Left, Sister Elaine shares a laugh with (deceased) Sister Valeria Abele; middle, Sister Elaine visits with Sister Cleophas in the chapel at Emma Hall; right, Sister Elaine at the Emma Hall nurses’ station; Michelle Bodine photos.
After working in parish and pastoral ministry for the last 36 years, Sister Elaine (Mildred Elaine) Becker is looking forward to a more contemplative experience in her new role as coordinator of the Sisters residing at Maria Joseph Center in Dayton.
The Sisters at Maria Joseph, a nursing facility, maintain an active prayer ministry, each Sister devoting her time to prayer to the extent that she is physically able. It’s not unlike the life Sister Elaine once led as a member of the former cloister of the Sisters of the Precious Blood.
“This is like going full circle,” Sister Elaine said. “It’s not what I do in prayer. It’s who I am in prayer. It has made me much more aware of being who I am, with shortcomings, but also with the total love of God. You see that in the Sisters. They know God loves them.”
Emma Hall is the permanent home for just over dozen retired Precious Blood Sisters, who typically move there for health reasons. Sisters also live at Emma as they recuperate from illness or surgery. Sister Elaine and her team are responsible for making sure the Sisters there are being cared for in the best possible manner
The team serves as an advocate for them, working with the Maria Joseph administration on their behalf when needed. She communicates with the Sisters to understand their needs. Working with Precious Blood Sisters Arlene (Marie Andre) Hirsch, assistant coordinator, and Nancy (M. Rachel) Recker, pastoral care minister for the Sisters at Maria Joseph, Sister Elaine makes sure the Sisters are happy, safe and healthy.
It’s a complex ministry of administration and compassion. There is the ongoing stream of paperwork for everything from equipment to policy. There is the communication of wants and needs as the Sisters continue to live an active lifestyle. Sometimes, Sister Elaine deals with the grief a Sister experiences in a permanent move to Maria Joseph.
“That’s where those pastoral, people skills come into play,” Sister Elaine said. “What you say to a Sister and how you say it is important.”
Then there are the gratifying moments: visiting with a Sister while she reflects on her lifetime of call or readies herself to meet Jesus. Those are the instances that bolster Sister Elaine’s own spirituality.
“One thing about working at Emma is that you learn how to live and you learn how to die,” Sister Elaine said. “You learn to live very simply. The simplicity of their life teaches me how to live simply.”
At the same time, when a Sister dies, there is gratitude because so often the Sister was waiting to see Jesus.
“They have all be ready to see God face to face,” Sister Elaine said.
A native of Cincinnati, Sister Elaine first felt a call to religious life in the eighth grade and told her parents she wanted to join a religious community. Her father was against it so she went to Regina High School in Norwood. She attended Marquette University as a journalism major, but, again, felt called to religious life, this time as a contemplative. Eventually, she learned of the Sisters of the Precious Blood contemplative community, of which she was a member for 11 years.
After the cloister disbanded, Sister Elaine earned a master’s in theology from the Athenaeum of Ohio. She ministered in various parishes and at Archdiocese of Cincinnati, overseeing the religious teacher certification programs for 27 parishes. She continues to teach for the Cincinnati archdiocese in the areas of prayer and evangelization.
It’s that background that makes Sister Elaine a good fit in her current ministry.
“She’s got a good personality,” Sister Nancy said. “She really loves the Sisters and she communicates well with them. And the Sisters like her.”
Story by Dave Eck