As a religious sister of 73 years, Sister Zita Marie Sharrow has experienced the significant changes that have taken place within the Servants of Mary and the outside world. Sharrow became a sister in 1949, and immediately began teaching art class for elementary students in Massena, New York. She loved the great variety of people she met in New York, and felt very grateful for her students.
As much as Sharrow loved the city, the country was always her favorite. She lived outside of Tucson, Arizona from 1984-1995, and taught each grade at some point. Life in the country was slower than the city, and Sharrow was content living her life there. Even with so much going on in the United States, her quiet life continued. During World War II, she knew people who were sent to fight in the war, but none of her close family or friends were sent away, so it did not affect her life all that much. Similarly to World War II, the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s took place during her time as a sister. As a teacher, she noticed the tension in schools as integration occurred, but tried to keep the peace in her classroom and treat her students equally. She avoided most of the major events involved with the movement because of her location in the country. Overall, historical events did not impact Sharrow as much as other sisters due to her more remote location.
In 1974, the Servants of Mary sent her to Rome, Italy to do research on the history of the Servants of Mary. She ended up staying there for four years. She did research and read letters from their founder, Marie Guyot, and read about how they moved from France to England. She came back to the states in 1978. In 2000, Sharrow went to England for a few weeks for a vacation, but ended up taking a secretary position at the headquarters in England and stayed for four years.
Sharrow came back to Omaha in 2004, and took over the St. Peregrine Ministry. The St. Peregrine Ministry is committed to supporting those who are affected by cancer. Two months after becoming the leader of the ministry, Sharrow was diagnosed with cancer. Though her cancer was tough mentally and physically, she is “so thankful for it,” because it helped her to empathize with the people she worked with. People were often more open in their conversations with her because she had been through the same thing and overcome it. It also helped her to appreciate people and life so much more. It made her realize, “God made a marvel in human beings, and it’s easy to lose sight of that.” After surgery to remove her cancer she entered remission with a whole new outlook on life.
Throughout the years, the focus of the Servants of Mary has shifted. The biggest change in the ministry is that, at first, the sisters were all teachers at schools throughout the country.
Gradually, the sisters did more work with hospitals, parish ministries, and community service.
Sharrow is “at peace with the direction it has gone in, and as long as the sisters listen to what the church needs, it will all be right.” Sharrow is beyond thankful for her experiences and the beautiful connections she has made as a Servant of Mary.