Sister Jean Ernstes
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — I took the one less traveled by … .” (Robert Frost)
“Sister Jean originally entered the Society of Mary Reparatrix, whose call and mission entrusted them to repair the injustice brought about by social injustice, greed and misfortune. It was here that Sister Jean began to follow her call, her spirit, her journey in life. The road she would take began here,” said Sister Ruth Johnson in her commentary for Sister Jean Ernstes, who died Sept. 29 at Wishard Hospital, Indianapolis, following a car accident.
Jean Frances Ernstes was born Feb. 19, 1930, in Greensburg, Ind., to Lawrence and Christina Fisse Ernstes. She attended St. Mary Grade School and Greensburg High School. She entered the Society of Mary Reparatrix March 19, 1960, and professed first and perpetual vows March 25, 1963, and Aug. 22, 1968, respectively. Sister Jean earned an RN degree from Good Samaritan Hospital, Cincinnati, a bachelor’s degree in nursing from St. Louis University and a master’s degree in pastoral studies from Loyola University.
As a Sister of Mary Reparatrix, Sister Jean ministered in the archdioceses of Detroit, Cincinnati and New York as well as the Diocese of Amarillo, Texas. In 1983, she ministered as a social worker at the Center of Concern, Park Ridge, Ill., followed by a year as a pastoral associate at St. Catherine Hospital, East Chicago, Ind. She spent one year as a pastoral associate and student at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods before transferring her perpetual vows to the Congregation June 8, 1986.
“When she had made the decision to join our Congregation, she was asked, ‘Why the Sisters of Providence?’ She answered, ‘Because I attended each and every Sisters of Providence meeting they had. They were the only community that called each other by name, hugged each other on greeting and were glad to see each other,’” shared Sister Ruth.
“As Providence would have it, situations placed her in touch with a community that beckoned her expertise, her skills and her personal spirituality. This Congregation opened up and enlarged on the goals and the challenges that she had initially embraced. This gave her a chance to combine a love of prayer and a life of service on yet another road prompted by the spirit’s direction,” continued Sister Ruth.
After her transfer, Sister Jean spent one year in pastoral care as a CPE student at Mercy Hospital and Medical Center, Chicago. From 1987 to 1992, she served as chaplain at St. Anne and St. Elizabeth hospitals, Chicago. She then ministered as administrator at Providence Hall, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, before spending two years as a personal ministries assistant/secretary at Edna Martin Christian Center, Indianapolis. From 1996 until her death, she ministered in a variety of capacities with the Central Indiana Council on Aging (CICOA), Indianapolis or Plainfield, Ind. In June, Sister Jean continued to volunteer at CICOA and added Aging and In-Home Solutions to her volunteer responsibilities.
The Mass of Christian Burial for Sister Jean was celebrated Oct. 2, with the Rev. Daniel Hopcus presiding. She is survived by one sister, Kathryn Bailey, Greensburg, Ind., and two brothers Henry and Howard, both of Greensburg. She was preceded in death by her brother, Ralph.
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