Sr. Anna Falbo’s debut as Blessed Mary Angela Truszkowska was nearly short-circuited by a wardrobe malfunction.
This was four years ago, when Sr. Anna was asked to portray the Felician Sisters’ foundress in a presentation during a Chapter of Mats in Detroit, MI. Sr. Anna is a bit shy of five feet tall, and the costume was a poor fit. The habit was so long that even several strategically placed safety pins couldn’t keep it from pooling around her feet. When Sr. Anna bent over, the headpiece began to slouch off her head.
“I was stuck on stage, trying to pull everything together,” Sr. Anna recalled with a smile. “Two other sisters ran over to help. All of the sudden, they couldn’t help themselves, everyone started to laugh.”
Despite the hiccups, Sr. Anna’s performance was a hit with the audience, which lined up to take selfies with “Blessed Mary Angela.” More importantly, Sr. Anna’s message of service and compassion, which is the centerpiece of the Felician Sisters’ mission, was delivered.
“It was tremendously enriching,” Sr. Anna said. “Our congregation has a vision statement that asks us to be sister and servant. That’s basically what Blessed Mary Angela was — a sister to her sisters and a servant to her convent and others.”
Wearing a redesigned costume, Sr. Anna encored her role as Blessed Mary Angela last summer at a Felician ministry leadership workshop. On October 4, also the feast day of St. Francis, Sr. Anna captivated a group of two dozen second-, third- and fourth-grade students in the Villa Maria Youth Program in Bualo, NY.
“I am a ham actress,” Sr. Anna said. “Give me an audience and I’m in my element.” To better portray the role, Sr. Anna decided to do a deep dive into the history and writings of Blessed Mary Angela, who was born in 1825 in Poland.
“I was delighted that it became easy for me to find so many comparisons between her life and the life we lead now,” Sr. Anna said. “I found so many things that interest the children and inspire them. They are practicing values and virtues that are so important to bringing about a peaceful and, if I dare say it, happier world.”
Growing up in Oriskany Falls, NY, where her mother was the town librarian, Sr. Anna was a voracious reader. After high school, she joined a Felician convent, but left a couple of weeks before she was scheduled to profess her final vows.
“I wasn’t really ready to make a final commitment of that nature,” Sr. Anna said. “I wasn’t sure what God wanted, but I knew I wasn’t meant at that time to remain a Felician.”
The path to figuring out your vocation rarely is a straight line. Sr. Anna’s journey took her from a small town in central New York to the front lines of the Cold War. Lured by an opportunity to travel to Europe, she joined the United States Army. She learned Russian and was stationed in West Germany as an intercept operator for Russian voice.
After returning to America in 1979, Sr. Anna went back to the Felicians and took her vows. After teaching in elementary schools, she eventually spent 24 years as Villa Maria College’s librarian.
“When I was working as a librarian, other sisters would tell me their stories of doing social work and being pastoral ministers and I’d think, ‘Oh, man, what am I doing?’” Sr. Anna said. “Then I realized my ministry really was just being with the students and faculty and listening. A listening ear — that’s what God wanted.
Sometimes, you just don’t know at the time how what you’re doing will influence someone, hopefully, in a positive way.”
After retiring as a librarian eight years ago, Sr. Anna knew her work wasn’t done, even if she wasn’t sure what would come next. “Odds-and-ends jobs,” she said, rattling off a list of duties that includes teaching adult literacy classes, remote tutoring a woman in Haiti and working with the Villa Maria after-school program.
“It’s been an exciting life,” Sr. Anna said. “We all face this: ‘What does God want? What am I to do with my life to become the best person I can be?’ It’s true for all of us.”