Sister Mary Ann Potenza, 89, a longtime member of the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia, a former teacher and school principal and a popular volunteer companion for hospital patients in need, died Friday, Jan. 7, of heart disease at Assisi House retirement convent in Aston.

A member of the St. Francis congregation for 69 years, Sister Mary Ann was a mentor, educator, and principal in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia for 52 years. Using an approach that emphasized personal connection and caring as well as academics, she taught computer science and honors math to elementary and middle school students at Our Lady of Consolation and All Saints in Philadelphia and St. Stanislaus School in Lansdale.

She was a natural leader and organizer and was a school principal for 17 years at St. Bonaventure School in Philadelphia, St. Ignatius School in Yardley, and Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Minersville, part of the Diocese of Allentown. She also taught in the Archdiocese of Baltimore and the Diocese of Wilmington.

Writing later about the satisfaction she received in the many classrooms she oversaw, Sister Mary Ann said: “I loved the children. … [Teaching] taught me to be ready to give to my community. When changes came, I was ready.”

Maryanne Loftus, Sister Mary Ann’s niece, said young students, in particular, were drawn to her aunt because of her optimism and openhearted manner. “She was the life of the party,” Loftus said. “You were never sad when she was around. She always had something nice to say. Everybody knew her, and she knew everybody.”

Later, Sister Mary Ann volunteered for two decades at St. Mary Medical Center in Langhorne in the No One Dies Alone program, which provides bedside companions for terminally ill hospital patients who have no family or friends available. Her enthusiasm and cheerfulness touched others there, as well.

“She was able to see humor in everyday events and often brought a smile to her fellow colleagues at the hospital,” Sister Patricia Helen Warman wrote in a tribute. A fellow volunteer wrote: “Sister Mary Ann knew what to say, when and how to say it, or just hold your hand.”

Born April 10, 1932, Sister Mary Ann grew up in Philadelphia with sisters Genevieve and Virginia and brother Louis. She was a member of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish and graduated from John W. Hallahan Catholic Girls’ High School. She earned a bachelor’s degree in English and education at what was then Mount St. Mary’s College in Maryland and professed her first vows in 1953.

“I am grateful to the sisters of my community for what we share as sister to sister and for our past and present days together.”

Sister Mary Ann

A lifelong Phillies fan, she liked to say that two of her first words as a child were “Fightin’ Phillies.” She was a good listener, and made her own greeting cards adorned with hand-drawn flowers.

Sister Mary Ann was known to spontaneously form prayer groups in any setting to comfort those she encountered in pain and was particularly sensitive to folks who had lost a loved one. She moved to Assisi House in ­­2016.

In a tribute, a colleague at St. Mary Medical Center wrote that Sister Mary Ann was “a true friend, companion, and someone who guided me in my spiritual journey.” Her niece said: “She leaves the legacy of a great woman.”

In addition to her niece and sister Genevieve, Sister Mary Ann is survived by other relatives. Her brother and other sister died earlier.

Services were Thursday, Jan. 13.

Donations in her name can be made to the Sisters of St. Francis Foundation, 609 S. Convent Rd., Aston, Pa. 19014.