Sister Marie Ellen Sullivan
“How wonderful are your gifts to me.” (Psalm 16:7)
“These words from Psalm 16 reflect the energy that drove Sister Marie Ellen. A gifted woman, she relied on the God of Providence to guide her, to teach her, to befriend her. With that assurance, she was able to follow the path that God had laid out for her. Her passion and her sense of urgency helped her to walk the path with confidence, with integrity and with joy because God was truly at her side,” began Sister Joan Slobig in her commentary for Sister Marie Ellen Sullivan, who died March 29.
Marjorie Joan Sullivan was one of three children born to William and Mary (McDonough) Sullivan. She was born Aug. 21, 1926, in Chicago. Educated at Our Lady Help of Christians and Providence High School, both in Chicago, she entered the Congregation Feb. 2, 1945. She professed first and perpetual vows Aug. 15, 1947, and 1952, respectively. Sister Marie Ellen earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, a master’s degree in education from Indiana State University and another master’s degree in pastoral studies from Loyola University, Chicago.
Sister Marie Ellen began teaching upper middle-grade students in 1947 at St. Philip Neri, Indianapolis. In addition to teaching middle grades, Sister Marie Ellen ministered as an English and Spanish teacher as well as a principal. In Indiana, she ministered at St. Mary, Lafayette, and Our Lady of Providence, Clarksville. In Illinois, her ministries were at Our Lady of Mercy and Providence High School, Chicago; Providence High School, New Lenox; and Mother Theodore Guerin High School, River Grove. Sister Marie Ellen also ministered at Holy Redeemer, Berywn, Md., and Dunblane, Washington, D.C.
The year “1975 brought with it a difficult transition at Guerin and Sister Marie Ellen responded to the needs of the Congregation without hesitation, agreeing to lead the school as its principal, a ministry that she continued until 1987. The image of her during those years that will ever remain with me is that of a woman with a mission and all the energy and more to accomplish that mission. She understood what it meant to ‘multi-task’ before the term was invented! She was everywhere. The school community experienced love, mercy and justice in the person of this dynamo of a woman. Always her Irish wit and wisdom and, oh, yes, a little bit of blarney, too, made any situation manageable,” said Sister Joan.
“And when she wasn’t in school, she was running over to the home of her aging parents to see what they might need and reaching out to the St. Celestine’s parishioners who were ill by taking communion to them. In the midst of the never-ending activity of her days, God was her guide and her teacher and the one who kept her centered. No matter how busy the day was, it began and ended in prayer. God was at her side and her inner strength came from that ever deepening relationship,” continued Sister Joan.
“How could anyone not be engaged when you were in her presence? How could you not have a good time with this woman whose laugh, whose Irish gift of gab made her a delight to be around? She treasured her friendships and her loyalty to family and friends was as intense as her passion for ministry,” said Sister Joan.
“After 12 years as principal of Guerin, a year at Loyola University in Chicago equipped her with a master’s degree in pastoral studies and gave her the credentials that she needed for the next stop along the path of her life. For the next 15 years, she served the people of St. Constance Parish in Chicago as pastoral associate. This ministry became another way to also reach out to the sick and her care for them fulfilled the passion she had to help others through their illnesses, to be present to them in their suffering,” continued Sister Joan.
Sister Marie Ellen returned to the Woods in 2004. She tutored students through Providence Family Services and ministered with sisters in Health Care.
“We do rejoice that Sister Marie Ellen chose the path of Providence and that we have been privileged to call her our sister. Our memories of her are joy-filled ones,” concluded Sister Joan.
The Mass of Christian Burial for Sister Marie Ellen was celebrated April 3, with the Rev. Daniel Hopcus presiding. She is survived by her sister, Marian Kroes of Kenosha, Wis.
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