Remembering Sr. Anna Bittner, DW, Sr. John Therese of Montfort, 5/16/37 – 8/14/19, 58 Years Professed
Sr. Anna Bittner, DW, 82, Sr. John Therese of Montfort, entered into eternal life on August 14, 2019. Sister died peacefully at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Convent in Sound Beach, NY where she received the wonderful care of nurses and staff; and was visited and prayed for by her community, family members and her Sisters.
For the past 28 years, Sister resided at Bethany House in Brooklyn, NY and was in ministry at St. Matthew Roman Catholic Church where she taught Religious Education and served in Parish Ministry until her retirement a few years ago. Before that, she worked for People Care Agency at Park Manor Adult Home and Family Home Care of Brooklyn and Queens, NY, providing care to the homebound. Her work in Brooklyn earned her a citation from the Borough President and Staff in the early nineties. For nearly ten years she served as the Hospitality Coordinator at Wisdom House in Litchfield, CT. In the early seventies, she lived in Brownsville, Brooklyn and taught remedial reading and religious education at Our lady of Presentation Church. All this after her beginnings in Norfolk, VA, where for over ten years, she provided childcare for children with disabilities at St. Mary’s Infant Home.
Born in Semlin, Yugoslavia to the late Adam and Anna (Koch) Bittner, Sister immigrated to California as a young girl. It is said she learned about the Daughters of Wisdom in the book True Devotion to Mary by St. Louis de Montfort and went to Hicks Street, Brooklyn, NY to find out more. There she met the Sisters and learned about Wisdom, leading her to make profession in 1961. Sister is survived by her sister Theresa Schaefer and nephews Peter Schaefer, Robert Bittner, and his wife Hilary; Daughters and Associates of Wisdom of the US Province.
Daughters of Wisdom, family, associates, and friends will forever remember Sr. Anna for her kind and gentle ways; and her loving and joyful spirit. Donations in Sr. Anna’s memory can be made online to https://www.daughtersofwisdom.org/donate
Reflecting on the Life of Sr. Anna Bittner, DW
Sr. Christine Scherer, DW
We are here today to celebrate the life of Sr. Anna. She was born on May 16, 1937 in Yugoslavia to German parents Adam and Anna Bittner. Her mother kept this two-and-a-half-pound baby alive spoon feeding her herbal tea and using a wood-burning stove as an incubator.
So, from the start Anna was a determined person who although little could do great things.
She lost her mother when was six years old. After WWII her father, sister and she were captured (1946-1947) and put in a concentration camp. They escaped into Hungary. Her father saved enough money from being a tailor to get train tickets to Austria where her brother John was living. Eventually her family came to California.
Anna is survived by this sister Theresa (Risi), brother-in-law Peter and seven nieces and nephews, eight grandnieces and nephews and five great grandnieces and nephews. Her nephew Bob and his wife Hilary were with her two days before she died. Anna waited for them to come from California. She was determined to squeeze their hand. She knew they were coming to Star of the Sea vacation house on Long Island.
Sr. Anna celebrated her 82nd birthday when two days later she had a stroke. She was unable to tell the EMS people what happened, so they brought her to the nearest trauma unit – Kings County Hospital – rather than the requested Methodist Hospital. After a week she went to McKinney Nursing and Rehab Center. This really made it easier for most of us to get to see her every day. On Monday, August 12, having asked our Provincial for her obedience, she came by ambulette to our DW retirement home (OLPH) in Sound Beach, Long Island.
In religious life as a Daughter of Wisdom she ministered to babies in orphanage in Norfolk, VA; was hospitality coordinator at Wisdom House Retreat Center in Litchfield, CT; was a home health aide to people with AIDS and finally came here to St. Matthew’s Parish ministering in many different ways.
No mater where Anna went everyone who encountered her felt her great love, care and concern.
Anna had a favorite flower – sunflower. When she went to McKinney nursing home, she was on 5B which was named Sunflower Way. This week out on Long Island when we went to Mass at Sound Beach or St. Charles Chapel or Infant Jesus Church – there were sunflowers. The welcome sign on the door for Star of the Sea had sunflowers.
Then, Sr. Chris concluded with Sr. Mary Jane Cashin singing a song that Sr. Anna liked …
Like the sunflower that follows every movement of the sun
So, I turn towards you to follow you, my God.
In simplicity, charity I follow you …
In simplicity, honesty, I follow you …
In simplicity, fidelity, I follow you …
Anna was a faithful daughter of God – straight to heaven.
A Life Celebrated with Love and Joy
Well, it IS true, and I know that it is because I saw it yesterday, August 20th, 2019, at the funeral of Sr. Anna Bittner. It’s true that “the last shall be first and the least among you will be the greatest!” Here, was Anna, who began life at two and a half pounds, who was short and slight all her life, and who never did anything to draw attention to herself or to the good works she was doing. And she was given a glorious and loving farewell that many a king or celebrity would die for.
It began with the open door. As always at Bethany, the front door was wide open to people of every tribe and tongue and background and nation. They were welcomed with fresh coffee and lots of baked goods, many of which were home-made by people who loved and cherished her. And the talk was of Anna – full of affection, and gratitude.
From 10:15 to 11:00 the casket, placed in the middle of the church near the baptismal font, was open so that the people could come and pay their last respects to this humble sister who had labored thirty years in their parish of St. Matthew’s. There was one group of about ten women who stood there, perfectly still, silently praying for all that time while countless others came and went to express to her how much she meant to them.
The hymns chosen for the Mass included ‘Amazing Grace,’ ‘On Eagle’s Wings,’ ‘I Am the Bread of Life,’ and ‘How Great Thou Art.” Well, we thought, these are ordinary hymns, and everybody knows them. We were right about the hymns being well-known, but they turned out to be anything but ordinary! With two hundred or so people singing so lustily and with so much joy and affection, it seemed as if the roof must sail off the top of the church before it was over. A very talented pianist and truly gifted singer from the parish added so much to the festive spirit.
These people were joyful because they had no doubt whatsoever that Anna was now in the eternal embrace of God – and because this was their chance to show how much they revered, honored, and loved her.
The pastor’s homily was full of praise and affection spiced up a little by the anecdotes of his affectionate teasing of Anna. Sr. Chris Scherer’s eulogy at the end of Mass became a dialogue with the congregation who heartily seconded everything she said about Anna’s total inability to say “no” to their needs. Anna always found a way.
On that hot and humid day, the cemetery cooperated perfectly. The sun highlighted the flowers (lots of sunflowers – Anna’s favorites), but there was shade around and breeze to temper the heat.
On that day, we also laid to rest the cremated remains of our beloved Sr. Joan Klemballa. The flower that each of us laid on the grave and the ‘Salve Regina’ that we sang so fervently helped all of us to say goodbye one last time.
Some sisters, family, and friends could not come because of illness or distance or other commitments, but we were all aware that all of you were there with us.
It was a truly beautiful celebration, and, Anna, you deserved every bit of it.