Women who have inspired the Community of Saint Anna
The Community of Saint Anna is inspired by the example of countless unnamed women throughout history who have prayed for others through everyday events and times of great joy and distress, becoming spiritual mothers to those around them.
Following the counsel of St. Benedict who urged his followers to listen with the ear of the heart and receive all as Christ,1 the Community of Saint Anna has adopted an ancient litany of petitions as our daily prayer on behalf of all and for all2. We feel privileged to entrust all to the loving care of God.
1 Rule of St. Benedict, c. 530-560 AD
2 Orthodox Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, 5th Century AD
Ancient and Contemporary Mothers of the Church
We are motivated by the example of mothers of the Church throughout the ages including Mary, the Mother of God, particularly in her supportive role in the early Church during her elder years, Saint Anna the Prophetess, who prayed in the temple and was among the first to recognize the infant Jesus as Christ, and many women of the early Church who taught, guided, and served the community.
Several women who illuminated the Church with theological insights, wisdom, and compassion in the Middle Ages included Mechthild von Magdeburg, a Beguine and mystic who was beloved for professing that God wished to lavish the experience of intense love on everyone, not only on those with traditional religious vocations, and who challenged the proud and power-seeking clerics of the time. We also have adopted the teachings of Saint Jane de Chantal, who taught that the love of God is shown by inner freedom, confidence in God’s everlasting love, and gentleness rather than great feats or asceticism. Her legendary kindness to people, including those who were not valued in society, prompted the Church to designate her as the patroness of forgotten people.
Modern mothers of the Church who inspire us include Dorothy Day, who provided care for the poor and fostered the cause of peace in New York and beyond, Elisabeth Behr-Sigel, theologian and ardent supporter of ecumenism, and Mother Maria Skobtsova of Paris, whose efforts to care for and rescue people during World War II led to her death in Ravensbruck concentration camp.
Lesser known Mothers of the Church include Blessed Olga of Alaska, a Yup’ik midwife and counselor, noted for her generosity and insight who is called a Northern Light of the Church and Tender Healer, the Russian babushkas whose service and prayer protected many during the Soviet regime, and other women everywhere whose prayer and kindness conveys the Gospel message that “each person is the very icon of God incarnate in the world” (attributed to Mother Maria Skobtsova). Icons of Prophetess Anna, Mother Maria, and Dorothy Day are below.
Women who have Inspired the Community of Saint Anna
Nicholas Papas, iconographer
More information about Mother Maria is available in books such as Silent as a Stone: Mother Maria of Paris and the Trash Can Rescue by Jim Forest.
Brian Nikolai Tsai, iconographer
“It is the living from day to day, taking no thought for the morrow, seeing Christ in all who come to us….”
The most informative work on Dorothy Day is All is Grace: A Biography of Dorothy Day, authored by Jim Forest.