Sister Mary Anita was born on July 21, 1914, in Merrill, Michigan, the eighth child of Joseph and Mary Jakob Hornack. Sister remembered her childhood as among her “happiest days and very family-oriented with emphasis on religious values. When we sat down at the dining room table to do our homework,” Sister wrote in her autobiography, “my father would say ‘Catechism first.’”
When Sister was a child the Hornacks moved to Cleveland, Ohio and she was enrolled in St. Ladislaus School, conducted by the Sisters of Notre Dame. From the age of five, Sister knew she wanted to be a teacher. At the same time, she also felt called to be a “sister” for in her mind the two vocations were one. In 1931 she became an aspirant, and the following year she entered the Sisters of Notre Dame in which her older sister Veronica (Sister Mary Florette) was already a member. Sister Mary Anita was professed on August 16, 1934 in Cleveland, Ohio.
The following September Sister Mary Anita began fifty-six years or service as a teacher and an administrator in Ohio and, beginning in 1963, in California at St. Rose of Lima in Maywood. She also taught at St. Bernardine of Siena in Woodland Hills and St. Mary Magdalen in Camarillo. Throughout those years, Sister Mary Anita’s first concern was “to make things nice for the sisters, both in school and in the convent.” She “threw herself into the work of the house,” cleaning, arranging and decorating the rooms and planning surprises for her sisters.
Sister was dedicated to education. In 2009, Arlene Stewart Verhague, a former student at St. Rose of Lima wrote “Sister Mary Anita, you were such a tremendous model for all of us children. We learned so much more than the ‘three R’s.’ We learned to be strong, yet caring, competitive but fair and to always show kindness. I feel very blessed to have the opportunity to let you know what a positive force you were for me and I know for countless other students through your teaching career.”
In 1997 Sister Mary Anita was assigned to Our Lady of Assumption convent in Ventura where she served for the next five years. In 2002, Sister came to Notre Dame Center to begin a new ministry; that of prayer.
During those years, Sister began a correspondence with Jesuit author James Martin. Sister was looking forward her 100th birthday and the 80th anniversary of her religious consecration in July of 2014. Aware of the occasion, Father recently wrote, “Sister, I am filled with joy at your generosity. Think of all the good you have done …how many, many lives you have touched and how wonderfully God has used you. And it all came from [your] initial ‘Yes.’”
Coincidently, Sister was reading James Martin’s chapter about the Annunciation entitled “Yes” in his book Jesus – A Pilgrimage when she quietly said her final “Yes” early in the morning of Sunday, March 23, 2014.
The celebration of Sister Mary Anita’s life and the Mass of Christian Burial will be held at Notre Dame Center, Thousand Oaks, on Saturday, March 29, 2014. May she thoroughly enjoy her 100th birthday party in heaven.