Sister Mary Elise Calmus remembered

Precious Blood Sister Mary Elise Calmus, who passed away in 2007, was remembered in an email message the Congregation received in October from the Instituto del Rincón (The Corner Institute) in Malinalco, Mexico. The institute offers a variety of programs and support for migrants’ families.

Sister Elise entered the Congregation in 1949 and spent most of her years of ministry in education in California, Denver, Phoenix and Tucson, in parochial schools and at the University of Arizona. She earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from St. Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Indiana; a master’s degree in education from the University of Dayton; and a doctorate in educational research from the University of Colorado Boulder. She also served the Congregation in leadership positions.

The recent email message came from the institute’s director, Ellen Calmus, who is also Sister Elise’s niece. She wrote to Sister Mary Ann Mozser, a board member at the CPPS Heritage Mission Fund, a grant-making organization established by the Congregation in 2017.

Calmus wrote:
My deepest thanks to you and the CPPS Heritage Mission Fund board for approving this grant to support Instituto del Rincón’s work here in Malinalco, Mexico!

The CHM Fund’s kind support for our work here in Mexico is of very special significance during this time of the Covid19 pandemic, which is creating an extraordinary degree of suffering among the poorest of the poor people in the region we serve. This grant will make it possible for us to continue and extend our work toward alleviating their suffering while striving to empower them toward improving their lives.

Your good news, coming as it does during the days leading up to Mexico’s Day of the Dead, finds us working hard with local families building our Dia de Muertos altar in remembrance of Malinalco’s many migrants who have died in the U.S., causing unimagined complications for their families here — who always tell us how comforting they find this tradition we re-create every year in Malinalco’s parish church.

I thought you might like to know that our Dia de Muertos altar always includes a photo of Sister Mary Elise Calmus, CPPS, my beloved Aunt Mary, who provided such key advice and moral support at the very beginnings of our organization that our team considers Madre Mary Elise to be one of Instituto del Rincón’s patron saints. In case you’d like to see it, I’m attaching a couple of photos: one is of last year’s altar, the other shows the memorial portrait and text about “Madre Mary Elise, CPPS” our team always includes in our yearly Dia de Muertos altar, including mention of my Aunt Mary’s work helping migrants in the U.S.

… Our Instituto del Rincón team and I join you in looking forward to working in partnership on Instituto del Rincón’s 2022 Peace, Justice and Reconciliation project at this time of particular need here in Mexico.

Story submitted by Sister Marita Beumer

Top, caption translated from Spanish: Mother Mary Elise Calmus was an adviser and friend of the El Rincón Project in Malinalco until her death in 2007. Since she was inspired by what her niece Ellen told her about the magnificent town of Malinalco, she began to help us in our work in support to migrant families: first with her practical organizational advice, and then as a sponsor, getting her congregation of American nuns to help us so that in 2006 we could rent our first office. Born in South Dakota, the daughter of Belgian-French migrants, Mother Mary Elise entered religious life at the age of 17. After completing her graduate studies in pedagogy, she was a director of middle and high schools in Ohio, later working in the administration of the University of Arizona. After she retired, she dedicated herself to offering educational support for the young children of migrants. Her great heart always had a special affection for Mexican migrants, and it was thanks to her that her religious sisters continue to support the work of the El Rincón Project in Malinalco. Bottom, Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) altar.

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