Written by Patricia Glinton-Meicholas
If Sister Annie Thompson had not discovered a religious vocation, she would undoubtedly have found success in the world of athletics and sports. But she was to be another daughter that the island of New Providence gave to the Church. Baptized Annie Eliza, she was born to John and Muriel Thompson of Gregory Town, Eleuthera, one of their fourteen children.
The Thompsons Lived the interesting life of the family of a lighthouse keeper. John Thompson’s job took him from one island to another where the Life-saving lights were positioned to guide shipping. For the sake of the children’s education, Muriel Thompson eventually brought them to Nassau and her husband commuted to spend time with them.
Annie grew up on Vesey Street, the Location of the Grant’s Town Post Office and Police Station surrounded by the rich folk life of Grant’s Town and bordering Baintown. She received her early education at Western Prep and Western Junior. She did not like the Large classes that were the frequent feature of the public schools, so she transferred to St Francis after she converted from Methodism to Catholicism. At St Francis she frequented the Priory courts and from there derived her love of basketball and track and became a formidable opponent at the hoops. She went on to Xavier’s College graduating in 1959.
The sportswoman’s recognition of her call to religious life has an element of the miraculous. She had long known that she wanted to do something to help children. One day, Father Sylvan Bromenshenkel gave her some literature on the religious Life at Saint Benedict Convent in Minnesota and Sister Marie Agnes had spoken to her about a vocation. It came together one day while she was teaching at Our Lady’s. A magician had come to entertain the school and he offered to show the single women what their future husbands would be like. He held a pack of cards and would pull out one randomly when he faced one of those gathered. When he came to Annie, the card he pulled was blank. The man then said to her not to worry, she would be a un. Father Cornelius Osendorf bought er a one-way ticket to Minnesota in 1960.
Early on, during her time in college, she was sent to a mission in Albany, Minnesota. There were stares because the residents had had little experience with black people. Sister Annie found the environment challenging initially but was not overly disturbed by it. She reported that most people came around eventually, when they had time enough to discover that she was really no different from them.
Sister Annie pronounced final vows 1966 and, in that same year, was sent to St Peter’s in St Cloud to teach. The opposition there was even more pointed. Some parents had raised a petition and wanted to withdraw their children from her class. Again reason and Sister Annie’s fortitude triumphed and she made some lifelong friends. Never afraid of a challenge, she conducted a ministry at the infamous brim Green housing project in Chicago when the city was in great turmoil from race riots. She and another Sister had to be spirited away one evening from the turbulent area to the district in which they lived in housing provided by the Servite Fathers. Sister Annie also conducted a campus ministry at Southern University New Orleans, Louisiana in 1967, the year she graduated with a bachelor’s degree from the College of St Benedict. She s called home in 1970 following the death of Sister Marie Agnes but would return to complete her master’s degree St Cloud University in 1979.
Back home, Sister’s work was primarily in education in the beginning. She was principal of St Bede’s
until 1974, then transferred to St Joseph. When Sister Maedene Russell fell ill in 1979, Sister Annie was appointed Acting Superintendent of Catholic Schools. She next taught full-time at St Augustine’s College (SAC) and became the director of the College of St Benedict’s/St John’s University Pilot Freshmen Programme that was housed at SAC.
She played a role in the initial stages of a scholarship programme Harry Moore sponsored for Bahamian students to attend college in the United States. The first student she identified to benefit was a bright student from St Augustine’s College named Duranda Ash. Mr Moore paid for her to attend Duranda’s graduation from Case Western in Ohio. His interests in educating Bahamians grew to blossom eventually into the seminal Lyford Cay Foundation.
Sister Annie’s varied apostolates also included the founding of the Primary School Basketball League at St Francis Joseph School and the organization of a summer camp abroad programme for girls. The Monastery’s bakery business was started by Sisters Maria and Margaret, but when the latter fell ill, Annie turned her hand to baking with as much enthusiasm as she brought to everything she did.
Her life as member of Saint Martin Monastery was to take yet another turn. The community asked her to pursue a master’s degree in liturgy, which she did. This was to prove its value when she was elected Prioress in 1998 and served two terms. By 2007 her main focus was Nazareth Centre, intended initially to be a temporary home for young children in crisis but was fast turning into a permanent placement for a number of distressed children.