Emily Anne Phelan
summer of 1941 after Gene died, Dad took Mother for a little R & R.
They went to Albuquerque, Dad’s birthplace, and a large city,
where they could more safely invest the little compensation resulting
from the accident. Dad got to show
Mother the city he had known as a boy.
He wanted to introduce Mom to the Sisters who had taught him in
Bernalillo, a suburb to Albuquerque.
the bus, he thought he recognized some familiar places; thinking he had
found one they got off and knocked at the door of St. Vincent Academy.
To his great surprise, a Sister of Charity, rather than a Sister
of St. Joseph, met them at the door.
Dad had gone to school in Bernalillo and knew that group of
Sisters. This turned out to
be a strange turn of events.
in the visit, the Sisters were introduced to their “gang” as Dad
showed off pictures the seven.
Sisters inquired about where the children were going to school and in
time invited Mom and Dad to send their daughters to the Academy.
In reality, this was economically out of the question.
However, in a most unexpected and most unusual response, Mom
said: “Yes, Dad, maybe
the Nuns can make ladies of them.”
(Dad’s amazement must have been something for Mom to not take
time to discuss this with him AND for Mom to be so willing to send her
daughters to a Catholic School!)
returned to Winslow with bolts of material for Mom to make uniforms for
us. In September Ruth, Pat
and I entered St. Vincent Academy. It was my Senior year and only time
in a Catholic School. Getting
used to the routine and very different life of a border, being concerned
for Mom and Dad still grieving, and missing my brothers was only part of
my unsettled and less than happy time as a Senior.
About mid year, Dad was transferred to Albuquerque and we home
with the family. We girls
finished the year as day students at the Academy and I graduated with a
class of 15 girls – much different from the usual more than a hundred
coed classes I had been accustomed to.
was attracted to some of the work done by Sisters, especially teaching
the poor and Hispanic children. During my senior year I applied to the
Sisters of Charity in Cincinnati, thinking this would be something I
would do in the future. For years, we girls knew that if we wanted
to go to College we could live with Aunt Grace Reed in Wichita and go to
the Friends University.
July of ’42 I went to Wichita, got a job in a Tea Room and enrolled in
Friends University. (Aunt
Grace lived across the street from Friends and had been an associate
Professor from time to time over the years so was well known by the
faculty.) About a
month into my first year, I wrote to the Mount to let them know I was
enrolled at Friends and expected to complete my work in three years and
would be back in touch. I
received a letter offering me a scholarship to Mount St. Joseph College.
I accepted that offer, terminated at Friends, took a bus to
Cincinnati and eventually to the Motherhouse of the Sisters of Charity.
I entered the convent and became a freshman at the College of
Mount St. Joseph, Ohio.
move was one of practicality, not planned nor discussed with Mom and
Dad. I had just enough money to afford the bus trip and trusted I
would be able to work to pay for college, etc.
I wrote Mom and Dad to explain what and why I was going; packed
my clothes into a small box to send to them; wrote a note to Aunt Grace,
giving her a brief explanation and
the postage to send to the box home for me.
for my manner of thinking and acting:
a talk with Mom about why I thought I might like to go to the convent, I
learned of her very strong opposition.
I also knew she wanted and encouraged each of us to do and to be
whatever we chose in life. I
had also talked with Dad and had a beautiful letter from him in which he
stated in part: “Remember,
to be a good Mother of Nun or Old Maid you need the grace of God.
I pray for each of you daily that you will make good choices and
knew our family did not have the way to finance a college education for
any of us. Part of my
reason for going to Wichita was to work in an airplane factory to get
money to help Mom and Dad buy a home of their own.
The rest I would use for my education.
Saint Joseph is a Convent where many Sisters lived and a
It is located on the West side of greater Cincinnati.
It was built around 1880 or 90. To me it looked like an
ancient castle. It was
awesome to behold for this gal who was comfortably small town bred.
I grew acquainted with the life of the Sisters of Charity, I also
continued as a freshman in college.
For the first years in the convent we make no commitment, learn
prayer and about dedicating ourselves to God.
As we learn and grow in our decision process, so the superiors
are making their assessments and decisions about us.
The process is gradual, giving both candidate and community time
for appropriate evaluation and decision.
1943 I was accepted to make Vows.
and Ruth came to be with me for this occasion.
There was another reason for their trip, namely, for Dad to bring
me home. Mother was still
very strong in her opposition to this life form for me.
early in the morning Dad and Ruth arrived at the Mount, met with the
Sisters and told them about taking me home.
(I feel very sure Dad was not feeling good about him mission.)
I did not know they had come and surely did not expect any of my
family to come for this occasion.
was called down to the parlor where Dad and Ruth were with the Mother
General and some other Sisters who held positions of authority.
The situation was explained to me, I was given a little time to
talk with Dad, then taken to another room to be questioned and given
opportunity to say what I truly believed I wanted to do at this time.
definitely knew I wanted to make Vows and remain a Sister, knowing that
even though it would be difficult for Dad to return with this message,
Mother would at some time be at peace with me and my choice. I
made Vows that day and have never regretted.
time, Mother understood that the choice was a good one and she was very
dear about letting go of any past pain.
my 66 years as a Sister of Charity, I have been able to do many things
that have been challenging and rewarding.
I taught all eight grades of elementary, and was principal in
three schools. Teaching
held many opportunities to work with needy children (not necessarily
financially poor). Being
able to make available new opportunities for discovering
happiness, success and a desire to move ahead, are memories that
warm me even now.
22 years teaching, I went to the Mount to help prepare young women to be
Sisters. In the five years,
’63 –’68, I worked with 295 young women who entered at Mount St.
Joseph. This was the period
of the last Vatican Council, during which there was much work being done
by all communities to make changes to modify and up-date their life
styles and all that pertained to Religious Life.
I was very active in this change process, not only in community
studies, but with the opportunities this opened for me as I worked with
and taught the young women. Sometimes,
I was looked upon by a segment of our community as a ‘rabble rouser’,
not a title that usually fit me.
1970 I was asked to go to the Good Samaritan Hospital in Dayton, OH to
develop a department of Spiritual Care for the Patients.
I had no preparation for this work, not any desire to work in a
hospital. However, I did go
and worked four years during which time I developed a department with a
staff that was able to minister effectively to patients, their families
and the Staff. I left there
to begin training to be a Chaplain. (To learn what I had been trying to
do for the past 4 years!)
trained in Dayton for a summer, then moved to Sacramento, CA to train
under three very fine Supervisors at three centers: Sutter, The CA Youth
Authority, and UC Davis Hospital.
provided varied, challenging and excellent training. While I was
in Sacramento, Dad and Mother came to visit me.
While there, Dad had a Cerebral Hemorrhage that left him with
very limited use of his limbs and unable to speak.
He was hospitalized for several weeks, then in a nursing home.
October, six months after the event, we moved him back to Escondido and
into a nursing home there. Bob
and Pat were very helpful arranging for the trip home and the nursing
home. This was a very
painful and taxing time for Mom as well as for Dad.
For me it was a time of pain, great tiredness, and real life
education in caring for parents. I returned to Dayton for a few
months in early 1975 after completing CPE training and entering
preparation to be a CPE Supervisor.
condition deteriorated and I was asked to come home in April ’75.
He recovered somewhat and I stayed to help Mother care for him
and to care for her when she underwent surgery for an aneurysm on the
of ’75 I started Supervisory Training at St. Joseph Hospital in
Orange, CA. I completed
training in ’76 and I worked at St. Joseph until June of 1982.
died in September ’76. Being
in California during that time was a very special time for me.
I was close to Mom and Dad, Bill, Pat, Bob, Ruth and their
families. Having been far away with very few family visits over the
course of 30 plus years, this was truly a gifted time of getting to know
family, enjoy times together as well as be present with them in our
times of pain and grief.
working at St. Joseph in Orange, I was asked by our Community to come to
Pueblo, CO to develop a Spiritual Care Department at St. Mary-Corwin
Hospital. In my mind and
heart I was saying “Oh no! I don’t want to leave here now while I am
doing so many things I enjoy –teaching, ministering to patients, and
enjoying a variety of educational opportunities as well as professional
experiences. I also know
that hospital has been in trouble for some time and is probably going to
close.” This stayed in my
spirit for over two years before I finally decided I should at least go
find out more about the position and have a job interview.
That I did in early 1982, took the position and moved to Pueblo
to work at St. Mary-Corwin Hospital for the next 12 years. I
retired July 1994 to a very rewarding life of volunteering.
is now 2009 and I still volunteer:
one day a month I visit four men at the Super Max in Florence,
CO; one day a month as intake clerk for a Senior Wellness Clinic; three
half days a week at St. Mary-Corwin Hospital, serve on the Selection
Committee for Habitat for Humanity; and am a Spiritual Companion for a
couple of people.
good life is and I am truly grateful!!