Sister Ellen Mary Schwaiger

Sister Ellen Mary Schwaiger“I entered a mystery when I entered religious life,” Ellen Mary said. “That mystery has now blossomed and is shared with the world.”

“I met the School Sisters of St. Francis when I was a student at Alverno College in 1949,” she recalled. “The college was in the motherhouse at that time. Sister Imelda Spitzer, my violin teacher, invited me to join the community. I entered on September 8, 1951.”

Ellen Mary understands that in Eucharist, “we become what we receive.” It is a mystery and we live that mystery in our daily life by being attentive listeners and generous do-ers. We are called “to act justly, to love tenderly and to walk humbly with our God” (Micah 6:8). Living the mystery means doing ordinary things with extraordinary awareness, whether that involves sending a thank you card, calling someone who is discouraged, or celebrating a wedding, an accomplishment, or another event.

“Significant events of my ministry include planning, preparing, and celebrating a beautiful Triduum and Holy Week,” Ellen Mary recalled. While teaching, her ministry required “rehearsing and sharing the production of the yearly concert of Handel’s Messiah and many musicals.” As a teacher almost all of her life, she savors “the shared stories of students who continue to correspond with me.”

Her best memories are of “the people who have touched and graced my life during these years.  The prayers and support of the sisters have been most life giving to me.”

As teacher, as pastoral musician, as past director of Associate Relationship, as friend, as sister, and as family member, Ellen Mary is ever faithful, joyful, caring, steadfast, generous, and wise.

If a young woman considering religious life approached you, Ellen Mary, for counsel what would you say to her?  “I would tell her that although she can use her talents as a married or a single woman, if she feels a call to religious life, she should follow her heart.  She will be challenged, supported, and blessed by the women who share a similar mission and goal.”

This vivid reflection, a favorite one of Ellen Mary’s, invites us to face fully the promise, the prize; the hope, the humility; the life and the fulness of God’s love.  It is from a sermon by Blessed Guerric (1070-1157), a Cistercian abbot of Igny, France:

Do you then, Lord, rise up to meet me as I run to meet you?
Since I have not the strength to scale your summit
unless you stretch out your right hand to me whom your hands have made,
rise up to meet me…and lead me in the way of eternity,
that is, in Christ, who is the way by which we journey,
and the eternity which is our journey’s end.

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