Sister Ellen Catherine Conroy
“Then he took a cup and when he had returned thanks, he gave it to them.” (Matthew 26:26)
“These very familiar words are the most sacred part of the Mass — the institution of the Eucharist. Have you ever heard Sister Ellen Catherine saying these words out loud along with the priest at Mass from her wheelchair? It was especially noticeable when we had Masses in the McLaughlin Room on Mondays and Thursdays. As Father Dan Hopcus said the words of consecration, Sister Ellen Catherine said them out loud along with him. She was so much in tune with what was happening. I, and I am sure others, too, were so impressed with her attentive devotion to the Mass,” said Sister Mary Pat Peacock in her commentary for Sister Ellen Catherine Conroy, who died June 4.
The youngest of 10 children, Anna Conroy was born Oct. 15, 1913, in Chicago to James and Ellen (Donovan) Conroy. She attended Sumner Public School and later St. Mel Grade School, Chicago, graduating from Providence High School. Sister Ellen Catherine entered the Congregation Feb. 11, 1930, and professed first and perpetual vows Aug. 15, 1932, and Jan. 23, 1937, respectively. She earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College.
Sister Ellen Catherine spent more than five decades ministering in education. She commenced in 1932 at St. Joseph, Galesburg, Ill. Her other Illinois classrooms included Immaculate Conception, St. Angela and St. Leo, Chicago; St. Francis Xavier, Wilmette; and St. Dennis, Lockport. She ministered six years at Blessed Sacrament, Burlington, N.C. In Indiana, she taught at St. Philip Neri and St. Joan of Arc, Indianapolis; Sacred Heart, Evansville; and St. John the Baptist and St. Patrick, Fort Wayne. Upon her retirement from teaching, she ministered at the convent at Immaculate Conception, Chicago. Sister Ellen Catherine returned to the Woods in 2002.
“In the year 2005, on the occasion of her 75th anniversary as a Sister of Providence, one of her former students from Sacred Heart School in Evansville, Ind., wrote to her congratulating her on the anniversary. This woman said, ‘You taught me in fourth grade. I remember that you were an especially patient, kind teacher. How in the world you ever managed to have a class of over 50 students is beyond me. I, too, have become a teacher, so I can truly appreciate all you did during those days,’” shared Sister Mary Pat.
“Sister Ellen Catherine’s last years were spent in Mother Theodore Hall West. She endeared herself to the nurses and the staff in that wing. She did not complain. When asked how she was, she responded, ‘I’m all right, ma!’ She spoke often about her mother — what a good worker she was — ‘she was a saint.’ Sister Ellen Catherine liked to give the staff advice on how to raise their families. She loved the music programs that were available to the sisters in Mother Theodore Hall. She was especially happy when the Woods Day Care/Pre-School children came to entertain,” she continued.
“Sister Ellen Catherine’s life of 97 years ended in a quiet manner. She was not well the last week; she spent practically the whole week in bed, but seemingly not critical. Saturday early afternoon, God came for her precious soul. He took her to Himself and left us with these memories of her. May she be mindful of all of us as she sits at the heavenly banquet table,” concluded Sister Mary Pat.
The Mass of Christian Burial for Sister Ellen Catherine was celebrated June 9, with the Rev. Daniel Hopcus presiding. She was preceded in death by all of her siblings.
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