith blossom and grow. Her sadness is living singly . . . physically separated from BVMs, even though she feels the spirit of Mary Frances Clarke and each BVM encouraging her as she reaches out in loving service.” In 1998, a new religious education facility was named Henderson Hall in honor of Bridget Ann’s dedication and service to St. George Parish. During her time in Georgia, Bridget Ann also participated in a Eucharistic Conference, Life in the Spirit seminars, and a peace vigil at the School of the Americas (SOA). She retired and moved to Mount Carmel in 2004.
One of Bridget Ann’s fondest memories occurred on Sept. 15, 1987, when Pope John Paul II visited the diocese of Phoenix. She recalled: “Growing up in Chicago, I never dreamed I would get to see a pope, certainly not meet one face-to-face. Before his plane left the morning of the 15th, all of the people who had worked on the pope’s visit were assembled outside by the bishop’s house. He came to me, and he shook my hand, and he looked directly at me. I never dreamed that would happen.”
In his letter to the Colossians, Paul wrote, “And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Bridget Ann lived a wonderful life of service “in the name of the Lord.” We now celebrate and rejoice with her as she enters eternal life.