(Published Oct. 3, 2008) The ministry history of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Ellis is relatively new when considering that the Sisters of St. Agnes from Fond du Lac, Wisconsin have a history of serving the people of St. Mary’s for 89 years.
In August 1994 I began my Ministry as Pastoral Associate here in Ellis. Sister Viatora Solbach and Sister Mary Reiter preceded me by a month coming in July. After their departure Sister Donna Otter came to be the school secretary and Director of Religious Education replacing Sister Mary Reiter. Sister Viatora visited the elderly, sick and persons confined to their homes.
As I recall my ministry of 14 years at St. Mary’s I recall all the events that have taken place. I was here less than a month when we had a flood (minor compared to the 1950 flood). The parish men came to secure the building from the waters to the best of their ability. Other events that the people endured was a large prairie fire not too far south of the city, tornadoes, hail, snow storms, droughts and so forth. Through it all I witnessed courage, cooperation, caring and sharing of the parishioners and the local community with one another. Often when a parishioner shares his or her stories of loss the conservation ends with “it could have been worse.” (Thanksgiving) and “I just need to leave it to the Lord to see me through.” (Trust in God)
The faith of the more mature members is a deep and simple faith. At times I am awed as they share their faith life and experiences. They are attuned to God’s voice.
I find the parishioners very generous in sharing their time and talents both in church ministries and in the upkeep of the buildings and grounds which on an average amounts to great savings on the parish budget. This saving translates into twenty to thirty thousand dollars each year when figure on minimum wage.
In the past three years they have experience a new loss totaling a year of being without a resident pastor which the people have accepted patiently but hoping and praying for the return of a resident pastor. This is a difficult trial for them but they are grateful for the support of the visiting priest who helps fill the void by providing Masses and the Sacraments. Parishioners often remark how generous the priests are and what a blessing it is to the parish for their generous support of their spiritual needs.