May They Rest in Peace: Sr. Annette Zipple, RSCJ

Sr. Annette Zipple, RSCJ, a Religious of the Sacred Heart, died May 13, 2020, in Farmington Hills.

Annette Zipple was born in Lansing, Michigan, August 22, 1923, the only daughter of Anna George Malik and Karl George Zipple. She grew up in Lansing with her three brothers, Karl, Matthew, Francis, and John. Throughout her life, Annette heard her mother speak about the Religious of the Sacred Heart as she attended a yearly retreat at the Convent of the Sacred Heart in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, and was deeply influenced by the spirituality of the Sacred Heart.

A Memorial Mass will be held at a later date.
Sr. Annette Zipple, RSCJ

After high school in Lansing, Annette attended the College of Mount Saint Joseph in Cincinnati, Ohio, graduating in 1944 with a major in Bacteriology and Chemistry. Upon graduation, Annette completed an internship at Good Samaritan Hospital in Detroit to become a registered medical technologist. She worked at as a medical technician in virus/bacteriological research at the University of Michigan, working with Dr. Jonas Salk, later at Parke Davis. 

When Sister Zipple entered the Society at Kenwood, in 1952, she was of 29 years old. Because of her age, and her training as a medical technologist, the mistress of novices, she was named head of the novitiate infirmary. Sister Zipple made her first vows on August 15, 1954, and was promptly named surveillante of the novices, the person responsible for supervising the daily life and work of the novitiate. For the last year of her aspirantship (the period before final profession) she was sent to teach at Prince Street in Rochester, New York, before going to probation in Rome. Sister Zipple made her final profession on July 21, 1960, after which she was sent to Manhattanville College to be house warden, the person in charge of the housekeeping for the college. In 1966, Sister Zipple was sent to the Convent of the Sacred Heart, Grosse Pointe, Michigan, as assistant to the superior. She loved the students and faculty, but always aware of the turbulence in the city; she felt deeply called to be present and serve those most in need in the city of Detroit. She would serve the city for the next 54 years.

With the blessing of a wise superior, Sister Zipple started down a road that would shape the rest of her life and lead her to become a pioneer and champion of those often overlooked, underserved, and without access to the basic necessities of human life. Her desire to work with the African American and Latino families in the city took shape in an exceptional summer program at Grosse Pointe called Sacred Heart Enrichment Program (SHEP). She linked with friends and her sisters from the Academy of the Sacred Heart in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, as well as those in Grosse Pointe. SHEP would become the model for outreach programs in Sacred Heart communities around the United States, linking resources, opportunities, and most of all children, in experiences of music, dance, art, and relationships. The graduates of SHEP programs continue to mark those summers as life-changing, breaking down walls of racism and opening new ways of thinking and being.

In 1972, Sister Zipple completed a degree in social work at Wayne State University and began her work as a professional social worker serving as the Coordinator of School Social Work Services for the Archdiocese of Detroit, which led to her spiritual and ministerial home. In 1974, she began her ministry with Most Holy Trinity Parish as the coordinator of social work services and the director of community services. As an integral member of the parish team, Sister Zipple knew that building bridges of relationship between communities was the key to real change. Through her work at Holy Trinity, Sister Zipple accessed resources for those who were housing or food insecure in Southwest Detroit and the wider regional community. Sister Zipple insisted that the Society of the Sacred Heart live out its commitment to racial and economic justice, refusing to remain silent in the face of inequity and discrimination. If there was an important issue, election, civil rights march, immigration challenge or need for prayer to be present at the place of conflict, Annette Zipple was sure to be there. Trusting in the support of her family, her friends, and her RSCJ sisters, Sister Zipple believed she was born to be the ambassador for the Religious of the Sacred Heart to the city of Detroit.

She rejoiced in her years of service in the city with her great friends, especially Mary Elizabeth Fisher and Martha Curry, and delighted in sharing the mission with these women. Annette worked with the RSCJ in the area and with members of five religious congregations to found and co-sponsor a middle school for girls in Southwest Detroit. Although the financial downturn affected its longevity, Our Lady of Guadalupe Middle School for Girls was an outstanding, innovative school and a new educational model. Sister Zipple and local RSCJ also worked with the Felician Sisters of Madonna University, with the financial support of the Fisher family, to found Southwest Women’s Educational Empowerment Project (SWEEP) in Southwest Detroit, assisting women seeking degrees in social work. 

After more than fifty years of service, Annette recognized that the time had come to slow the pace of work, but was fiercely convinced that God continued to call her to the city of Detroit. In October of 2015, Annette moved into McAuley Center with the Sisters of Mercy in Farmington, Michigan. There, she joined lifelong friends, women of great love in her final commitment to the city of Detroit. Through prayer, vibrant connections, and the fidelity of her family, she continued her love and passion for the city and her desire to see change happen through the connection between and among people of heart.

On May 13, 2020, Annette died quietly at Mercy Center in Farmington with Sisters of Mercy and her beloved city around her. Annette leaves behind generations of Detroit women and men touched by her love, her passion, her relentless vision and her faith. She leaves behind her dear brother Francis, his wife, Kathy, nieces and nephews, grand and great nieces and nephews, friends who hold her as family, and her sisters in the Society of the Sacred Heart. 

We, the Religious of the Sacred Heart, lost a champion of love. One devoted to the warrior spirit and pioneer love of Philippine Duchesne, whose strength and tenderness intertwined in action grounded in the Gospel. All the angels and saints must rejoice with the presence of Annette, as we experience the absence of this great woman of heart.

A Memorial Mass will be held at a later date.

Memorial contributions can be made to the Society of the Sacred Heart, 4120 Forest Park Avenue, St. Louis, Missouri 63108.

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