Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of April 14, 2003
At 93, Sr. Mary Ell won't slow down
By RENATO GANDIA
WCR Staff Writer
If you ask Sister Mary Ell, 93, what an ordinary day is like for her, she promptly answers, "Busy."
She is supposed to be retired. But she has not stopped doing whatever she can for others.
Recently she celebrated 75 years as a Sister of Charity of the Immaculate Conception.
Ell taught in schools and tutored privately for 50 years. She is no longer a classroom teacher but continues as a private tutor. Right now, she is helping a Korean woman brush up her English.
She also goes to homes and the hospital and brings Communion to her friends.
"My day is always very busy, very interesting," chuckled Ell.
She doesn't drive a car anymore. When she needs to visit the sick in the hospital somebody drives her, otherwise she is comfortable taking city transit. In fact she takes the transit to the public library to borrow materials for her tutoring.
"I'm not afraid. I can go anywhere, everyday and never have to worry."
What has changed is that now she has more time to herself.
The first week of April she did a personal silent retreat using resources from the Internet.
She logged on to the site of a Jesuit priest, who guides people in their personal silent retreats.
"It was my first experience of a silent retreat on my own," said the sister, who has enjoyed learning to use the Internet.
Ell has lived in Edmonton nearly 50 years but was born and raised in Holdfast, Sask.
She left home in 1928 with three other girls from her parish to begin training for religious life in New Brunswick.
As a teaching sister she worked all over Canada. Aside from Edmonton, she also taught and was principal in Wetaskiwin, a school for boys in Vancouver and in Winnipeg.
She has witnessed how religious life has changed. "But I think it's all for the good because the changes opened up so many areas of our life."
When she entered the convent they were not allowed to look at the Bible.
"We were discouraged from reading from the Old Testament."
After the Second Vatican Council things began to change. There was all kinds of learning to do. Ell, along with the rest of her community, engaged in Bible studies.
"God's hand is truly at work," she said.
"He is still calling people. I think the young people now are coming and asking to know more about the Church, which is a good thing."
She firmly believes religious life is still relevant today as God is calling people in every way.