Anna Marie Griffith, (Sister Mary Matthew) was born on February 18, 1928 in Bellingham, Washington. She was the daughter of Florence and L.E. Griffith. Her family owned a ranch outside Lynden, Washington. They owned all along the North shore of Wiser Lake to the Nooksack River. They grew everything but mostly had a huge poultry farm.
When she was six, she ran the full length of the Poultry building on the mono rail above the chickens. There was a door to the outside, which she opened and stepped through. The door closed and she couldn’t get back in. This is the unromantic part of her story - Down below her was parked her dad’s manure spreader. There was a bar that ran across it. She took careful aim and jumped onto that bar. She made it! But then as she walked across it, her feet slipped and she fell back upon the spikes of the manure spreader. Fortunately, it was in neutral and she rolled to the ground. To make a long story short, her back became calcified and in a “s” shape. Two disks were down to nothing and one leg became shorter than the other. There was a hump on her back. She also became totally deaf from the accident, but her mother taught her and she could lip read. She regained some of her hearing, but used hearing aids until her healing.
For her 25th Anniversary as a nun, she went on retreat at Mankado, Minnesota. At the end of the retreat she went to a prayer group to be prayed over, and she asked for a healing of her back. Nothing happened at the moment but during the night, she kept awakening, and telling her roommate, Sister Marie Exner, that something was happening to her back. In the morning when she got up, her back was totally healed, it was straight, no hump, both legs the same length. Later x-rays showed the disks were back to normal. Her hearing was also restored, so she no longer had to wear hearing aids. This made healing real to Sister and she had great faith when she prayed with others that God would be generous to them as He had been to her.
She was a child prodigy in both piano and violin and was a classically trained pianist and violinist, playing with the high school orchestra in 3rd grade and Western Washington Symphony while in Junior High. Her biggest disappointment was having to give these instruments up when her fingers became too arthritic to play them.
When she was ten years old, she was asked what she wanted to be when she grew up. “A Sister”, she said. She voiced her desire to become a Sister while in high school, but her mother told her to wait. She attended Western Washington University in Bellingham until her junior year. Then Our Lord appeared to her outside the music room, and she also had a vision of Our Lady showing her what will happen in the future and saying, “All ends here,” while showing her a grave. She saw a soul of someone leave the grave and rise. Then Our Lady said, “Enter while you still have time left.”
She entered the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace Feb. 2, 1949 and took her final vows, August 22, 1954. She said, “I entered religious life and I am a Sister today because Jesus Christ is real to me. I am convinced that I am loved and I need to share that love.”
She received a B.A. in Education from Seattle University and a M.A. in theology from Notre Dame. From 1950 to 1964 Sister Mary Matthew served as a teacher at St. Rose School, Longview, Sacred Heart School, Bellevue, and St. Mary School, Corvallis, OR. After completion of her Ph.D. course work Catholic University, taught theology and ministered as a catechetical trainer in Washington State and the Alaska missions. She loved the adventure of serving in Alaska. At one time it was 70 below zero and everything, even the oil for the lamps, had frozen. Her nose and parts of her legs were frozen at that time.
Sister Mary Matthew also had a ham radio license and a pilot’s license. Her father was a test pilot for Boeing and taught her how to fly. She was especially interested in flying after an Alaskan bush pilot, to scare his passenger, was doing loop-de-loops with a pontoon plane.
In 1974 she became the first Religious Ed. Coordinator for Immaculate Conception Parish in Mt. Vernon. In 1975 she attended the Healing Ministry classes taught by Father Leo Thomas. Sister Mary Francis and Sister Sioban also attended these classes which covered two years and in the summer of 1977, these three nuns plus Charlotte Saunders went on retreat together. The next year, more joined them, and this was the beginning of St. Joseph Prayer Ministry‘s annual retreats which for the last 25 years or so have been held at Ft. Worden, Port Townsend.
Since 1975, Sister Mary Matthew, with Sister Mary Frances Hackman were involved in training Healing Prayer Teams and in ministering the love and light of Jesus to His people in the United States, Canada, Trinidad, Australia, New Zealand and Mexico. At these places they gave retreats, seminars, talks on prayer, forgiveness, healing relationships, and the love of God, and prayed with people wherever they were. She wrote two books, Angels and the Power ofPrayer and Thematic Approach toScripture.
In 1978 she went to Queen of Angels Parish, Port Angeles. Many of the stories that she wrote about in Angels and the Power of Prayer happened at this time.
In her own parish, St. Mary of Anacortes, Sister provided pastoral care to parishioners who called on her. She helped with classes of Faith Formation and RCIA. For many years she directed the church choir. She was also an active member of the Legion of Mary and was spiritual director for St. Vincent de Paul.
After Sister Mary Frances died September 18, 1997, she prayed for a new partner reminding Jesus that He sent them out two by two. She was joined in ministry by Kathy Moore October 16, 1997 and they continued the Prayer Ministry together. In 2011 they traveled by truck and trailer to Texas, an experience that Sister never had had before. She enjoyed seeing the Grand Canyon at ground level.
Sister enjoyed hiking and she had a dream of climbing Mt. Adams. Kathy and Sister went on many hikes carrying a back pack to get in shape, working up to carry 35 pounds. She was a good sport to sleep in a pup tent. She also enjoyed canoeing and fishing. Well, she enjoyed everything in life. She enjoyed meeting new people and seeing old friends, and she regarded all as her family.
Through the prayer ministry they were able to witness God’s hand on many people. Although Sister was called the healing nun, she never took credit for these marvels but pointed always to God who is the healer. Through prayer, they witnessed God’s hand as marriages were brought together, relationships healed, addictions stopped, love for God grew, jobs obtained, and bodies healed. She just encouraged everyone to pray and develop a relationship with Jesus Our Lord and Savior.
Someone said that her new ministry was welcoming people at the Pearly Gates by name as she remembered everyone’s name. She would often remark, "Your smile is catching". And she said a person who smiles is close to God.
Now she's available for us 24/7 as she tried to be over her lifetime.