Sister Ellen Marie Stafford
“You are citizens like all the saints and part of God’s household.” (Ephesians 2:19)
“Our Office of Records keeps a complete listing of pertinent facts, events and dates for each of us sisters. In looking over the material for Sister Ellen Marie, I was struck by the fact that in her long life of ministry — close to 70 years — all her residences were in just two states — Indiana and Illinois. Of course the superiors never guaranteed a variety of geographic locations when ministry assignments were made; nevertheless I did feel some regret that Sister Ellen Marie did not enjoy the advantages of differing locations and cultures. On second thought, however, I found this lack of minor importance. By virtue of her baptism and by religious vows Sister Ellen Marie was a citizen and a member of God’s household, no matter where her location. Sharing in God’s own mission, she was part of the building that had Christ Jesus as its cornerstone,” said Sister Alexa Suelzer in her commentary for Sister Ellen Marie Stafford, who died Nov. 3
Helen Mary Stafford was one of two children born to Edward and Anna (Shea) Stafford. She entered this world April 12, 1916, in Galesburg, Ill. Sister Ellen Marie attended St. Joseph Grade School and St. Joseph Academy, both in Galesburg.
“She graduated from St. Joseph Academy in June 1934 and just a month later [July 15, 1934] she and two of her classmates entered Providence Novitiate at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. Ever since their eventful train trip from Galesburg those two classmates have been her lifelong friends: Sisters Theresa Rose Butts and Anne Marita Wynne. They still recall coming to the Woods by way of Chicago and its Century of Progress World’s Fair. And they laugh about their initiation into the mysteries of convent life when they arrived in time for supper — with breakfast cereal!” said Sister Alexa.
Sister Ellen Marie professed first and perpetual vows Jan. 23, 1937, and 1943, respectively. She earned two bachelor’s degrees — one in education and the other in history — from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College and a master’s degree in education from the University of Dayton.
Sister Ellen Marie began her long ministry of teaching elementary and intermediate grades in 1937 at St. John the Baptist, Whiting, Ind. Her other classrooms in Indiana included Assumption, Evansville; St. John the Baptist, Newburgh; St. Ann, Indianapolis; Sacred Heart, Terre Haute; and St. Jude, Fort Wayne. In Illinois she ministered at Our Lady of Sorrows, St. Francis Borgia and St. Sylvester, Chicago; St. Athanasius, Evanston; and St. Joseph and Costa Catholic, Galesburg. From 1975 to 1998 she was a parish visitor for several parishes in Galesburg — Corpus Christi, Immaculate Heart of Mary and St. Patrick. From 1998 to 2004 she provided service at the convent in Galesburg.
“Finally, in 2004, Sister Ellen Marie came home, first to Owens Hall and eventually to health care. Her presence was quiet and undemanding as was her departure from us on Tuesday morning. As St. Paul says, Christ Jesus has ‘raised her up and given her a place in the heavens.’ May she be mindful of us as we, too, grow into a house where God lives in the Spirit,” said Sister Alexa.
The Mass of Christian Burial for Sister Ellen Marie was celebrated Nov. 5, with the Rev. Daniel Hopcus presiding. She was preceded in death by her brother, Edward.
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