Throughout their history, the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary have placed great importance on musical expression. Their archives contain many original compositions and recordings. Among these collections are the works of Sister Anne Cecile. Her accomplishments reflect the value of music in the lives of the Sisters and their students.
Mary Catherine Harnan was born in Colorado Springs, Colorado on January 3, 1904. She was one of seven children born to John Harnan and Catherine Hogan Harnan. In 1909, her family moved to Seattle, Washington, where her father practiced law. She received her elementary and secondary education from Holy Names Academy in Seattle.
Mary Whereat was born aboard the Matilda Atheling on April 11, 1874. Her father, William Joseph Whereat, was the ship's captain and her mother, Ellen Elizabeth Oxley Whereat, had accompanied him on the voyage. Her two older brothers, Lancelot Arthur Whereat and Alfred Ernest Whereat, were also on board. At the time of Mary's birth, the ship was located in the Indian Ocean, outside the Sunda Strait between Java and Sumatra. Her parents were British citizens and members of the Church of England, and when the ship reached Melbourne, Australia, she was baptized at the Holy Trinity Church under the name Ellen Mary Whereat. She returned to England in May of 1875 after spending the first year of her life at sea.