November 1, 1931 – June 20, 2022
A simple soul easily approaches God in prayer and fills herself with the spirit of charity, and suffers nothing to remain in her which is not pure charity.
(Summary of Instructions of Our Venerated Foundress, p. 27)
Elaine Teresa Ballmann was the ninth of ten children raised by Gabriel and Viola Ballmann in Our Lady of the Rosary Parish, Dayton, Ohio. Her memories of growing up were filled with stories of loving parents and “wonderful, wonderful brothers and sisters”. Elaine described that time as peaceful, filled with joy and very active. Ten children meant there was never a need to be bored. “We always had enough for a card game, a yard game. We sat on the porch and played jacks. We tossed a ball. We chased one another with kick the can, and always hide and seek. We enjoyed our childhood.” Our Lady of the Rosary was within sight of the family home and it was there that Elaine first met the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. She described herself as, “…one of those kids that stayed after school. I would help Sister clean the classroom, get ready for the next day, and I enjoyed doing that. And so, perhaps that was ‘planting the seed’ for my vocation. I think I always wanted to be a Sister”. Elaine continued to get to know the Sisters of Notre Dame through her years at Julienne High School. Those years were filled with study, participation in numerous sports and CYO activities, and a deepening call to religious life. As she prepared for graduation, Elaine also prepared to enter the community, which she did on July 26, 1949.
Sister Mary Gabriel was the name Elaine received as a novice, and the name she was known by until 1968 when she went back to her baptismal name. With other novices, she prepared for the ministry of teaching. Elaine spent 31 years in formal education, 19 of which would be in administration. All of her 12 years in the classroom were spent with 5th through 8th graders. While she was a successful teacher, it was not without its challenges. Elaine felt her skills might be better used as an administrator. She was teaching 7th and 8th grade at St. Christopher Parish School in Columbus, Ohio when she shared her views with her superiors. For the next four years Elaine continued some teaching and served as Principal at St. Christopher. During those years she spent the summers working towards a graduate degree in education. In 1965, Elaine was missioned to Holy Angels Parish School in Dayton, Ohio. She taught 8th grade the first year as she completed her graduate degree. The next two years she continued some teaching and served as Assistant Principal before being named Principal in 1968. Elaine would serve in that role for the next 15 years.
Elaine worked with her teachers to build a sense of community devoted to the ministry of education. They met every Wednesday to share what was going on in their faith lives. They grew together as a staff and created an atmosphere where students could experience a Christ-centered, caring faith community. Evaluations from that time commend Elaine for concentrating on the students’ sense of self-worth and ability to take responsibility for their own lives; enabling teachers to participate in development of total educational ministry; including parents in the educative process; raising consciousness in the community to the realities of poverty and oppression; and promoting projects that developed a sense of social justice among both students and adults. She described her time at Holy Angels as always rewarding and joyous because of the high level of collaboration among the staff, with the students and broader community.
In 1983 Elaine was given a two-year sabbatical opportunity. The first year found her at Regis College in Toronto. There she focused on coursework in Religious Studies. The second year she followed a growing call to more closely accompany people on their spiritual journeys and attended the Jesuit Center for Spirituality in Guelph, Ontario. In 2018, Elaine shared: “I was really very, very blessed to be trained in the spiritual life”. At Guelph she gained experience in directing one-on-one retreats as well as accompanying individuals as a spiritual director.
Returning to Ohio in 1985, Elaine was missioned to serve as administrator of a large SNDdeN community in Columbus, Ohio. She did more than attended to the business of the house. She also worked with the Sisters to help them gain skills in sharing their faith with one another. Elaine also helped direct two 30 day retreats for seminarians attending the Pontifical College Josephinum. The retreats took place at St. Therese’s Retreat Center in Columbus. In 1987, the Director of the Retreat Center asked Elaine to join the staff. So began her 32 year ministry at St. Therese’s which had three components. She helped with administrative tasks including overseeing work schedules, calendars, payroll and purchasing. She helped with the physical tasks of running a retreat center: serving in the dining room, doing dishes, cooking meals, making beds, answering the phone and making sure people were welcomed. She also directed retreats, served as regular spiritual director for individuals, led some evenings of reflection for parish groups and met regularly with a group of women to explore various spiritualities. Elaine later said: “I liked it because it had three prongs to it: it had the spiritual, it had the administrative, and it had the physical. And anyone who has been in a retreat center knows how much activity there is and how many demands are made. And you have to have 100% flexibility or you won’t exist at a retreat center”. She also enjoyed the ministry because the staff had to work as a team. Each had their own responsibilities. Each also helped pick up one and others’ work to make sure that there would be occasional time off for everyone from a very busy ministry. Elaine loved her ministry in spite of the busyness and long days. She found the work influenced her own continuing spiritual growth and she developed abiding friendships with her coworkers who loved and supported her the rest of her life.
Elaine shared the same gifts she brought to her ministry with her community. Over the years she served on various province committees and was a member of the Ohio Province Assembly. Her sense of humor, joy of life, appreciation of little things, contemplative spirit, and sincere interest in each of her Sisters added greatly to community life. Elaine enjoyed quiet time for deep thinking or reading a good book and listed as a special interest ‘contemplation and the study of human nature’. She loved gardening, enjoying the beauty of nature, listening to music, being physically active, playing cards, conversations with friends, and cheering on the Cincinnati Reds. Elaine saw God’s presence and grace in those around her. She so treasured the lessons God taught her through others. At the age of 86 she experienced serious illness and hospitalization for the first time in her life and came to Mount Notre Dame Health Center to recuperate. Illness was a shock for her. She was very grateful for the care she received, for the staff who helped her adjust to diminishment, for the opportunity to renew relationships with old friends, and for her Sisters who taught her about suffering. She said, “I think that’s an aspect of joy that I’ve experienced. I just marvel at the Sisters – I still am not able to answer the question how some of them can suffer…. Here I was adjusting to being sick, and just to see them suffer, I don’t know how they can do that. I don’t know what suffering really is. You know… we say God gives you the grace… Teresa of Avila says that near the end, the only thing we have is faith and the will of God. I think that’s accurate. And so I guess it’s just having the faith that you can get through.” Elaine was able to return to Columbus and St. Therese’s. She brought her ministry to a close and was welcomed to the Health Center in late 2019.
Family was Elaine’s first community and remained an important component of her life. She loved all of her brothers and sisters and was a proud Aunt to their children and their families. Elaine laughingly said: “I had so many brothers and sisters…I have 28 nieces and nephews. And I have great nieces and nephews, and I have great-great nieces and nephews. And I know all my nieces and nephews, and quite a few of the great nieces and nephews, but I do not know the next generation!” Now, as her beloved family members, friends and Sisters gather to celebrate her life, we give thanks for all the ways she made God’s goodness known to each of us. We celebrate her joy as she reunites with her beloved parents, sisters and brothers in Heaven. We count on her continued prayers for each of us. We can almost hear her reminding us: Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
- Born November 1, 1931 in Dayton, Ohio
- Parents: Gabriel Ballmann (born in Dayton, Ohio) and Viola Zink (born in Dayton, Ohio)
- Siblings: Rita Ballmann, Gerald Ballmann, Marjorie Ballmann Merrill, Ambrose John Ballmann, Richard Ballmann, Paul Ballmann, Marietta Ballmann Boltz, Betty Ballmann Curtis, Kenneth Ballmann
- Baptized November 15, 1931 at the Church of Our Lady of the Rosary, Dayton, Ohio
- Confirmed November 24, 1940 at the Church of Our Lady of the Rosary, Dayton, Ohio
- Entered July 26, 1949 at Mount Notre Dame, Reading, Ohio
- First Profession: January 26, 1952
- Final Profession: August 13, 1957
- Our Lady of the Rosary, Dayton, Ohio, 1945
- Julienne High School, Dayton, Ohio, 1949
- Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education, Our Lady of Cincinnati College, Cincinnati, Ohio 1962
- Master of Science in Education, Xavier University, Cincinnati, Ohio 1966
- Diploma program at Regis College, Toronto, Ontario, Canada 1983-1984
- 1952-1954: St. Stephen School, Hamilton, Ohio
- 1954-1958: St. Mary School, Hamilton, Ohio
- 1958-1960: St. Augustine School, Columbus, Ohio
- 1960-1965: St. Christopher School, Columbus, Ohio
- 1965-1983: Holy Angels School, Dayton, Ohio
- 1983-1985: Sabbatical
- 1985-1987: Local Coordinator, Rich Street Convent, Columbus, Ohio
- 1987-2019: St. Therese Retreat Center, Columbus, Ohio (volunteer from 2017 until coming to MND in late September 2019)
- 2019-2022: Ministry of Prayer and Presence, Mount Notre Dame Health Center, Reading, Ohio
Died: June 20, 2022, Mount Notre Dame Health Center, Reading, Ohio
Sr. Kim Dalgarn SNDdeN
June 20, 2022