Shaping futures on ‘Cyber Island’ in Savannah
February 5, 2015
By Karel B. Lucander
Sister Frances Ann Cook brings the literary alive, stretching vocabularies and refining writing skills on Cyber Island. Housed in a historic 1845 convent, her Cyber Island is more like Treasure Island for the high-school girls at St. Vincent’s Academy in Savannah, Georgia. As the sole keeper of this computer resource and research lab, Sister Frances Ann assists the girls with everything from crafting college essays to mastering information for exams. The help she provides is as varied as the students, from those struggling to those at the top of their classes.
“The students who are way ahead might be in here on a BBC foreign languages site, doing advanced interactive vocabulary, while I’m assisting some others to learn basic English vocab. Yesterday, we were bounding through centuries with Shakespeare, Poe, Orwell, and Kingsolver, depending on the grade level of the students. My role is different day to day. It’s wonderful fun with delightful teenagers,” she says.
Before she settled into her current ministry on Cyber Island 15 years ago, Sister Frances Ann’s experiences played out like a colorfully constructed novel. Central to her story’s plot was entering the Sisters of Mercy in 1958.
“So many unbelievable things would not have happened if I wasn’t a sister,” she says.
Born the first of six children to a ship captain and a homemaker in Mobile, Alabama, she fondly recalls shrimping, crabbing and fishing with her siblings at their summer place near the village of Bayou La Batre, on the bayou at Coden, Alabama. Sister Frances Ann graduated from Convent of Mercy Academy in Mobile and entered the Sisters of Mercy. She continued her formal education, acquiring a bachelor’s degree in English from Mount St. Agnes College and a master’s degree (MLA) in liberal arts (with a concentration in British literature) from Johns Hopkins University.
As a Sister of Mercy, she has spent the past 50 years exploring the literary world by teaching as well as participating in a rich facet of related ministries. As a high-school English teacher in Georgetown, she directed productions of “Alice in Wonderland,” “Arthur and the Magic Sword” and “Treasure Island” at Trinity Theater in Washington, D.C. (now the performing arts venue for Georgetown University). When she was director of adult education for the Archdiocese of Atlanta, Georgia, she introduced a weekly interfaith radio program called “Atlanta Alive” that was on the air for seven years. For the radio program, Sister Frances Ann interviewed witches and warlocks, police officers and prisoners, shopkeepers and shoplifters, and many prominent Atlantans, including Congressman Andrew Young; architect John Portman; Mayor Maynard Jackson; and Catholic statesman Stevens Mitchell, brother of “Gone With The Wind” author Margaret Mitchell.
Also while in Atlanta, Sister Frances Ann was pastoral associate at Sacred Heart Church. Her background in publishing college and high-school yearbooks led her to write and publish a centennial history of the Sacred Heart parish in 1980, “Spires at the Heart of the City,” which is still available through Amazon. While at Sacred Heart, she also inherited the care of a donkey (dubbed St. George) who was a parish participant in Palm Sunday processions, Christmas pageants, feasts and festivals. Although the rectory was on downtown Peachtree Street, the Atlanta mounted patrol cleared a horse stall for St. George at their Piedmont Park Stables. For years she received cards from parishioners with updates about St. George and his descendants.
Sister Frances Ann also had an opportunity to cross the Atlantic Ocean with 32 men aboard a cargo ship. She boarded in New Orleans, Louisiana, with her brother, captain of the S.S.Sheldon Lykes. While cruising on the massive vessel, Sister Frances Ann watched whales swimming alongside the ship, saw the fireworks of shooting stars every night, and stopped in interesting ports throughout Europe. It was yet another storied chapter in the continuing saga of this blessed life of this Sister of Mercy.
Sister Frances Ann Cook passed away on January 26, 2016. You can read Sister Frances Ann’s obituary online. Living God, we pray that by sharing in the sufferings of Jesus, we may come to know the power of his resurrection. May we be sustained by the eucharist and by our love for one another as we journey home. May those who have preceded us in death enjoy eternal life. And may those who mourn be assured that their loved ones now see you face to face.