Sister Michael Ellen Green
“Brothers and sisters, in freedom, serve one another in works of love. For the entire Law has been fulfilled in one commandment, namely: ‘You must love your neighbor as yourself.’ Furthermore, if you are being led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, self-control. Against such things there is no law. Since the Spirit is life, let us be directed by the Spirit.”
Galatians 5:13-26 (selected verses)
The Word of God
I chose this scripture reading because May 15, Pentecost evening, Sister Michael Ellen Green was finally released from her bodily existence, which seemed to have trapped her spirit for nine years. I deliberately chose the word “seemed,” to trap her spirit because I firmly believe that Michael Ellen continued to live and minister among us even after her debilitating stroke in 2009. To be with Michael Ellen in these latter years was to experience the fruits of the Spirit: Especially, her peace, unbelievable patience, her mildness and goodness, said Sister Ann Casper in her commentary on Sister Michael Ellen Green, who died Sunday May 15, at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. She was 86 years old and had been a Sister of Providence for 65 years.
Dorothy Ellen Green was born July 22, 1929, in Indianapolis, to George and Dorothy Perkins Green, members of Little Flower parish. Her sister Joanne and husband Tom were unable to be with us. Her three brothers, John, George and Jack, as well as her sister, Mary Lou, preceded her in death.
Dorothy became acquainted with the Sisters of Providence in high school at St. Agnes Academy and entered the Congregation in February 1951, receiving the name of Michael Ellen. Her first profession of vows was Aug. 15, 1953, and her profession of perpetual vows was on the same date in 1958.
Michael Ellen knew well and lived well the command of Paul to the Galatians: “Serve one another in works of love.” For more than 34 years, her primary ministries were housekeeper, cook and laundress, before branching out into other forms of service. She began her ministry at Ladywood in Indianapolis in 1953. Subsequent years found her at St. Sylvester and St. Columbkille in Chicago, and at Lady Isle in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, before coming to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods in 1965.
She assumed major housekeeping responsibilities at the Woods: As Foley housekeeper for three years, Providence Hall housekeeper for 12 years, and housekeeper and director of the Goodwin Guest House for seven years. She was also an assistant in Physical Therapy, was Providence Phone Room operator for 14 years, and served in residential services for six years. Until her stroke in 2009 took her mobility, the Woods was, for all practical purposes, her workplace and “playground” for some 44 years.
Michael Ellen, early on, was into building relationships … tooling around in golf carts … and loving dogs, especially her beloved Foley and the black spaniel, Cindy. Because she didn’t drive, she finagled the permanent use of a golf cart from Hulman Links Golf Course and it became her personal trademark. She didn’t want it for her own use, but to take sisters in the infirmary or other residences out for rides around campus to show them the latest beauties of nature or to the lake to enjoy the cool breezes. The golf car also served as a conveyance for transporting water buckets to distant urns around campus. And Michael Ellen loved to walk. Even after the deepest snow storm, she would be out in her high boot, reveling in the beauty and doing practical things such as shoveling walks and cleaning off cars.
It was in relationships, however, that Michael Ellen excelled. I believe she knew by name every housekeeper, cook and laundress, as well as the yard and maintenance crews and the painters. A staff member recalls passing in the hallway outside Providence Phone Room and hearing Michael Ellen call out, “Hello, out there!” She knew the staff members’ families, and who was ill or having a hard time and would inquire about them. “She was SO friendly,” was the comment of many.
Another kindness Michael Ellen is remembered was for videotaping TV shows that were on late at night or when other events were happening, so that she could share them with the sisters for viewing later. She showed an “oldie, but goodie,” movie from the 40s or 50s every Sunday. Afterwards, she would walk sisters home who needed some assistance. A sister reported that many summers ago, when she was studying and could not attend the Chapter meetings, Michael Ellen had all the materials, handouts and other information gathered in a brand new Chapter tote bag, ready for her to peruse when she returned from her studies. These instances are just a few of the countless, thoughtful gestures by which Michael Ellen reached out to others.
In the nine years that Michael Ellen was incapacitated, no one recalled hearing her complain about the pain she experienced or heard her ask, “Why me?” When a sister asked her, “how many years since your stroke … six or seven?” She chuckled and responded, “I’m not sure. It seems like 10 or 20.” A nurse recalled bringing a med for pain and Michael Ellen saying, “No, I want morphine.” Her drink of choice was Coke and she knew if another brand other than “the real thing,” was being offered.
Even though Michael Ellen often appeared to be sleeping in her recliner chair – presuming you could find her under her huge Notre Dame blanket – as soon as you touched her or spoke to her, she would open her eyes and usually call you by name and ask how you were doing, or ask, “What’s new?”
In the 65 years Michael Ellen lived among us, she modeled well the “Life of Fidelity,” described in our Constitutions: Living out the mystery of the suffering, death and resurrection of the Lord; living a life of dedicated service, being a faithful and serene witness in sickness or in health, of the reality of the Providence of God and of the promise of life that does not end.
The closing verse of the Pentecost Sequence (adapted) seems an appropriate conclusion to her commentary and to her life:
On the faithful who adore
And confess you, evermore
In your sevenfold gifts descend;
Give Michael Ellen virtue’s sure reward;
Give her your salvation, Lord;
Give her joys that never end.
Services for Sister Michael Ellen took place Thursday, May 19, and Friday, May 20, in the Church of the Immaculate Conception at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.
A Wake took place from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m., on Thursday, May 19, with Vespers at 4:30 p.m.
Mass of Christian Burial took place at 11 a.m., on Friday, May 20.
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