Sr. Anna Priester, BVM, passed away Dec. 17, 2016, in Lancaster, California. She was 74.

Born in Los Angeles into the Byzantine rite, she entered religious life at 18 and became a teacher in Des Moines, Iowa for five years. She later worked in Quito, Ecuador at the Centro de Muchachos, then relocated to Phoenix where she taught at St. Mark Catholic School, served in parish ministry at St. Catherine of Siena, ministered as a child care aide at Hacienda de los Angeles, Inc., and was program trainer at Multi-Handicapped Children, Inc.

It was her deep love of the poor that her friend Sr. Mary Waddell, BVM, recalled. The two served together in Guatemala beginning in 1986. Sr. Anna spent 27 years in the Central American nation where she served as a catechist and trained teachers. Her mission increased, and she went on to assist widows, helping them to secure housing and develop a means to support their families.

Sr. Mary described Sr. Anna as “a strong, gentle, committed religious woman. She loved people, especially the marginalized.” During her time in Guatemala, she set up scholarships to increase the number of students who could attend school. Two years into her mission, 46 students were on scholarship.

“Her vocation to follow Jesus gave her the freedom to pursue truth, and lovingly demonstrate it in all aspects of her life,” Sr. Mary said. “She knew her body and followed its directives through the many years of fighting cancer, quietly and uncomplaining.”

The funeral Mass was held Dec. 21 at St. Mary Byzantine Catholic Church in Sherman Oaks, California, where Sr. Anna was hailed for her commitment to “share Jesus’ Gospel values and to live out the BVM core values of charity, justice, education and freedom in service to God’s people, were always in focus.”