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Sister Mary Annella Martin was head of Mercy Hospital School of Nursing from 1970 to 1974. After the hospital closed its nursing school, she was director of primary care services, director of ambulatory services and administrative assistant to the president.
Sister Mary Annella Martin was head of Mercy Hospital School of Nursing from 1970 to 1974. After the hospital closed its nursing school, she was director of primary care services, director of ambulatory services and administrative assistant to the president.

Sister Mary Annella Martin, who formerly headed the Mercy Hospital School of Nursing, died of heart failure last Thursday at Mercy Springwell, her community’s retirement home in Mount Washington. She was 90.

Born Marie Therese Martin in Baltimore and raised on Ellerslie Avenue, she was the daughter of Edward W. Martin and his wife, Regina C. McGinnis. She attended the old St. Bernard School on Gorsuch Avenue and was a 1947 graduate of Seton High School.

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She enrolled at the Mercy Hospital School of Nursing and became a registered nurse. She worked at Mercy for more than 50 years.

“Sister Annella served as a teacher and mentor to young nurses and staff who were seeking to advance their profession and careers,” said Tom Mullen, Mercy’s president. “When I arrived in 1991, she was working in the business office. I watched her work alongside employees to teach them how to excel in their jobs. She demanded excellence, but never failed to teach.”

In a memoir, Sister Annella said she had never considered entering a religious order. It was not until she was working side by side with Mercy sisters, who were nurses, that she began thinking seriously about becoming a sister herself, she said.

She also recalled her family’s reaction when she announced she would become a nun. She said her mother stood up and screamed and her brother said, “So can I have your car now?"

She entered the Sisters of Mercy at Mount Washington in 1957. She was nearly nine years older than others in her group of novices.

“There was already a group of novices formed and we were younger, but had been in training half a year longer when she arrived. We thought we were going to show her how to be a Sister of Mercy. But with her professionalism and years of work, she knew discipline and wound up showing us,” Sister Patricia Smith said.

Sister Annella gave up her baptismal name and received another.

“She asked for some version of Ann as her religious name, but was told that there were far too many Ann’s already in the community. Undaunted, she spent hours searching old Mercy Chronicles, finally coming up with Annella, a name she quickly came to love,” a biography supplied by her order said.

“Sister Annella remembered her formation years as ‘tiresome,’ with rules she felt were ‘sometimes foolish.’”

She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree at Mount Saint Agnes College and a master’s degree at the University of Maryland.

In 1961, Sister Annella was recruited to teach at the Mercy Hospital School of Nursing.

Sister Helen Amos. executive chair of Mercy board of trustees, said: “She was a detail-oriented person and as a nurse she wanted to take care of her patients. She totally gave of herself in that regard. She was mission-focused. She would accept nothing less than first-rate work, yet she had a heart of compassion and a spirit full of care and concern for others.”

She was head of Mercy Hospital School of Nursing from 1970 to 1974. After the hospital closed its nursing school, she was director of primary care services, director of ambulatory services and administrative assistant to the president.

“She was not the kind of person who suffered fools,” Sister Patricia Smith said. “In her later years she became something of an internal auditor at the hospital, making sure that systems ran correctly. She was also an advocate for our employees in housekeeping and food service, the people who make a hospital run. Her eye was for the people just beginning on the ground floor.”

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Sister Annella was also active in Harbel, a community organization that represents Northeast Baltimore, and worked to open a Mercy neighborhood center in Little Italy.

"Through her work there she became more aware of the great need for decent housing among the working poor," a hospital statement said. “At the hospital, she initiated a new program, Mercy Housing, which helped employees work through the complicated processes of renting or buying homes.”

She retired in 2010, then continued to volunteer at the hospital for as long as she remained in good health. She later lived at The Villa on Bellona Avenue and at the Springwell community.

“I like history,” she said in a 2012 story in The Catholic Review. “I like the history of Baltimore. I listened to my grandparents, and it’s the same thing with the sisters — they would talk and you’d get little tidbits and I’d save them.”

She was also interested in her Irish heritage. She was a past state president of the Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians. She participated in the 2005 Baltimore St. Patrick’s Day parade when the Sisters of Mercy were named grand marshals.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Mercy Medical Center Chapel, St. Paul Place and Saratoga Street.

Survivors include numerous cousins, nieces, nephews and other extended family members.

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