Sister Eleanor Pierce (formerly Sister Reparata Marie)
Now as they were on their way, Jesus entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.”
This reading from Luke reminds me that a vocation to the Sisters of Providence is a call to live a balance of Martha and Mary in our lives. The more I talked with sisters who knew and lived with Sister Eleanor the more I heard of the balance of Martha and Mary in her life. Anyone who knew Sister Eleanor saw her devotion to the Eucharist and Mother Theodore, said Sister Mary Ann Phelan in her commentary on the life of Sister Eleanor Pierce who died Nov. 23, 2013 at age 90.
Eleanor was born to John Pierce and Ella McKevitt Pierce in Chelsea, Mass. on Aug. 29, 1923. She was one of five children. A brother, Francis, and two sisters, Elizabeth Smith and Loretta McCormack, preceded her in death. She is survived by one sister, Patricia Pierce.
Eleanor was baptized at Saint Rose, Chelsea, where she also attended elementary and high school and spent many years of her ministry as a Sister of Providence.
Eleanor entered the Sisters of Providence on July 20, 1942, and received the name Sister Reparata Marie. She professed first and perpetual vows on Aug. 15, 1943 and 1945 respectively. Sister Eleanor spent 64 years in active ministry before returning to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods in 2009. She ministered as a teacher, principal and eventually in volunteer service in the following schools: In Illinois she ministered at St. Mark in Chicago. In Indiana she ministered at St. Mary in Richmond, St. Patrick in Fort Wayne and St. Patrick in Terre Haute. In Oklahoma she ministered at Immaculate Conception in Tulsa. In Massachusetts she ministered at St. Rose in Chelsea. In Maryland at St. Clement in Landsdowne and Ascension in Halethorpe. In New Hampshire at St. Mary in Rochester. And in Washington, D.C., she ministered at Dunblane.
Some words heard this past week that describe Sister Eleanor are prayerful, loyal, fun-loving, excellent teacher and administrator, a good friend and generous. She was always ready to listen and then hold what was said in confidence. As a high school girl, Eleanor always stopped in St. Rose Church on her way home. She was usually with a group of her friends and soon they too, took up the practice of making a visit at that time. It seems that her ministry at St. Rose began years before she returned there as an SP.
One sister who lived with her while studying for her Masters, told me that Sister Eleanor would read all her papers for grammatical structure, and explain the corrections that she had made. The sister referred to Eleanor as her English professor, and said that Eleanor should have walked with her at the graduation exercises. Another sister, who was suffering from a serious illness, related that even though Eleanor had stopped driving into Boston as she got older, she would make an exception and drive her into Boston for a doctor’s appointment scheduled while others were still in school.
Sister Eleanor was always ready to help prepare for a celebration, as well as enjoy any gathering of friends, whether other Sisters of Providence or family members. She was loving and caring of her brother, sisters and their children.
The genuine love and respect of her former students was shown shortly after Sister Eleanor returned to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. One of our sisters attended the 50th reunion of a class from St. Patrick School in Fort Wayne. Some of those attending asked her about Sister Eleanor, and she said that Eleanor was then retired here. So shortly after that, a group of them came and had a great visit with Sister Eleanor, who had taught them when they were in fourth grade more that 50 years earlier.
Sister Eleanor’s hobbies included listening to music of all kinds and crossword puzzles. If you asked what her favorite food was, she probably would have answered “hot French fries.”
Sister Eleanor felt that her greatest privilege in life was to be a witness to her faith as a Sister of Providence.
Eleanor, we will miss you. But know that you are in that kingdom that has been prepared for you by the God you loved and served so well, Sister Mary Ann concluded.
The Mass of Christian Burial for Sister Eleanor Pierce was Dec. 3, 2013, in the Church of the Immaculate Conception at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. She had lived 71 years as a Sister of Providence.
Please share your memories of Sister Eleanor in the comments section below.
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