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Sister Mary Ellen Freeman

August 16, 1943 - December 24, 2016   |   Passed On

Tribute to Sister Mary Ellen Freeman

Good evening and thank you for joining us to celebrate the life of Sister Mary Ellen Freeman. In recent years, we, at Humility of Mary Center, were already missing Sr. Mary Ellen’s presence on holidays and at the annual Assembly time.  She had been a regular visitor at those times, usually arriving late in the evening. We would welcome her the next morning at Mass or at breakfast. Although we are saddened by her death, we are joyful in knowing that she need fear no more hospitalizations, treatments or new diagnoses that might cause any more suffering. We welcome brothers, Jim and Rick, who now can rest in knowing that their sister has achieved eternal rest.

Sr. Mary Ellen Freeman was born on August 16, 1943, in Chicago to John Charles and Ellen (Mench) Freeman. After graduating from the Academy of Our Lady in Chicago, she attended Marycrest College as a freshman. Among other activities such as membership in the Chicago and Spanish Clubs, she played in the St. Ambrose band. During the summer of 1962 she worked for Sr. Edith in the admissions office and entered the community on September 8 of that year. She was professed in 1965. Srs. Greta Fitzgerald and Sue Sellers remain as members of her profession class.

Mary Ellen completed study for an associate degree from Ottumwa Heights College while in the novitiate and graduated from Marycrest College with a BA in elementary education in 1967. Although we have the yearbook of that year, there are no pictures of the sisters who were in the graduating class in it. She would continue her education through workshops in art, elementary religious education, math and reading throughout her teaching years.

Sister Mary Ellen started her teaching ministry at Lourdes Memorial School in Bettendorf where she taught for five years. There was an ungraded primary and grades four, five and six. From there she went to Glendale, AZ, where she taught 3rd grade at St. Louis the King. In Marshalltown, IA, she taught mostly 6th grade for three years, then to 2nd grade at St. Anthony’s in Des Moines. She went to St. Anne’s in East Moline where she taught 3rd graders, then back to Bellevue, IA, in the mid-80s where it was first graders. Finally she spent the rest of her years as a professional educator at St. Domitilla School in Hillside, IL. She was a second grade teacher, and also Vice Principal for three years.

Sister Mary Ellen loved music and played the piano, flute and guitar. She was part of the schola, playing flute and singing, for many of our jubilee celebrations. Her record says that she was qualified to teach her own classroom music.  She also shared her talent with some local communities, playing with the Bettendorf and Phoenix Community Bands when missioned at Lourdes and St. Louis the King schools respectively. 

We can easily find her quilt square in the large quilt at the bottom of the stairs. Look for the yellow square, with a “smiley face” in the second row from the bottom. Around it are blocks representing important aspects of her life: CHM community, family, prayer, service, and fun. Mary Ellen said she loved to laugh and thought she could make others laugh too. 

Sr. Mary Ellen was a very generous person. She would bring boxes and tins of home-made candy and other goodies when she came to the Humility of  Mary Center at Christmas time. She was teaching at St. Domitilla when Humility of Mary Housing program was in its early years. Sr. Mary Ellen told her students about the project, that homeless families were being helped, and the class started collecting Christmas gifts for the children in the housing program.  Eventually the whole school and parish became involved to the point that a truck had to be sent to Hillside to get all the contributions.

When she was at the Humility of Mary Center you could often find her at the puzzle table, even quite late at night. Mary Ellen sometimes joined the group at pool exercises. She loved to read, especially mystery and adventure stories. At times her mother came with her to the Center and the word is that they would go down to the boat for a few hours. 

Mary Ellen was dedicated to her congregational ministry as chair of the Spirit Committee. She was especially devoted to the annual memorial service for deceased CHM sisters and associates held during the Assembly. The environment in the chapel, the prayer service and the engagement of various participants were foremost in her mind as she planned the ritual for the entire community to pray together.   

In April of 2013, Mary Ellen’s dream of organizing a grief workshop came to fruition. Almost 50 sisters registered for “Praying Our Losses,” a time to gain insight and encouragement to learn how to say to ourselves and to others, “Go, God be with you—Good-bye.” Is there anything better to say to her now? Dear Sister, go, God be with you---Good-bye. 

Sister Mary Rehmann, CHM

Archivist