Among the many priests and religious who were part of the extended Birney clan were two Adrian Dominican Sisters: Jean Charles Birney and her sister Mary Jean (Sister Jane Dominic).
Elizabeth Ann Birney, who became Sister Jean Charles in religious life, was born January 20, 1924, in Jackson, Michigan, to Charles and Jean (Crawford) Birney. Charles’ great-great grandfather came from Northern Ireland to Canada and from there to several other locales, finally coming to Bunker Hill, Michigan. Charles was born in Tawas, Michigan. Jean’s side of the family was Scottish, and emigrated to Canada, where Sister Jean was born.
Charles and Jean married in 1918 and settled in Jackson, Michigan. Their first child, a son whom they named John, was stillborn. Next came Mary Jean and then, two and a half years later, Elizabeth, who was born by Caesarean section. Tragically, complications ensued, and Jean died three days later.
Charles remarried in 1928, when Elizabeth was four and a half and Mary Jean was seven. In the meantime, an aunt and great-aunt raised the children. Charles’ second wife, Marco Brennan, was nearly twenty years younger than Charles and, by Sister Jean Charles’ own account in her life story, the marriage was often stormy. The girls attended grade school and high school at St. Mary Star of the Sea in Jackson, but while they were in high school, an especially difficult time in their parents’ marriage led to them being sent away to St. Joseph Academy in Adrian.
Read more about Sister Jean Charles (PDF)
Memorial gifts may be made to Adrian Dominican Sisters, 1257 East Siena Heights Drive, Adrian, Michigan, 49221. Funeral arrangements are being handled by Anderson-Marry Funeral Home, Adrian.
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