A Reunion of Nursing Pioneers at Madonna University

Madonna University reunion celebrates legacy, diversity, and contributions to the nursing profession.

In a significant reunion highlighting the legacy of nursing pioneers, Sr. Maria Bakhita Waweru visited Anna Mae (Mack) Tyler, the first African American nursing graduate of Madonna University in 1966. Facilitated by Madonna University’s nursing department and recorded by Madonna University’s studio for an upcoming documentary, the meeting served to document their conversation and celebrate their contributions to the nursing profession.

Anna Mae’s journey at Madonna University was marked by her own resilience and the unwavering support of the Felician Sisters who played a pivotal role in shaping her educational journey. Recollecting her time at the university, Anna Mae reminisced about the kindness and generosity of the sisters, particularly during a challenging period following her father’s passing, which left her facing financial uncertainty. They provided financial assistance and a nurturing environment that enabled Anna Mae to realize her dream of becoming a nurse.

Following her graduation, Anna Mae embarked on a fulfilling career in nursing, eventually returning to Madonna University to contribute as a clinical advisor and later finding her passion in psychiatric nursing. Reflecting on her journey, Anna Mae emphasized the inclusive and supportive atmosphere at Madonna University during the tumultuous 1960s, a testament to the Felician Sisters’ commitment to fostering diversity and equality.

Sr. Maria Bakhita, currently in her final semester pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), expressed profound admiration for Anna Mae’s groundbreaking achievements, acknowledging her pivotal role in paving the way for women of color in the nursing profession. In her own words, Sr. Maria Bakhita remarked, “Mrs. Tyler, being the first black woman to undertake such a challenging profession in the 1960s, paved a path for other women of color. Today, after over 60 years down the road, that path is still visible for me as the first African Felician Sister in North America.”

Anna Mae’s connection with the Felician Sisters extends beyond her educational journey, encompassing a shared spirituality as a lay secular Franciscan, further solidifying the bond between her and the institution that played a pivotal role in shaping her life and career.

In this heartwarming reunion, two generations of nursing pioneers come together, united by their shared dedication to the nursing profession and their enduring legacy of breaking barriers and inspiring others to follow in their footsteps.

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Serving where needed since 1874

Founded in Poland in 1855, the Felician Sisters are a congregation of women religious inspired by the spiritual ideals of their foundress, Blessed Mary Angela Truszkowska, and Saints Francis of Assisi, Clare of Assisi and Felix of Cantalice. Arriving in North America in 1874 following Blessed Mary Angela’s directive “to serve where needed,” they helped to weave the social service system. Today, the Felician Sisters founded, sponsor or support through the presence of our sisters, more than 40 ministries – all continuing to evolve to meet the needs of the people they serve.

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