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Sister Edna Scheller

One day I greeted Edna at her familiar post in the phone room at Providence Hall and she greeted me by waving a small book at me and asking, “Have you read this book?” Without waiting for a response, she continued “You must read it!”

Sister Edna Scheller

That moment came back to me as I began to write this commentary and also when I read in the Gospel Jesus’ words: “… I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide,” said Sister Ann Casper in her commentary for Sister Edna Scheller, who passed away on Monday, June 8, 2020, at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. She was 88 years old and had been a Sister of Providence for 70 years.

Sister Ann continued: The book was entitled “The Dash,” the popular poem by Linda Ellis. The “dash” of which the poem speaks is the dash found on tombstones, between a person’s date of birth and date of death. The poem popularized the phrase, “Live your dash,” i.e., spend each day with passion and purpose, or as Jesus put it, spend each day “bearing fruit that will abide.” And Edna certainly did that! She was always for others and inspired others by “living her dash.” She is remembered for “fruit that abides” – her life of joy, compassion, service, and kindness.

Edna Mae Scheller was born May 28, 1932, in Evansville, Ind., to William and Margaret Elpers Scheller. She was one of eight children, four girls, and four boys. Edna is survived by one brother, Thomas, and his wife Jeanette. Preceding her in death were William, Ralph, and her Reverend brother Albert; and sisters Marcella, Dolores, and Betty. Her niece Kathy recalls Edna’s mother being so proud that there were two religious in the family and when others remarked that “she had hit the golden jackpot,” she would just beam.

After graduating high school from Providence Juniorate in January 1950, Edna Mae immediately entered the Sisters of Providence as a postulant. She was received into the novitiate August 15 that same year. She pronounced her first and perpetual profession of vows on August 15, in 1952 and 1957, respectively.

Edna earned her bachelor’s degree in education from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College and her master’s degree in education from Indiana University. She also held certification in elementary administration and supervision, all of which served her well for 43 years as a primary teacher and school principal in Illinois, North Carolina, Indiana, and California.

On the SP website, her former students spoke of Edna’s spirituality especially those from St. Bridget’s in Indianapolis. One spoke of Edna introducing her to Christ. Another put it this way: “I was awed by her beauty and grace! Such a gentle soul who taught me about Christ! I will always have fond memories of her and am so blessed to have had her in my life!”

Another former student at St. Bridget’s recalled her popularity among the students and the fact that she even passed on some rebounding tips to the boys’ basketball team. He added, “Her spirituality drew several students to become baptized Catholics, the first in their families.” A sister who lived with Edna for a number of years spoke of her pastoral presence to a student’s family whose child had drowned and said, “I will never forget it.”

After years in education, Edna became a student herself to prepare her to be an administrator of health care at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, a ministry she held for four years before accepting a position as principal at Sacred Heart School in Clinton for seven years. After those years, in 2000, she was pushing retirement age at 70, when another need arose, that of driver and coordinator of transportation at the Motherhouse. She said “yes” to this call and spent the next 16 years scheduling drivers and assigning sisters to cars for their appointments with the doctor or dentist or a few errands. Her final years of ministry were providing residential services wherever they were needed, spending many hours in the phone room and mail room and just noticing needs a sister might have and addressing them.

Those who attended the private concert performed by Nik Pine for Sister Mary Esther Lane included (front, from left) Sister Mary Lou Dolan, CSJ, Bill Pine, Sister Mary Esther Lane (RIP), Sister Denise Wilkinson, Sister Becky Keller, (back) Sister Margaret Ann Wilson (RIP), Sister Francis Edwards (RIP), Sister Edna Scheller (RIP), Sister Emily Walsh, Deanna Arnold, Sister Ann Casper, Joe Sanders, Sister Joyce Brophy, Nik Pine, Sister Rita Clare Gerardot, Sister Adele Beacham and Sister Martha Wessel. Photo by Sister My Huong Pham.

As fully as Edna “lived her dash,” she still found time to stay in touch with her family members and so enjoyed being with them for special occasions and celebrations. Her niece Kathy recounted how much she and her cousin Jan in recent years enjoyed staying overnight at Providence Hall and playing cards with Edna and Noralee “way into the night.” Her brother Tom remembered: “When Edna arrived at a family gathering her face would light up and she would give everyone a ‘big ol’ hug. Everyone loved her voice – just to hear it! And you could always pick it out in the crowd.”

And speaking of her voice, parents of a former student of Edna’s recounted this memory: “A yearly Parents’ Day was celebrated with a luncheon with our children. Students filled the cafeteria, chattering among themselves. Sister Edna cleared her throat and the entire student body and even parents fell silent! Sister’s face turned red from embarrassment. And she said, ‘everything’s OK children; please go back to visiting with your parents.'” “Divine respect, the parent called it.

Edna’s very good friend Noralee filled in some more elements of Edna’s dash, saying that she was very devoted to Mass and Eucharist and a frequent visitor to the Blessed Sacrament Chapel. She enjoyed card games (and in fact played the day before she died … and won!). She loved observing nature, claiming that the tree outside her bedroom window was “her tree.” She also liked to put things in order so that others could find things more easily. She almost met her match in order-making, however, when she got drafted to help clear everything from the former activity room. Noralee remarked that being Edna’s friend was risky because she always got included to help with her projects, adding “If Edna saw something needed to be done, it was done.”

Edna was a close and caring friend to many, with a gentle and calming presence, always kind words of appreciation or concern. A newspaper article about her noted that “she always had a smile in her voice.” Perhaps this stemmed from her delightful sense of humor which made others laugh, too.

“The Dash” poem ends by asking: “When your eulogy is read and your life’s actions recounted, would you be proud of the things they say about you and how you lived your dash?” I think we can all agree that Edna could say a definite YES to that question. May you rest in peace, dear friend.

Funeral services for Sister Edna took place on Monday, June 15, 2020, at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.

A Wake took place at 10:30 a.m., followed by Funeral Liturgy Outside Mass at 11 a.m.

We welcome you to share your memories of Sister Edna in the comment section below.

Sister Edna Scheller

Complete Ministry

In Indiana: Teacher, St. Catherine, Indianapolis (1956-57); Teacher, St. Bridget, Indianapolis (1957-65); Teacher, St. Luke, Indianapolis (1965-68); Teacher, St. Thomas Aquinas (1968-70); Teacher, Good Shepherd, Evansville (1970-77); Health Care Administrator, Sisters of Providence, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods (1988-92); Principal, Sacred Heart School, Clinton (1993-2000); Driver, Sisters of Providence, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods (2001); Coordinator of Transportation, Sisters of Providence (2001-16); Residential Services, Sisters of Providence, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods (2016-20).

In Illinois: Teacher, St. Francis Borgia (1952-55).

In North Carolina: Teacher, Blessed Sacrament (1955-56).

In California: Teacher, St. Joseph, Hawthorne (1977-79); Principal, Good Shepard, Pacifica (1979-82); Principal, St. Ambrose, Hollywood (1982-88).

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13 Comments

  1. Sister Connie Kramer on June 8, 2020 at 10:39 am

    Sister Edna was a kind, thoughtful, community minded Sister of Providence I had the privilege of living with for a number of years. She also had a delightful sense of humor and when she laughed It always made me laugh too!

    • Ezra K. Meadors, PA on June 14, 2020 at 8:58 pm

      I’m always sad when we lose the physical presence of one of our sisters, but Sister Edna’s sudden passing is one that stings.

      I came to really know Sister Edna during the year I lived at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. We frequently found ourselves at the same breakfast and lunch table. She was always interested in what was going on over at White Violet as well as in my own life. It was never just surface conversation. Sister Edna was truly interested. One more than one occasion she would follow-up on a lunch conversation when she saw me in the halls. This often led to finding a quite place to share further.

      We attended a Holy Week retreat together in 2017, and I was edified by her insights and comments.

      We frequently crossed paths in the Shrine of Mother Theodore. It seemed that we both liked to spend a few moments with Mother Theodore after lunch.

      I was at the Woods this January for Sister Patty’s funeral, and I had a lovely visit with Edna. She came up to me and said that she heard I was at the Woods and that she had been looking for me to say hello. She is proof that we are one Providence Community.

      Rest in peace, Sister Edna. Your caring presence will be missed.

  2. Kathy, Michael, and Derek on June 8, 2020 at 12:15 pm

    Sister Edna was a wonderful Lady at Scared Heart at Clinton, my 2 boys went to school there and she was loved by all who new and respected her, God be with you Sister on your next journey to the Beautiful Heavens Above, You have done pleanty to enjoy your place there, Thank you for all you done in your time here on earth, its time to rejoysh your place you have earned in the heavens with God.

  3. Michelle Rafter Swick on June 8, 2020 at 12:16 pm

    Sister Edna was principal at Sacred Heart School, Clinton, Indiana, when our sons, now 29 and 28 were students. She was stern, when needed, but had a loving, compassionate side too.

    One memory, that comes to mind, is Parent’s Day. Parents Day was celebrated with a luncheon with our children. Students filed in the cafeteria, chattering among themselves, Sister Edna cleared her throat and the ENTIRE student body (even parents) fell silent!

    Sister’s face turned red., from embarrassment..and said, “everything’s ok children please go back to visiting with your parents.” Divine respect.

    R.I.P Sister Edna..you will be dearly missed.❤

    • Mike and Connie Pope on June 10, 2020 at 3:29 pm

      I was blessed to have known Sr. Edna when she taught my sister in the first and second grades at St. Bridget in 1957-1958. I was 2 years ahead of her. She was very popular among all the students there. She even passed on some helpful rebounding tips among the boys basketball team. Her spirituality led many students to be the first in their families to become baptized Catholics.
      I reconnected with Sister a few years ago, and with my wife Connie, had visited her many times at ‘the Woods’. We also had kept in touch with her via letters, cards and phone calls, and had actually spoken with her the day following her birthday. Every time we spoke we talked about how we wished there was no pandemic and my health was such that the three of us could attend Mass there and later sit and chat again. Visits with her were always spiritually uplifting. She always had such a calming demeanor. There’s so much more I could share, but I can here her say “Enough about me, tell me what you and “Connie have been up to.” We will miss her greatly.

      • Donald Shoemaker on June 13, 2020 at 8:50 pm

        My Aunt Enda has always been in my life and i’m going to miss her dearly.
        I can still see her playing volleyball at her brother’s house (her brother Bill my uncle ) at a Scheller summer get together, her in her habit, in the 60’s if you remember those habits.
        She was a principal at Good Shepherd school where my sister Charlotte and i were students there also.we got alittle hastings from the other students but we didn’t get in trouble much ( she was our aunt after all)
        She was stern but always told us she love us and reassured us that God loved us and would forgive us for our sins.
        Thank you Sister Edna for being in my life.
        I have tears in my eyes writing this and a smile in my heart.
        Be kind and love thy neighbor.

        • Judy Copeland on June 15, 2020 at 11:44 pm

          I was a teacher at St. Thomas in Indianapolis when two little brothers drowned in the canal over Christmas break. The older one was in my second grade class and the younger was in Sr. Edna’s first grade class. Sister was very caring to the family. Sr. Mary Jude was the principal and I also remember Sr. Ann Carol. St. Edna was very kind and helpful mentor to me.

  4. Marsha Speth on June 8, 2020 at 3:34 pm

    As a young Sister I was sent to St. Thomas Aquinas, Indianapolis to do my student teaching with S. Edna in 1969. While there we got a call one night that a student of hers had drowned. We immediately went to be with the family. So while I learned a few teaching skills from her, it was her pastoral presence to this family that impressed me and I will never forget.

    • Elizabeth Webster on June 9, 2020 at 7:10 pm

      Sister Edna was an amazing Lady. She was the principal at Sacred Heart school in Clinton when my children attended school there. She was always fair, stern when necessary and supportive to the students and parents. Exactly what the school needed. Thank you for all you gave of yourself . Rest in peace Sister Edna. You’ve earned your angel wings. You are missed.

  5. Eunice Goodman-Norton on June 11, 2020 at 8:27 am

    I was blessed to have been in Sister Edna’s 1st-2nd grade class at St Bridgets, Indianapolis, Indiana. Awed by her beauty and grace! Such a gentle soul who introduced me to Christ! I will always have fond memories of her and am so blessed to have had her in my life!

    REST IN HEAVEN SISTER EDNA!

    • Donald Shoemaker on June 14, 2020 at 8:01 pm

      Dear Aunt Edna i will miss you , you have always been in my life .
      I still can remember you playing volleyball at your Brother’s in the 60’s at a summer Scheller get together , in your habbit .
      ( if you all can remember those)
      At Uncle Bills .
      Sister Edna was a principal at Good Shepherd catholic school
      Where my sister Charlotte and i were enrolled.
      We got a little harassing from the other students but we didn’t get in much trouble. ( after all she was our Aunt)
      She always said she loved us and reassured that God loved us .
      She love coming to our house for gatherings and always ask how my partner now spouse was and that she would pray for us .
      Even in her last day she ask about him and said she would pray for both of us..
      She did not judge me and probably didn’t judge anyone .
      I always enjoyed her company and conversation
      I will miss her hugs and smile.
      May you rest in peace my Dear Aunt and think you for being in my life.

  6. Louise Sutherland on June 15, 2020 at 1:21 am

    Sister Edna would routinely go out of her way to make me feel welcomed at Providence Hall on those occasions when I would stay at St Mary’s while visiting my friend Sister Regis McNulty. Rest in peace Sister Edna.

  7. Jan Herron-Ballard on June 15, 2020 at 9:16 am

    I was always so proud to tell others that “my Aunt “ is a nun and have the opportunity to explain just what that means, to my non-Catholic friends. St Edna’s exemplified what a nun is. It was easy to see how happy she was in serving Our Lord, especially when she was at The Woods. I think she already was in Heaven by the way she talked😃. I last talked to Aunt Edna on Sunday evening before she passed on Monday morning. I can still hear her laugh! She felt good. Praise God for letting her leave this world quickly just as she had prayed. The last thing she said as she always closed our conversations “ You pray for me and know I am praying for you, I love you” Rest in Peace

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