Program in sister’s name helps students explore medicine

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By Karel Lucander

Sister Agnese Neumann has covered much territory during her many years in ministry—producing fruit, sparking joy and serendipitously becoming the namesake of a new opportunity for future medical professionals.

Born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland, Sister Agnese attended high school at Mount St. Agnes. As a young girl, she dreamed of becoming a nurse. But when she entered the Sisters of Mercy in 1947, she was asked to become an educator—which, of course, she did.

Ministering in education and medicine

Sister Agnese taught elementary school for one year in Baltimore and nine years in Savannah, Georgia, before being assigned to Mercy High School of Baltimore when it opened in 1960. In 1967, she relocated for two years to St. Vincent’s Academy in Savannah as vice principal and a science teacher before returning to Mercy High as chair of the science department and a biology teacher.

In 1973, Sister Agnese was given approval to fulfill a longtime yearning and left the academic world to begin her odyssey in nursing. Eventually, she became a nurse practitioner and worked at a variety of healthcare practices, including private practice in both southern Maryland and Dahlonega, Georgia, with Sister Susanne Ashton, a physician. Through the years, the two have ministered especially closely.

As noted in a 2015 profile of Sister Susie:

Sister Agnese Neumann has been an integral part of all of her ministries, especially running the medical office while Sister Susie was in surgery or delivering babies. Together, they also started a clinic for economically poor women in Leonardtown, Maryland, volunteered in St. Mary’s County Hospice Program and—just for something else interesting and productive to do—became certified legal mediators, volunteering their time at St. Mary’s County District Court.

Working together, Sisters Agnese and Susie have been a force to be reckoned with.

“I’ve loved both teaching and my years of service in nursing,” Sister Agnese says.

Two paths converge, creating the Neumann Scholars Program

Just as Sister Agnese has loved her ministries, she has been beloved. It’s no wonder her two paths of teaching and nursing converged to create an opportunity for bright students that even she could not have imagined.

Still, it was a surprise when the president of Mercy High School called Sister Agnese into her office and told her the school administrators wanted to name a scholastic program after her.

“When I heard this, I was taken off my feet,” she says.

This year, eight students were selected for the inaugural “Sister Agnese Neumann Scholars” program. A joint venture between Mercy High School and MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital, the program allows students to test-drive a career in medicine. It is open to freshmen and rising sophomores and spans three academic years plus one summer. The program provides students with hands-on training, mentorship in a specialty area (aging science, occupational/physical therapy, nursing or community/public health) and an internship.

According to Mary Beth Lennon, president of Mercy High School, “We expect that our Sister Agnese Neumann Scholars will become future leaders in healthcare.” She adds, “Our new partnership with MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital allows us to respond to the strong demand for rigorous academic programs in the STEM fields.”

Sister Agnese couldn’t be more pleased and honored to help young women explore the field of medicine as participants in this program that bears her name.

Considers herself wealthy

Now 89, Sister Agnese spends every Thursday volunteering in the Alumnae Office at Mercy High School; other days she drives her sisters—who live at Mercy Springwell, a nearby retirement convent—to doctor’s appointments if requested and visits with them if they are hospital bound. “Thank God I can do it, and I pray that I can continue to do it,” she says.

“Not everyone in life is as fortunate as I have been,” adds Sister Agnese. “I have some wonderful friends and consider myself to be a very wealthy person. When you have one good friend you are wealthy; when you have several, you are very wealthy. It’s not something you can buy. My dad used to say that to me all the time: ‘You’re a very wealthy young lady.’ And it’s continued to be true throughout my life.”