Sister Marie Elizabeth Pink, the eldest of four daughters, was born on a farm outside of Lancaster, Wisconsin. When she was school-aged, she lived in town with her grandparents so she could attend a Catholic school staffed by the School Sisters of St. Francis.
After four years, to relieve her grandparents of responsibility for her and her sister, they moved back to the farm and Marie Elizabeth was enrolled in a public school for grades five and six. In order that she not lose contact with the sisters, her parents enrolled her in piano lessons with them. These lessons lasted for ten years. That was the beginning of two strong attractions and loves for Sister Marie Elizabeth: religious life and music. These attractions were strengthened by individual and personal relationships with sisters, especially with her music teachers.
Seventh and eighth grade found her enrolled in the Catholic school again. The bishop required all students to be enrolled in a Catholic school for seventh and eighth grades or their parents were forbidden to receive the sacraments. During this time, in addition to Sister Marie Elizabeth’s music teachers, Sister Edigna, whom she knew from the grade school and then in high school religious education classes, made a strong impression on her.
The major male influence on Sister Marie Elizabeth’s vocation was her pastor, Father Felix Hoffman, who encouraged her to join the School Sisters of St. Francis and discouraged her from the Manitowoc Franciscan order, in spite of a visit to her farm home to convince her to join them. After high school, while her parents were discussing college choices, Marie Elizabeth let them know she was entering the School Sisters of St. Francis community.
She entered in 1946, with her Reception in 1947. Father Felix’s influence was felt again when she was given the name Felixine in honor of him. Sister Marie Elizabeth deduced that he must have had some influence with Mother Corona to manage this.
When Mother Corona asked what course of studies and ministry Sister Marie Elizabeth wanted, she replied “music.” Mother Corona declined this choice and suggested she be a teacher, to which she agreed. But music was not left behind. Her first nine years were at St. Patrick in Beaver Dam where, besides using music with her students, she “helped out” by making beautiful music for Holy Week with an a capella children’s choir.
When she was sent to the new Archbishop Ryan High School in Omaha, Sister Marie Elizabeth began her career of teaching mathematics. While teaching this specialty at Pius XI High School in Milwaukee, she won recognition as one of the outstanding math teachers in the state.
Math took a different turn when she was called from Pius XI to be finance director of the community’s Wisconsin Province. After her time at this province ministry was completed, she considered several positions offered her by Sister Joel Reed at Alverno College. Her choice was to join the mathematics and computer science faculty. After a semester of observation, she was hired for the department and remained there for the next 28 years.
Sister Marie Elizabeth considers some major highlights and life-giving elements of her ministry to be the sisters she lived with and the people she served. The time she was permitted to live with and care for her mother in Milwaukee was special. She learned of her mother’s sudden death when she returned from retreat to pick her up from her sister’s home. She trusted that her mother was enjoying peace and happiness in her new life.
It was a joy to have the opportunity to celebrate her 50th Jubilee by going with a classmate on a Franciscan pilgrimage to Assisi and spending a few days in Rome. While highlights in community life such as Reception and Profession were very special, she also found so many changes in religious life and the Church in later years to be exciting.
Sister Marie Elizabeth realizes that she is physically limited today but she is still alert and able to be involved with the community and active in province affairs. Though no longer a member of choir, she still uses her musical talents to lift her voice in Chapel, and she enjoys other opportunities for singing as well.
She would tell anyone considering joining the community as a sister or as an associate that it is very life giving. As for her final future, she prays for a happy death and looks forward to seeing community and family members who have preceded her. She tells them daily, “I pray for you and I trust you pray for me.”
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