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Sister Elizabeth Grannan

Sister Elizabeth Grannan

Sister Elizabeth Grannan

 “In summary, then, all of you should be like-minded, sympathetic, loving toward one another, compassionate and humble. Do not return evil or insult for insult. Return a blessing instead. This you have been called to do, that you may receive a blessing as your inheritance.”

1 Peter 3:8-9

Sister Elizabeth Grannan, the former Sister Ellen Ann, was a native of Washington, Ind. She was born to Leo and Mary Grannan on March 30, 1933. Elizabeth, known as Betty to family and friends, was the last of 12 children. After the birth of the fifth child, six more children were born and all six died in infancy. Betty was born 13 years after the last surviving child, and was called the “miracle child,” by the doctor because she too, was not expected to live. The family story goes that Betty said she was called to the convent because the Lord saved her, unlike the six babies born before her,” said Sister Betty Hopf in her commentary for Sister Elizabeth Grannan, who died May 30, 2014, at age 81. She had been a Sister of Providence for 62 years.

Betty’s mother died from complications of diabetes when Betty was 10 weeks old and, along with her father, aunts and older siblings, she had many parent figures who loved to spoil her. Betty would tell stories of her older brothers and sisters as being old enough to be her parents and how they would often take her with them on their dates. Two of her brothers were lifeguards at the local swimming pool and she would be their mascot.

Betty attended St. Simon Grade School and Washington Catholic High School in Washington, Ind. In high school, Betty was active in the Glee Club and the Sodality. She was also business manager of the high school newspaper. After graduation, she worked as a receptionist for her uncle who was a dentist.

Betty entered the community on Feb. 2, 1952, and professed final vows on Aug. 15, 1959. She taught school for more than 20 years in Illinois, Maryland, Missouri and Indiana. She then changed her focus to pastoral ministry and loved her work in the long-term care settings. When Betty ministered at St. Anne Home in Fort Wayne, she was the first woman chaplain in long-term care in Indiana. She was truly in her glory at St. Paul’s Retirement Community in South Bend, Ind. Here, she used her gift of bringing together people of diverse faiths. She was very devoted to the residents and did all she could to meet their spiritual and personal needs, whether it be creating prayer services or going out to buy them something they needed. It was obvious to all who knew her that she was very passionate about her ministry. She was loved by the residents as she spread love and compassion. She seemed to have a propensity for mentoring young priest chaplains and student chaplains.

Father Tim O’Connor, CSC, said of her, “She was like a little Mother Hen,” and then added, “in a good sense.”
Alan, her supervisor, said that Betty “proved to be a very hospitable and capable mentor for the CPE students,” and that “she had her moments of being strong-willed, but was also a generous and compassionate minister.”

People who knew Betty would say that it was obvious what her passions were. She was an avid follower of the Kentucky Derby and of Notre Dame Football. She loved to travel, and one of her sisters called her “The Flying Nun.”

She liked going to flea markets and touring the Amish country. She loved opera, loved going shopping and loved going out to eat, and yes, she loved her birds!

Particularly in her later years, these loves became her pastime and her ministry. She frequented Macy’s and got to know some of the clerks personally. She would also sit on the bench outside of Macy’s in the mall to watch people pass by and talk with those who joined her. In a Christmas card, someone wrote, “We miss chatting with you at Macy’s.”
Most days, after her retirement from St. Paul’s, Betty would go to Honkers Restaurant for a meal, but mostly to socialize. The workers there, as well as some of the regular clients, became her companions and friends. She ministered to them through her friendliness and outgoing manner. Her most favorite hang-outs were Macy’s, Honkers Restaurant, and the Notre Dame Bookstore. Betty was very thoughtful and generous and her shopping was often done with others in mind.
Some of Betty’s friends remarked on her sense of humor and her ability to laugh at herself. She had a hearty laugh and was funny, even when she didn’t try to be. As a novice, she got up one morning on her way to chapel and grabbed a chaplet from the hook belonging to tall Sister Marie Esther. Of course, Betty’s then was dragging on the floor and Marie Esther was up above her knee.

At her Golden Jubilee celebration, Betty did the reading from Acts in which the angel says to Peter, “Hurry, get up! … Fasten your belt and your sandals!” But instead, she read, “Fasten your seatbelt,” and caused a few snickers from those who were alert.

When she went to purchase a car with the assistance of Father Tim, she asked him, “Does this car have a steering wheel?” She really meant, “Does it have power steering?”

Once, during a family celebration, she was riding in a fire engine, holding on for dear life off the back deck of the truck, giving the family a good laugh.

Other comments from her family, friends and co-workers were that Betty was unique, a character, faithful to whatever she did, fiercely independent, a very caring person, a feminist, a role model, compassionate and generous.

The scripture read earlier spoke of compassion. Betty was a passionate person and this was evidenced in her compassion for the elderly and the lonely.

We give thanks today for the life of Betty and pray that our passions will enable us to be caring and compassionate people.
There’s a song that says, “When we all get to Heaven, what a place for rejoicing it will be.”

I can’t imagine what it must’ve been like for Betty to be reunited with her parents and all her siblings, especially those she never knew. May she rest in peace and joy.

Services took place Thursday, June 5, and Friday, June 6, at the Church of the Immaculate Conception, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Ind.

A Wake took place from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m., Thursday, June 5, with Vespers at 4:30 p.m.

Mass of Christian Burial took place at 11 a.m., Friday, June 6.

We welcome you to share your comments on Sister Elizabeth in the comment section below.


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  1. Avatar Audrey Nelson on June 3, 2014 at 7:07 am

    I am so saddened to learn of the death of Sister Elizabeth. I met her when I began work at St. Paul’s Retirement Community in South Bend 20 years ago and she quickly became a close friend to myself and to all my family. She was always so loving and caring to the residents and was there to give prayer and support to the families as well. I picture her now up in heaven happy to see so many old friends from St. Paul’s. She was always so generous to everyone and she loved to eat and shop in the Amish areas in northern Indiana. We had so many laughs and wonderful times together my heart is full of wonderful memories of the times we shared. She will be greatly missed! Love and prayers to her Sister family at St. Mary of the Woods and to her many nieces and nephews and their families who she so often spoke about with such pride. My deepest sympathies to you all.

  2. Avatar Bernadette Newland Heitzman on August 15, 2016 at 6:56 am

    “Little Betty” was her name in our family. Her father, Leo, remarried my Great Aunt Elizabeth Donahue Grannan when Little Betty was still very small, hence the nickname she grew up with. Aunt Lizzy loved, cared for, and considered her her own daughter. She was always a dear cousin to all of us! I was extremely sorry that I did not know of her passing when it happened.

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