JULY 2003: SISTER HUGH HOLTMANN (entered eternal life on October 3, 2016)
German Born, Chicago Raised
A baby girl was born to Gertrude and Ernest Holtmann on September 3, 1913, in Muelheim, Germany. Little Eleanore Marie joined the family that consisted of her parents and an older brother and sister. As a youngster, she attended a private Catholic School run by the Sisters of Notre Dame in Duisburg.
When the German economy failed and many families lost all that they owned, Ernest Holtmann decided to investigate moving his young family to the United States of America. With the assistance of his brother-in-law, the family relocated to Chicago, Illinois, to a land that held a promise of freedom, stability, and many opportunities. When the children and their mother arrived in Chicago, Dad had already enrolled the youngsters in private Catholic schools. He also had a great surprise for the family; he had converted from Lutheran religion to Catholicism.
Another Natural Migration...But A Family Surprise
Within a few years of her arrival in Chicago, Eleanore met another young German woman, Augusta Baeckmann. Soon "Gussie" and Eleanore became close friends. Together they worked with Father Dussman, the "Radio Priest of the Shut-Ins," and made visits to these individuals in both private homes as well as nursing homes.
Later they met Father Hugh Marcie, a Franciscan Friar from the St. Louis Province, and became active in a variety of programs at the Old St. Peter’s Church in Chicago. One day Eleanore asked Father Hugh if he thought she was "material for religious life." He answered by giving her the name and address for the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis. Like St. Francis himself Father said, "Go and see for yourself." Eleanore coaxed her friend, Gussie, into accompanying her to Springfield for the visit. They spent a weekend with the Sisters. Both of these young women were impressed by the serenity and holiness that pervaded the convent as well as by the joy that the young Sisters exhibited. Upon their return to Chicago, both Eleanore and Gussie decided to join the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis. Eleanore related that her family, with the exception of her mother, was in shock when she told them that she was going to join the Community.
God’s Voice is Heard
February 2, 1944 dawned dark, cold, rainy and dismal. This was the day that Gussy and Eleanore would travel by train from Chicago to Springfield. Eleanore relates that it was a sad and painful farewell as she left her home, family and faithful dog. On the train ride to Springfield, Eleanore decided she had made a terrible mistake and that she would take the first train back to Chicago after collecting her luggage in Springfield. She whispered this to Gussie who was seated next to her on the train. Gussie confided that she, too, was planning to return to Chicago on the next train.
However, when they arrived in Springfield, the Sisters were there to meet them and take them to the Motherhouse. Eleanore noted that when the convent doors closed behind them, their plan to escape failed, but the powerful grace of God took over. Soon both Gussie and Eleanore felt their uncertainty disappear and the knowledge that they had made the right decision took its place.
On October 4, 1944, Gussie became Sister Matthew and Eleanore became Sister Hugh; both made their profession of vows two years later. Soon Sister Hugh was enrolled at St. John’s School of Nursing in Springfield. After obtaining her diploma and passing her State Board of Nursing Examination, Sister Hugh began her nursing career. After 20 years in nursing, Sister returned to the classroom to study hospital administration. She earned a Masters in Hospital Administration from Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1973. Following her work as an Administrator, Sister Hugh spent another 18 years as an Admitting Representative at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Belleville, Illinois.
Now "in retirement," Sister Hugh lives in a small, rural community in central Illinois. She is grateful for the opportunity to spend more time in prayer, visiting the sick, and tending to her wonderful pets who always remind her of the goodness of our God of all creation. Sister also volunteers at a no-kill animal shelter.
Her dear friend, Sister Matthew, left her last year to enjoy the reward promised by our Lord, "If you follow me, I promise you a hundredfold in this life and life everlasting in the next."
Sister Hugh wishes to tell anyone who reads this story and has been wondering about her future and what to do with her life to "come and see for yourself." Come for a few days to experience the life of a Hospital Sister of Francis--we specialize in hospitality!