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home : features : people of faith

12/23/2015 9:00:00 AM
Posthumous book by Sister Anne Bryan Smollin will focus on living fully
Two years after her death, nationally-known speaker and author Sister Anne Bryan Smollin, CSJ, will have a new book published.

"The Best is Yet to Come" -- a book on seizing the moment and living life to the fullest, written in Sister Anne's typical storytelling style -- is scheduled to be released by Ave Maria Press in fall 2016.

The publisher calls it "vintage Sister Anne: great stories packed with everyday wisdom."

"I think she'd be thrilled. I can hear her saying, 'Oh, Patti, thank you so much,'" said Sister Anne's close friend and housemate of 30 years, Sister Patricia St. John, CSJ.

Sister Patti, who is the director of the Carondelet Music Center in Latham and an adjunct associate professor of music at Columbia University's Teachers College, said that Sister Anne had been working on the book for several years until her death on Sept. 25, 2014.

"I kept trying to encourage her to set time aside to work on it, but she didn't feel well," Sister Patti recalled. "It wasn't like I was expecting her to die; she just didn't have the energy to focus on it."

Impressive resume
Sister Anne was the author of a half-dozen previous books on spirituality and humor, including "Tickle Your Soul," "Live, Laugh and Be Blessed," "God Knows You're Stressed" and "Making Each Moment Count." A Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet for 53 years, she headed the Albany Diocese's Counseling for Laity Office (since closed) for three decades and was a speaker much in demand around the country for her humorous, fast-paced delivery.

Sister Patti found about 140 pages of the manuscript among Sister Anne's papers after her death. The working title was, "Living Fully Each Moment."

The manuscript noted that the final chapter would be titled, "The Best is Yet to Come," but that chapter had not been written.

Having polished several of Sister Anne's previous manuscripts, Sister Patti said, "I called the editor and said, 'Are you still interested in publishing this book?'"

Happy to publish
Robert Hamma of Ave Maria Press, the publisher of several of Sister Anne's books, told The Evangelist he couldn't believe it: He'd known another book had been planned, but "when she passed away, [we thought] we wouldn't have the opportunity to publish this."

Ave Maria Press had previously sold more than 15,000 copies of Sister Anne's "Tickle Your Soul" and 20,000 copies of "God Knows You're Stressed."

The publisher gave the go-ahead, and Sister Patti spent months working on the manuscript and writing a forward for the book, which was retitled, "The Best is Yet to Come."

Sister Patti called it "an act of love to bring this to fruition.

"It helped me tremendously in my own grieving," she added, recounting a story Sister Anne tells in the book about valuing all of the 86,400 seconds that comprise each day: "It's a game, [as if] you're given $86,400 each day. You can't transfer it to anybody; if you don't use it, it's lost - but, the next day, bank will deposit another $86,400 in your account."

The point, Sister Patti explained, is that people should use the many seconds of each day as they would use money: If you had that much, "surely you would try to help some causes, family.

"It was pretty fascinating to be working on this [manuscript] and to be thinking about how quickly Anne died -- in seconds," Sister Patti said. Knowing that, "the message is more profound."

Sneak-peek at book
The finished book, according to Dr. Hamma, includes 27 short chapters with headings like, "Finding Joy Everywhere," "What We Look For," "Making the Best of Things" and "Being Different Isn't Bad."

"You can kind of hear her voice when you read the book," he remarked. "She was a bundle of energy and full of fun. Whenever you were with her, she just engaged you."

The publisher recalled that, at the annual Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, Sister Anne was always assigned to give her talks in an arena, the conference's biggest venue, because her enthusiasm "really got people going."

In fact, Ave Maria Press has already planned a book release -- something they've only done posthumously for a couple of well-known authors -- at the 2017 L.A. congress.

Dr. Hamma said the decision to change the book's working title highlights a particular story Sister Anne tells in which a woman asks to be buried with a fork in her hand: After the main course at a fancy dinner, she reasons, people are often asked to hold onto their forks, because "the best is yet to come" -- dessert.

"I am thrilled that [Sister Anne's book] will be published," Sister Patti told The Evangelist. "For me, it was one last act of a deeply meaningful friendship that we shared. I think she would be really touched to leave this as her final legacy."

(The Evangelist will update readers when "The Best is Yet to Come" is available to be ordered.)

Reader Comments

Posted: Saturday, January 9, 2016
Article comment by: Sr. Nicole Cayer, SSJ

I look forward to getting this last book. I had the privilege of meeting Sr. Anne in person in 2007 in Phoenix, AZ at an convention for Catholic Cemetery Conference. I also have her book, Live, Laugh and Be Blessed. A great lady, speaker, so dynamic and alive.

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