July 2008: SISTER ELEANORA MARIE MAURER (entered eternal life on December 31, 2015)
Originally from Red Bud, IL a 16-year old Eleanora Marie Maurer came to know the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis by working summers at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, Belleville, IL. Her jobs as a housekeeper and nursing assistant put her in contact with the Sisters who often discussed Religious Life with her and the other girls living in the hospital dormitory. But these conversations did not have as much impact as a specific notecard did that she found on the floor in her room. “One morning, I picked up this card and as I turned it over to read it, the message took my breath away. The words “God is calling…are you listening?” were staring at me. After years of considering Religious Life, being raised in a religious family, and experiencing the Sisters’ dedication to the sick and poor, along with this note card all helped in my decision to be a Sister,” Sister Eleanora Marie explained.
Religious Life and Apostalic Service
She entered the Community on February 2, 1941 and took the name Sister Mary Bernard in honor of a priest who was a family friend. Following her religious instruction, she made her first profession on October 4, 1943 and professed her final vows on October 4, 1948. Continuing her formal education, she received a Bachelor of Science degree in dietetics from Fontbonne College in 1949 and a Master of Science degree from Stout State University in 1968. As a registered dietitian, her service included appointments at hospitals in Highland, Belleville, Eau Claire, Springfield, Streator.
Her work as a dietitian also enabled her to become a dietetics instructor at Eau Claire State University and Belleville Community College and an administrative dietitian at Mt. Sinai Hospital, Milwaukee. She also served as a clinical dietitian at Our Lady of the Snows Apartment, Belleville; Jewish Hospital, St. Louis; and Brother James Court, Springfield. She has had many experiences in these locations but laughs about the time she, as a Catholic Sister, worked in a Jewish hospital and rented a room in St. Louis from a Greek Orthodox woman.
A fondness for Streator, IL
With a smile on her face and in her heart, Sister Eleanora Marie Maurer brightens up a room. Add to that her lively spirit, quick wit, and sincere affection for children, she embodies the Franciscan spirit in such a way that brings the core value of joy to life. She was first assigned to St. Mary’s, Streator, from 1972-1977 as a dietitian and she returned in 1986 to serve as Religious Coordinator and also worked as a part-time clinical dietitian, Director of Volunteers, and Sister Advocate. Streator’s fondness for her continues even after she returned to the Motherhouse in April 2005. (Sister Eleanora Marie is pictured in front of the Risen Christ statue here at the Motherhouse that was displayed in St. Mary's Hospital's Chapel from 1971-2005.)
Don Keeley, St. Mary’s (Streator) Director of Personnel from March 1964-November 2001, said that “My wife Dolly and I, and our sons Don and John, have felt a sense of family love for Sister Eleanora Marie – a wonderful and devout Franciscan. Our relationship with her goes back more than 40 years and she has been an inspiration to our family which we have always cherished.”
“Some years ago while babysitting our sons, she asked them what they would like for breakfast and John (age four) wanted French toast. He then proceeded to take her, a license Dietician, to the kitchen and got all the ingredients together and started cooking! She was caught totally off guard and we laugh about it to this day. Another fond memory is while I was working at St. Mary’s, she would frequently come to my office and tell the office personnel that she was there to see Father Keeley for confession,” Don added with a smile.
Sister Eleanora Marie, age 85, looks back on her life with a smile. “I have loved everything that I have done in my life and am grateful to God for the many gifts bestowed on me. I realized a long time ago that I had the opportunity to reach out to others and make a difference – whether in a big or small way – and now wish to pass that mission on. Everyone has an opportunity to make a difference in a person’s life or the world. Whether it is in big ways that affects many or in such a way that makes one person feel loved, the opportunity is there for all of us. Lovingly take that step when it presents itself to you.”