Sister Joseph Ellen Divel: July 25, 1930-Jan. 22, 2009

January 24, 2009 by

Eulogy for Sister Joseph Ellen Divel
Sister of St. Joseph of Concordia, Kansas

Vigil: Friday, January 23, 2009
Eulogist: Marcia Allen, csj

“I wake at dawn with a winged heart
and give thanks for another day of loving.”

These words, written by hand in her prayer book, reveal the heart of Sister Joseph Ellen’s life. She was a woman who suffered severely, loved deeply, and above all, lived a life of joy and gratitude.
Bernadine Theresa Divel was born July 25, 1930 in Wilton, Pennsylvania. She was the third of six children born to Marian Alice Elwell and Charles Francis Divel. She is preceded in death by her parents and her sister Marian Louise Jessmore. Surviving are her sister, Peggy Woolsey, and three brothers, Joseph Richard Divel, Charles Francis Divel, and John Leo Divel, as well as nieces, nephews and cousins.
Bernadine and her family lost their mother when she was nine years old. From that time on, she cared for the home and her twin brothers, Charles and John, who were less than a year old at the time of their mother’s death. She entered high school, but eventually dropped out in order to work and help support the family. Once the twins were out of high school she was free to contemplate her own future. It was then she realized that she wanted to be a religious. Because she had a cousin, Sister Stanislaus Porter, in the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia, she decided to come to Kansas.
She entered the novitiate on March 19, 1959, and made her final vows in March of 1963. She completed her GED in Concordia and proudly earned certification as a nurse aid. Through the years she participated in many works of service: as a desk receptionist and driver for the Motherhouse and nurse aide at St. Mary’s Convent for the infirm sisters in Concordia. She was on the staff of St. Joseph Children’s home in Salina, Kansas. There she loved the children, played with them, humored them, and, in general, mothered them. In Grand Island, Nebraska, she was general Jill-of-All Trades for the community of sisters. She was Sister Barbara Bader’s right hand in the Religious Education Department of the Cathedral parish. She also took up baby sitting for the parishioners. One of her special joys was caring for twins whom she usually brought to the convent. The sisters protested that they would be too much of a challenge for her, but Sister Joseph Ellen knew how to do twins. She played with them, tended them, and loved them. Her spontaneous expression of love and happiness made them perfectly at home with her!
Sister Joseph Ellen was an amazing person. She entered the Sisters of St. Joseph with 15 other women. She came with a lively presence and the determination to be what she most desired. She loved music – played the accordion and harmonica, sang and danced. She kept the atmosphere filled with hearty gladness with her creative antics and ability to see the humor in the events of this new life choice. She was full of life, loved life, and her native good humor never let her take trouble too seriously. She was always able to see life within a hearty laugh. The sound of her laugh and the humor in her eyes we will long remember.
She kept a prayer book. In it she would type or write by hand the heartfelt sentiments that expressed what she was feeling from time to time. She has there page after page of self-offerings. She lived her whole life in the desire to give of herself. To summarize these prayers I quote her: “O God, I want to give myself to you so that you can grow in me.” In was in that context that she lived out a life in participation with what God desired. Her heart was firmly rooted in the belief that God would do everything needed. She had cast her lot with God; she spent her life living in a joyful realization that God would live and grow in her. That was what we who knew her experienced. She threw herself into whatever she did, not only with lively joy, but with the courage of her convictions – about God and the worth of those around her. The prayers in her book are marked with trust, and love, generous giving, and constant petitions for loved ones and those of the world who were troubled and suffering in some way.
One of her special loves was the Ted and Mary Schlick family. Sister Norma Schlick introduced her to her brother Ted and his family and a special relationship developed. In fact, the family adopted her. Father Don Larmore even drew up an adoption certificate naming her as the adopted daughter of Ted and Mary Schlick. She attended all of the Schlick family gatherings and loved to be in the center of fun at Christmas, birthdays and the Fourth of July celebrations.
Sister Joseph Ellen came in her maturity to the Sisters of St. Joseph. During her youth and young adulthood she had worked in factories, had good times with her companion workers after factory hours, dated, supported a family and raised twin boys. She was street-wise, sharply perceptive of persons, simple as a dove yet wise as a serpent! She could be counted on to know the truth of a situation and wasn’t afraid to speak her mind. After all, she had lived a full life closely integrated with the world before entering the community. She had a tender heart; she encountered everyone with a glint in her eye that marked her joy in being present combined with a wisdom of insight that put them at ease. Those she met experienced her keen interest in them and knew she offered friendship. She simply loved life and immersed herself in it.
On Wednesday afternoon, the day before she died, I visited her at Mt. Joseph. I was struck by her face. It was radiant and her hair framed her head like a halo. Her whole demeanor was one of what, in retrospect, I would call an almost surreal attentiveness and peace. Her eyes were clear and she wanted to visit about an essay I had written for our monthly newsletter about a consistent life ethic. She was deeply interested and quickly made her own opinion known about the value of life – the gift of it. With her usual candor she talked about her own life, how, in spite of its many troubles, it was beautiful and how grateful she was for it. She described the joy of being a Sister of St. Joseph for so many years – 50, in fact! To sum it all up, she said how much she looked forward to celebrating her jubilee because of the gratitude and joy she had experienced throughout her life, suffering not with-standing.
Suffering she did indeed endure, more and more acutely toward the end of her life. She bore it patiently and rarely complained. On Thursday, January 22, 2009, she died suddenly. In the Mt. Joseph beauty shop while having her hair fixed, she slipped into eternal life – a life without suffering.
Yes, we had warnings along the way. Sometimes, Joseph Ellen, you mentioned that you might be going soon. But you were so looking forward to your Jubilee. We, your companions at entrance, were going to get together for that event. You were looking forward to going in procession, all of us together, and of having our picture taken – together. Together was always your thing! You insisted on it. Whenever we were home for community meetings, you found some way to get us together for a picture or a meal. You were the glue who made sure we held together. Your pride in belonging with us caused us to see ourselves through your eyes – source of pride and happiness. Some of us have preceded you in death: Sisters Antoinette Ready and Veronica Roy. Those of us who were looking forward to being with you at our June celebration are: Sisters Virginia Pearl, Donna Otter, Anna Marie Broxterman, Nancy Meade, Pat McLennon, Faye Huelsman, Marcia Allen, Jean Befort, and Rosemary Farrell. Even without your physical presence we will keep up your tradition of being together, knowing as we do, that you will be closely monitoring us from your new place in our midst.
All of us Sisters of St. Joseph feel the loss of you, Sister Joseph Ellen. Your family grieves your death and yet they rejoice that you are no longer suffering; the healthcare personnel at Motherhouse and Mt. Joseph mourn your sudden disappearance; your adopted family and all of your friends are saddened by your leaving. To one another we offer our sympathy and comfort; and, we will continue to tell your story and delight in the memories that you have left with us. Your spirit of lively delight in life, your courage in difficulties, your generous heart will continue to sustain us. The memory of your presence among us will remain our mentor.
This evening we say your favorite prayer with gratitude, knowing that you are now living it: knowing that you are now living it:
“The favors of the Lord are not exhausted; God’s mercies are not spent. They are renewed each morning, so great is God’s faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3: 22-23)

Comments

2 Responses to “Sister Joseph Ellen Divel: July 25, 1930-Jan. 22, 2009”

  1. Teresa Divel Stugart on January 3rd, 2013 8:43 pm

    I remember my Aunt (Sister Joseph Ellen) visiting us as children–I didn’t have the chance as adult to tell her how much I admired her and loved her–for her Faith and service to God and the love she gave to us as kids. My father (Charles Francis Divel) has entrusted me with her Bible and her Crucifix and I will cherish her memory by reading it. I quote her favorite prayer “The favors of the Lord are not exhausted; God’s mercies are not spent . They are renewed each morning, so great is God’s faithfulness.” (Lamentions 3:22-23)

  2. Mark Divel on May 11th, 2011 8:00 pm

    I really did not get to know her very well but when she would visit my father i would see her and she was a very nice lady. She is my aunt and i wish i had some pictures of her the only one i have is the one from this web site so if you would happen to have any would you please send me some thank you very much and god bless.

    Mark Divel sr.

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