“When my students ask me how long I have been in China, I say ‘Longer than you have!’ When they catch on they laugh and they tell me I am half Chinese which I take as a compliment.”
Sister Anne Reusch came to Maryknoll from Rhode Island in 1950. On receiving a B.S.in Education from Maryknoll Teachers College, she was assigned to Hong Kong in 1956. After teaching at the primary level for four years, she became involved in 1960 in the women’s catechumenate at St. Teresa’s parish in Kowloontong. During this time Hong Kong was trying to house and educate thousands of people who had come legally or illegally rather than live under the Communist government in Mainland China. It was during these years that the Church in Hong Kong grew and a vibrant, dedicated laity emerged.
In 1966 Sister Ann spent a year at the Divine Word International Center for Religious Education in London, Ontario, Canada and received a Diploma in Catechetical and Pastoral Formation.
Returning to Hong Kong she did pastoral work with two Maryknoll Sisters and the Maryknoll Fathers in Kowloontsai, a squatter area with thousands of people living in wooden shacks up and down the hillsides.
She worked eighteen months in the Kai Tai East Vietnamese Refugee Camp, run by Caritas, and became the educational coordinator. It was one of the ten refugee camps set up in Hong Kong for the Vietnamese boat people who were arriving by the hundreds each week. To Hong Kong’s lasting credit no one was turned away from their shores. Many of the Vietnamese refugees were ethnic Chinese who had been in Vietnam for several generations so language was not a huge problem. There were Vietnamese Sisters in Hong Kong who could help the Vietnamese people who did not speak Chinese. Each camp set up some form of “school,” to provide classes in the evenings for adults and there were many volunteers who came to help. While she was involved in this camp, Sister Anne received word that her mother was seriously ill and she returned to the U.S.
For nine years she worked in New York City and went to RI to be with her mother almost every weekend. During this time she taught English language skills to new adult immigrants in Chinatown. She also taught for a year at a center in Mid Manhattan for Russian religious refugees, Jewish people who came to the U.S. via Italy just before the breakup of the USSR.
In 1991, Sister Ann received her M.A. in TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language) from Hunter College, NYC and returned to Hong Kong.
With a Cantonese refresher, Sister Ann started to teach in Guangzhou in 1992 at a technical university for one year and then transferred to the Guangzhou Normal College where she spent eight very happy years.
In southern Guangdong province Sister Ann also spent six and a half happy years at Zhanjiang Normal University, a second level university with a student enrollment of sixteen thousand all living on campus. In 2006, out of a faculty of some six hundred members Sister Anne was chosen as one of the school’s top ten teachers to receive the Excellent Teachers Award.
She says, “I think all of the hundreds of students from the countryside that I interacted with over the years were the first in their families to finish high school and earn a place in a university. It was very heartening to know that the families sacrificed as much for their daughters as they did for their sons. One of the most impressive things I have experienced in my sixteen years in Mainland China is going with groups of students to the HD (Hansen’s disease) villages. These trips are completely organized by the students who connect via the internet and groups of twenty to twenty-five go to the villages for one or two weeks during the semester breaks as well as shorter weekend stays.”
Sister Anne is beginning her next career! She will teach in a Macau diocesan secondary school and is looking forward to this new adventure.