Sister Barbara Ann English, born in Upper Darby and raised in Media, Pennsylvania, is a proud graduate of Notre Dame High School in Moylan, Pennsylvania. After graduation she decided to enter the convent. Her favorite teacher was Sister Joseph Mary Donohue whom she admired for her pedagogical skills, her humor and her easy-going way. She figured if "Jo" had made a go of it in Notre Dame, she also could fit in.
After the initial preparatory years, Sister Barbara Ann began her twelve year stint as an elementary school teacher. She taught the middle grades, Grades 4-6, at first, then went on to Grades 7-8. Like most teachers of her time, during her first teaching years she taught all the subjects in a contained classroom. Later, in the 1960s, she experimented with her peers in specializing. While some taught Math and Science, Sister Barbara Ann taught English and Reading.
During those twelve years, she taught at St. James School, Mt. Rainier, Maryland; Saint Joachim and Anne, Queens Village, New York; Our Lady of Victory School, Southern Pines, North Carolina; Holy Trinity School, Glen Burnie, Maryland; St. Anthony School, Southern Pines, North Carolina; St. Martin's School, Washington, D.C.; St. Thomas More School, Decatur, Georgia. She also substituted short-term for sick sisters at Trinity Preparatory School , Ilchester, Maryland and at St. Aloysius School in Washington, D.C.
She enjoyed all these assignments but especially favored her time in the South. She always gives credit to the children of Our Lady of Victory, Southern Pines, N.C., for teaching her how to teach by working from their strengths and diversifying educational methods to be sure that they fit the culture of the students. At St. Thomas More in Georgia, another break-through experience took place. Sister Bobby initiated work with the community at large, beginning with an after school program with the children in the projects across the street from St. Thomas More. Thus began what would become a passion for community development and community organizing.
In 1966, the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur (SNDdeN) asked Sister Barbara Ann to be part of a second team of sisters for their mission in northeast Brazil. She and four other sisters went to Petropolis, Rio de Janeiro for a language and acculturation course involving missionaries from ten countries around the world. After four months, the four SNDdeNs traveled to the town of Coroata in the state of Maranhao, northeast Brazil. Over a period of nineteen years, Sister Barbara Ann, now Irmâ Bárbara, engaged with Brazilian rural and urban workers in pastoral work that strengthened community ties and organized ways to defend human rights through unions, cooperatives, and associations at local, municipal, state and national levels.
In 1985, Sister Barbara Ann returned to the United States and began another community venture. For twenty-eight years as director of the Julie Community Center in southeast Baltimore, and now known as Sister Bobby, she helped southeast residents address specific problems and organize around general needs, such as decent and affordable housing, public health, safe places and fun spaces for their youth, and adult education.
She retired in the fall of 2013 and by the summer of 2014, the sisters elected her to the leadership team of the new SNDdeN venture of merging five former units or provinces of sisters into a new coast-to-coast unit called East-West.
Sister Barbara Ann or Sister Bobby lives in Baltimore and although retired, offers a helping hand with Notre Dame Mission Volunteers and with SNDdeN local and national communications.