Sister Mary Eleanor
To say that I have experienced a lot of change in my 50 years as a Sister of Providence is an understatement. My novitiate class experienced some of the religious practices before our religious community’s revised Constitutions were adopted.
Our studies included the newest theology and the results of the Second Vatican Council. Thus we were the first group to live in the new changes in religious life. And a huge change came when the new habit of our congregation was made public on the day of our first profession in August of 1966.
I spent the first 18 years of my life in Havre, Mont., where I was born on May 25, 1945. I have one sister and two brothers. Every year we took the train to Minnesota, where most of my relatives lived. In Havre, we had lots of snow and cold weather. I am still very fond of snow.
Guided by God to Sisters of Providence
I entered the Sisters of Providence at Providence Heights in Issaquah, Wash., in 1963 and made my first profession in 1966. I made my perpetual profession in 1971 at St. Jude’s Church in Havre, Mont.
I have always felt that God guided me to the Sisters of Providence. I did not know any Sisters of Providence before I entered the community. A high school friend of mine had been taught by the Providence sisters at St. Gerard’s School in Great Falls, Mont. She liked the Providence sisters and, being young, I was brave enough to enter without personally knowing any Providence sisters.
I was young, very young in every way, when I entered right out of high school. For the next five years I went to school at Providence Heights, which was a wonderful place because so much was available. I loved to study and it had a wonderful library. There were times when we were required to be silent, but there were always other sisters around so I never felt isolated. We had recreation for one hour each night and we had to be there and do something, play a game, knit or something else. Sister Clare Lentz saved me because she knew how to play Bridge. We found others who could join in the game each night.
Unique opportunity to serve in Canada
I graduated from Seattle University in June 1968 with a bachelor of arts degree in education. We were fortunate to have a well-rounded liberal arts education. My first mission was at St. Raphael Grade School in Glasgow, Mont., where I taught the fourth grade for three years. After they closed the school in Glasgow, I went to Walla Walla, Wash., to teach grades four and six at Assumption School from 1971 to 1979.
When I returned to Spokane, I began taking business courses with an emphasis on accounting at Spokane Community College from 1979 to 1980. In 1980 I began my ministry in finance when I became the Sisters’ Fund bookkeeper at the Provincial Administration.
A unique opportunity came my way in January 1985. For three years I worked as the registrar and treasurer at the Providence Renewal Centre in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Living in another country (even though English speaking) is a wonderful experience. I learned that there are many good ways to do things like run a government. Getting to know the sisters of Holy Angels Province was a rewarding experience.
On January 1, 1989, I was appointed by the provincial council as the assistant administrator/bookkeeper of Mount St. Joseph in Spokane, Wash. Working at Mount St. Joseph gave me an opportunity to get to know some of the older members of the religious community.
Finding great joy in life
When I was working at Mount St. Joseph I was living at 1002 East Boone Avenue with Sisters Myrta Iturriaga and Ida Mae Marceau. In February of 2002 Ida Mae and I went to Chile with Myrta for two weeks. We had a great visit with Myrta’s family and the sisters of Mother Bernarda Province.
The “Crossing the Mountains” discernment process between the two American provinces of the West lead the sisters to embrace the call to form Mother Joseph Province in 2000. This change in the provinces was not too difficult for me because I had spent five years at Providence Heights in Issaquah and knew many of the sisters in the former Sacred Heart Province.
I have served on various community committees. Currently, I am a member of the Emilie Gamelin Mission Fund Committee.
All of my religious life, sisters have remarked about my happy demeanor and my joyfulness. They recognize my deep, spontaneous laugh when something strikes me as funny, and they have witnessed my great curiosity about people. I have found a lot of joy in this life. In my spare time, I love to read, mainly biographies and autobiographies, and I enjoy the outdoors, even if it’s only in my own backyard, and love the snow.
I am grateful for my religious community, family, friends and co-workers who have encouraged, supported and challenged me to personal and spiritual growth over the years. I give thanks for the gift of faithfulness of my parents, my sister Barbara, my brothers Bob and Don, and their families. Providence of God, I thank you for all.