Sister Jane Elyse Russell
Even as a fourth grader, Jane Elyse Russell was quite impressed by her sister teachers in habit and rosary beads. The idea of joining the convent receded into the background during two years of public school, but while attending Archbishop Ryan High School in Omaha, Nebraska, the allure of the convent came to the fore again.
“There were eight girls at Ryan who expressed a desire to join the School Sisters of St. Francis,” Sister Jane Elyse recalled. “Sister Pacis Roth met with us on a monthly basis to support us and help us with our questions.”
She joined the School Sisters of St. Francis in 1962 and double-majored in math and Spanish, and took teaching preparation courses for secondary education. During her senior year at Alverno College, she was asked to step in for a Spanish teacher at Ryan High School who took medical leave. “I was living and working with some of the same sisters who taught me just four and a half years earlier when I was a student at Ryan.”
After graduation and several years in high school classrooms, Sister Jane Elyse earned a master’s and doctoral degree in theology. Working as Director of Continuing Education at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish and at the Catholic Student Center of Iowa State University was “a good fit for my skills and interests as it allowed me to integrate adult education with parish ministry and campus ministry,” she said. She also taught at Creighton University, served for eight years on the sisters’ United States Province leadership team, and then returned to teaching at Belmont Abbey College in North Carolina, where she continues to serve.
“I am truly happy I chose religious life,” Sister Jane Elyse said. “It’s an excellent way to grow in intimacy with God because the sisterhood provides lifetime support in sustaining an ever-deepening spirituality. In choosing religious life, you gain so much more than you give. It has always amazed me how quickly we can move to a level of depth and intimacy in our discussions with one another because of our shared values and our common bond with St. Francis, St. Clare and our foundresses.”
Compiled by Sister Ruth Hoerig