July 2006: SISTER ELVON HUSER
On March 20, 1919, a 9th child was born to Frank and Anna Huser – a daughter whom they named Marie. Eventually this Hansen, Wisconsin family grew to include 14 children that lived and worked on a farm - assisting their father in growing beans. Religion was an important part of the family's life and they realized how blessed they were when on October 1, 1936 Marie entered the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis. In doing so, she took the religious name of Sister Elvon.
During the interview for this story, Sister Elvon shared stories of her family life and even recalled, with a grin, that their dining table was "just long enough to accommodate the entire family." But this table represented more than a place to share a meal. It was also the place from which they increased their faith in God. In fact, religious life was something special to them because five of the daughters were Sisters…three in this Franciscan community including Sister Elvon, Sister Elreda (featured here in July 2005), and Sister Elaine along with Notre Dame Sisters Nerine and Petranda.
Importance of a Catholic education
Sister Elvon’s mother wanted her children to have a Catholic education but the town only had a one-room public grade school. Although there was a Catholic church, there was not a priest in residence but rather one who was assigned to celebrate Mass once a month. However, the parishioners’ faith was strong and they prayed the rosary together in the church each Sunday. Recognizing this Catholic education need, the Husers saved money to send each child, always in pairs, for the 7th and 8th grade in a Catholic school 20 miles away. “In order to help pay for this schooling, we picked beans in our farm and because I really wanted to attend a Catholic school, I picked a lot of beans,” Sister Elvon said with a smile.
During these two years at school, the Huser children lived with their teachers – the Notre Dame Sisters – during the week and their father would bring them home for the weekend. “In the winter, my father would arrive in a sleigh to pick us up and it was always so comforting to see him arrive. Our education would also continue during the summer when the Sisters would come to our parish for two weeks and teach us religion,” Sister Elvon said.
The summer of 1935
Although she was homesick while living with the Notre Dame Sisters, Sister Elvon knew that she wanted to attend a Catholic high school and possibly consider religious life.
“After finishing 8th grade in May, I went home and found a job caring for a family’s three-year-old son. But I also made a trip to Springfield, IL with my father to visit my sister, Sister Elaine, who had made her first profession with the Hospital Sisters. I remember meeting Mother Magdalene who talked with me about their Aspirant’s School (a Catholic high school) at the Motherhouse,” Sister Elvon explained. Following the visit, she and her father drove home and she continued thinking about going to a Catholic school. Meanwhile, the family that she was working for decided to move to Chicago in August and asked her to come with them as their child’s nanny. “I knew in my heart that I wanted to go to the convent and so I figured out a way to decline their job offer in Chicago and convinced my parents that I wanted to attend the Aspirant school for high school,” Sister Elvon said.
So in August 1935, Sister Elvon began her Catholic high school education in Springfield. Ultimately her vocation began to develop and she was at peace with her life and the consideration of Religious Life. After several years in Formation, she professed her final vows in 1944.
A life in healthcare
“I was a poor specimen for a nurse because every time I saw blood I fainted,” Sister Elvon laughed. However, she continued her studies in nursing and came to enjoy the excitement of learning something new – especially in surgery. “Years ago you did not give up so easy and as a Sister we realized that we came to the Order to serve God,” Sister Elvon said.
Sister Elreda Huser, currently serving in the Japanese Province, wrote that "being six years younger than Sister Elvon, I remember always tagging after her and we were very close. Upon entering the same convent, I always looked up to her in her devotion to the care of the sick."
Education and assignments
Sister Elvon is a graduate of St. John’s School of Nursing, Springfield, IL and received post graduate education in surgery from St. John’s Hospital, Springfield. She later earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from DePaul University, Chicago. Her assignments in the Sisters’ sponsored hospitals include St. Joseph’s (Chippewa Falls, WI), St. John’s (Springfield, IL), St. Elizabeth’s (Belleville, IL), St. Vincent (Green Bay, WI), and St. Mary’s (Streator, IL). Currently, she serves at St. Nicholas Hospital, Sheboygan, WI in the Pastoral Care department and as a volunteer. She is pictured above in the chapel at St. Nicholas with Marilyn Roblee.
Mary Brasseaux, Executive Vice President of St. Nicholas, recognizes the importance of mission integration and how the Sisters are an example to the physicians and employees. “Sister Elvon is a quiet yet constant reminder of the mission of the Hospital Sisters and why we are all here.”
Experiences in Japan
One of the highlights Sister Elvon has experienced was traveling to Japan and the opportunity to see Sister Elreda. During one visit, she taught English to the Japanese Sisters during a seven month assignment. “I taught them two hours a day through conversation and pictures and I learned so much about the Japanese people and culture,” she added.
A final message
Throughout her life, Sister Elvon has trusted the inner voice that inspired her in her desire for a Catholic education, the strength to leave home, and the courage to understand the challenges in religious life and work as a nurse. Through it all there was a voice that reassured her. “I believe in the power of prayer and am grateful for the knowledge in knowing that the voice of God was speaking to me and continues to do so each day,” she concluded.