August 2, 1915 — November 27, 2012
Elizabeth Mary was born on August 2, 1915 in York County, Pennsylvania, to Francis and Rose nee Murray Walker. She was baptized on August 15, 1915. The family moved to Dayton Ohio when Elizabeth was just eight years old. She referred to herself as “an almost Daytonian.” She attended St. James Parish School and was confirmed there in November 1927.
Elizabeth enrolled in Julienne High School graduating from there on June 8, 1933. During her junior and senior years in high school she did secretarial work which in which she continued doing for two years until she entered religious life. At the same time she became involved in recreational guidance which she did not describe. Both these early experiences, however, began a lifelong interest of hers.
After graduation, Elizabeth was convinced that God was calling her to religious life. In fact she said God was hounding her. She had met the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur both in grade school and at Julienne High School. She had been convinced that “something about the Sisters of Notre Dame attracted me at once, and that, I find, is simplicity. Another reason why I preferred Notre Dame was because it was a teaching order." Little did she realize that her teaching career would be a long and challenging one. When it came to an end, after 49 years, much of it spent in Dayton, she must have felt that she had become a real Daytonian!
After two years of waiting, which must have seemed very long to Elizabeth, she was finally able on February 2, 1934 to enter the postulancy of the Sisters of Notre Dame in Reading, Ohio. On August 13, 1934, Elizabeth entered the novitiate of the Sisters of Notre Dame and received for her religious name Sister Patricia Marie. In 1968 Sister began to use her baptismal name once again. On August 13, 1936 Sister Elizabeth professed her first vows and her perpetual vows on August 13, 1942.
Her first experience as a member of a teaching order began in 1937 and continued for 49 years. It included assignments from teaching first graders at St. Paul, 1937-1938 in Cincinnati and at Cardinal Pacelli from 1938-1947. In Dayton, from 1947-1954 Sister not only taught first, second, and third-graders but also was acting principal in the Country Day School at Villa Julienne. She continued teaching from 1954 to 1957 and at Julienne High School. From 1960-1963 Sister was a teacher and principal at Holy Trinity School. Her last ministry in Dayton elementary schools occurred from 1983-1986 at Holy Angels where she was a teaching principal once again.
Sister began yet another ministry at the University of Dayton which lasted for 20 years. It was there her educational vision was fully realized. Her role as assistant professor enabled Sister to develop her unique and Julie like vision for education.
Saint Julie had encouraged her early sisters to look upon their studies as so many nets to catch souls and take care to do them well. This Elizabeth did with great care and enthusiasm. She received her BA in Education from the Athenaeum of Ohio on June 12, 1946; a Masters of Education at Xavier University in Cincinnati on August 31, 1962 and finally her Doctorate of Philosophy from Ohio State University on August 30, 1974. The title of Sister’s dissertation summed up what she had already been doing and would continue to do. Its title was “Concentration in Curriculum and Instruction and Teacher Education.”
One of Saint Julie's broadest educational principles was her constant encouragement to her Sisters “Teach the children everything they needed for life. “ Elizabeth stated her vision of education in like terms. She wrote, “Education is such an important area to reach souls, individuals who need help in trying to develop their potential. The ideas of helping children discover their gifts from God, and to use them properly has been a desire deeply rooted in my life."
Saint Julie spent a great deal of time personally training her first Sister-teachers. Her constant reminder to them was to make them understand that “Education was the Greatest Work on Earth." One result of Elizabeth’s experiences was that she was able to “Teach teachers how to teach.” She soon gained a reputation among her students as being very helpful and supportive especially when they began their student teaching and beyond.
After 49 years of classroom ministry on many levels, Elizabeth devoted her skills: clerical, teaching and organizational to serving her community of the Sisters of Notre Dame. She was appointed as director for the community Juniorate. There she gave her best efforts to work with the younger members of the Sisters of Notre Dame. She was able to prepare the newer members for their ministry as teachers and in some cases in other ministries.
In 1987, Elizabeth moved to the Mount Notre Dame community in Reading where she directed yet another ministry very dear to her heart. She began what became the forerunner of an associate program. Women came to her did Bible studies and for theology courses which proved so valuable in their lives. This ministry continued for a number of years.
By 1998, sister was ready to move on to a more quiet and reflective lifestyle. She continued to direct the Saint Julie ministry of prayer. She found constant openings for ministerial services to her sisters. She soon acquired the title of volunteer par excellence for them. She served as receptionist for years both in the province offices and later in the newly built health center. Service to others had begun in 1937, when as a very young Sister; she spent her time in the summer cooking for the children in the free day care center in Cincinnati. She served as sacristan and as medical driver to take sisters to the doctors.
Elisabeth had loved to play tennis but got few opportunities later on. Instead she became an avid reader, a concertgoer and a traveller whenever she had the opportunity. One opportunity for travel occurred when Sister participated in a Pilgrimage to the early places of Saint Julie’s life in France and Belgium. It must have been the greatest joy of Elizabeth’s life. Sister seemed always to be the first one off of the bus, and the last to leave the site to board it.
Sister wrote a memory of how she first really learned of the goodness of God. It’s a Christmas story of an eight year old Elizabeth.
She recalled how her father had died in July. Her mother told her that she needed help when Christmas days arrived with the decoration. She was to take the place of her father. Surprised she was so happy to do so, especially when it came time to put the gifts around the tree after her younger sister and brother had gone to bed. Her joy was short lived since she found no gift with her name on it. Even on Christmas morning when relatives came to the home for the gift exchanges, there were still no gifts for Elizabeth. Her mother then told someone to go to another room for the last gift. It was carried out and placed in front of everyone. It was a small desk! Elizabeth had long wanted one. Everyone began to sing Merry Christmas in honor of her father who was with the good God. He had made the desk for Elizabeth! Elizabeth knew the goodness of God in her very young life!
Elizabeth went home to God so close to Christmas. We can only wonder what gifts the good God had in store for this devoted Sister of Notre Dame.
Even as we rejoice with Elizabeth, we shall miss her gracious and gentle presence among us. Our prayers are with her dear sister Mary, family members, students and colleagues.
Sister Louanna Orth, SNDdeN
November 27, 2012