Sister Elizabeth Meyer (formerly Sister Joseph Aloyse)
Knowing the Gospel reading for today and Sister Elizabeth Meyer’s life, I thought to myself, “Yes, Elizabeth was ‘a lilies and flowers of the field, and birds of the air,’ kind of person.” Her life was simple, her faith was simple, she seemingly lived a day at a time, without a lot of worry about her life or the future, said Sister Ann Casper in her commentary for Sister Elizabeth Meyer, formerly Sister Joseph Aloyse, who passed away on Wednesday, June 1, 2022, at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana. She was 90-years-old and had been a Sister of Providence for 72 years.
Sister Ann continued: Elizabeth Ann Meyer was born to William and Elizabeth Boersig Meyer on June 14, 1931, in Indianapolis, even though Elizabeth always claimed Speedway, Indiana, as her birthplace and let it be known that there is a big difference! Elizabeth’s brothers, Joseph and William, preceded her in death. She is survived by her sister-in-law, Carolyn, and by nieces and nephews, all of whom she loved dearly.
She attended Speedway public elementary schools and went to high school at St. Agnes Academy in Indianapolis where she was taught by the Sisters of Providence, graduating in 1949. The following February, she entered the Congregation and received the religious name of Sister Joseph Aloyse. Her first and perpetual professions of vows were both on August 15, 1952, and 1957, respectively.
Sister Elizabeth attended Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in Education. She earned a master’s in the same field at Indiana University.
She ministered for 50 years as a teacher and librarian, all at schools in Indiana except for a six-year ministry in Chicago. She always shared her love of teaching with her nieces and nephews. She loved showing them where she taught in Indianapolis and then later the library where she worked after she retired from teaching. As a librarian, her goal was to instill in children a love of reading, especially poetry. In 1993, while at St. Joan of Arc School, she received the Outstanding Educator Award from the North Deanery Board when at St. Joan of Arc; again in 2002, she received the Blessed Mother Theodore Guerin Excellence in Education Award, selected by colleagues for her dedication, achievement, empathy, faith and responsibility. In retirement, she continued tutoring for several years for Educational Family Services.
Through the years, Elizabeth was always very generous with her time. She was elected recording secretary for the Association of Religious in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis in 1987; she participated in nuclear freeze walks in Washington, D.C., and Indianapolis. She volunteered her time to plant flowers with other members of St. Joan of Arc Parish for their annual Volunteer Day. She was one of five Sisters of Providence who volunteered for the Pan Am games when they took place in Indianapolis in 1987. Her role was that of a volunteer guard and she was quoted in a newspaper article as saying, “her playground experience came in handy when the athletes started using a gap in the fence as a shortcut.” Can’t you just see her enforcing the rules!
And speaking of rules, it will come as no surprise to many that Elizabeth was a stickler for them. An example … when she was sacristan in Owens Chapel during the days when Providence Hall was being renovated, the liturgy offices were in the sacristies of the chapel. On a dark, overcast day, Sister Lisa Stallings and Karen Sagraves, the liturgy coordinators, decided the lights should be on because sisters were arriving early for Mass, some using the time for reading. So, about 12 minutes after 11 a.m., they turned on the lights. Elizabeth came in, inquired who turned the lights on, and promptly turned all the lights off. Precisely at 11:15 a.m. (the determined time for the sacristan to turn the lights on), she turned all of them back on!
Another precise ritual each day was that at exactly 5 p.m., she would have a cold beer. Even when the sisters at Woodhaven conducted an open house to show off their new home, Elizabeth, cold beer in hand, exited the festivities to her bedroom and shut the door!
These characterizations go by the wayside when Elizabeth was in front of a TV set, watching reruns of comedy sitcoms, like The Andy Griffith Show, or other Turner Classics. Residents in Owens Hall would hear her hearty laughter all the way down the long hallways. When she took phone duty in Owens, she got wrapped in up TV watching and would be laughing at the top of her lungs … totally oblivious to the laughter resounding down the hallway where the administrative offices were located. Housemates at Woodhaven never knew when something would tickle her fancy and she would burst out laughing. Sister Judy Cervizzi recalled one time when she asked Elizabeth, “what was so funny?” She said, “Nothing. I’m just watching golf on TV.” The rest of her companions just looked at each other.
Her droll humor was evident to her family as well. Her sister-in-law remembered that when the California family would visit Elizabeth’s parents in Indianapolis, Elizabeth would pick black walnuts and bring them to their home. Of course, her hands would be stained from the walnuts and she would tease the children with the “Ooooo, Hoosier Hand!”
Elizabeth also loved playing cards, a tradition she learned in the Meyer household. Elizabeth’s sister-in-law Carolyn shared her family’s version of card playing. “The family will miss playing cards – Hearts, Gin, and most of all – Oh Hell! A favorite of the Meyer family! Her father taught it to all of us! Maybe in her case, we should have called it, OH HEAVEN!”
At Woodhaven, it was Elizabeth’s daily practice to go to the card table after supper and just wait for others to join her to play 500 Rummy, which they usually did, willing to endure her fierce competitive spirit one more evening. Sisters Marge Funke and Marie Grace Molloy could get by with teasing Elizabeth, but eventually she would say to them, “Ferme la bouche,” which must have sounded a little better to her in French than the English translation, “shut your mouth.”
Then there was Elizabeth’s love of nature, especially birds. Her niece Dawn recalled, “She shared with us her love of birds and taught me all the birds she had found during her many travels in life. I remember her showing me with her binoculars how to look for birds and how excited she would get when she found a new bird that she had not seen before.” One of the sisters who had been ill recalled getting a notecard from Elizabeth, detailing how she had spotted a yellow bellied and olive sided flycatcher. The whole note was about the bird; not a word inquiring about the sister’s health.
Sister Elizabeth was very grateful, as well as a kind and thoughtful person, often sharing thank you cards around for anyone who wished to sign them for a kindness done for the sisters in a house. The thank you card would be mailed promptly and often would reach the person who had visited and brought goodies prior to their returning to their own home.
Elizabeth also liked to bake; her specialties were her “angel” and “cowboy” cookies. The sisters looked forward to them. She would watch the cookie tin and if she thought the cookies were taking too long to be eaten, she took for granted that the sisters didn’t like them. Sometimes, it was hard to convince her that wasn’t the case. The cookie tin was also a point of discussion. She didn’t like to change the tin that she put the cookies in, even though it was dented and had a few years on it. When a sister tried to give her a new tin, she politely refused the offer saying “my tin is just fine.” Elizabeth also baked a fresh peach pie to die for!
Her sister-in-law Carolyn also had a cookie story. “Each Christmas season, we would discuss whether we would make the family cookies – Springerles! We usually had failure we laughed about and compared how we would attack the next batch! I will miss these talks so much! I hope she can send me the secret of these cookies from heaven as I will continue to bake them and miss her input for them!”
Elizabeth herself definitely had a sweet tooth. Susan Outlaw Stallings, who often accompanied Elizabeth on the organ for cantoring, timed a visit to Elizabeth for Valentine’s Day. She gave her a collection of chocolates she had made and labeled appropriately. She says, “I visited briefly and then made my exit. I had already been told that she may not touch the treats, so I did not expect a response. However, the next day or so, I heard from one of the sisters who visits in healthcare quite often that Sister Elizabeth had eaten each morsel – totally cleaned out my little bag of treats. I hope so badly that Elizabeth thoroughly enjoyed some moments of bliss, although I know she chose to keep the realization of her pleasure well hidden from most of us.”
Elizabeth had a simple faith life, expressed especially in her devotion to the Eucharist and to the Blessed Mother and the rosary. During the pandemic, she and Sister Jane Michael would gather daily to watch the Mass on Jane Michael’s I-phone. Even in sickness, Elizabeth wanted to be taken to Mass every day and would often struggle to participate by standing.
As someone so aptly stated, “Communication was not Elizabeth’s strong suit!” However, as we have seen, her faith was expressed in serving others and in being kind and loving to her family and to those she encountered. Rest in peace, Elizabeth, again singing with your family and with the angels and saints for all eternity!
Funeral services for Sister Elizabeth took place on Thursday, June 9, 2022, at the Church of the Immaculate Conception.
A Wake took place at 10 a.m., followed by Mass of Christian Burial at 11 a.m.
Memorial contributions may be made in honor of Sister Elizabeth to the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.
We welcome you to share your memories of Sister Elizabeth in the comment section below.
Sister Elizabeth Meyer (formerly Sister Joseph Aloyse)
In Indiana: Teacher, St. Jude, Fort Wayne (1952-57); Teacher, Nativity, Indianapolis (1957-58); Teacher, St. James, Indianapolis (1964-67); Teacher, St. Joseph, Jasper (1967-71); Teacher, St. James, Indianapolis (1971-77); Teacher, South Central Catholic, Indianapolis (1978-81); Teacher, Central Catholic, Indianapolis (1981-88); Teacher, St. Joan of Arc School, Indianapolis (1988-93); Librarian, St. Rita School, Indianapolis (1993-94); Librarian, St. Matthew School, Indianapolis (1994-95); Librarian, St. Rita School, Indianapolis (1995-2002); Librarian, St. Andrew/St. Rita Catholic Academy, Indianapolis (2002-04); Volunteer, St. Andrew/St. Rita Catholic Academy, Indianapolis (2004-06); Ministry of Care Volunteer, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods (2006-21); Prayer, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods (2021-22).
In Illinois: Teacher, St. Genevieve, Chicago (1958-64).
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