"The greater the work the more
important it is to establish it on
a solid foundation. Thus it will
not only be more perfect; it
will also be more lasting.”

St. Louise de Marillac

“Be diligent in serving
the poor. Love the poor,
honor them, my children,
as you would honor
Christ Himself.”

St. Louise de Marillac

 

Remembering S. Emily Anne Phelan

Sister Emily Anne Phelan died Dec. 16, 2022 at the age of  98 in Mother Margaret Hall, the nursing facility for the Sisters of Charity, Cincinnati, Ohio. Sister Emily Anne was born on July 14, 1925, to Eugene F. and Eunice (Reed) Phelan in Flagstaff, Arizona. She was the oldest of seven children, three girls and four boys. She was a Sister of Charity for 80 years.

Sister Emily Anne grew up in Arizona, attending school in Seligman and Winslow and graduating from St. Vincent Academy, Albuquerque, New Mexico, in 1942. She entered the Sisters of Charity in September 1942. She grew up in ‘no-church land’ so her spirituality, taught by her parents, was a deep faith in God and attention to the richness of God’s love manifested in persons and nature. She was introduced to formal Catholicism while at St. Vincent’s which is also where she first met the Sisters of Charity. When she went for sacramental preparation as a child she was inspired by the Sisters as they went to and from the poorest areas of her town working with children not able to attend classes. She believed this was the influence that later attracted her to religious life.

Sister Emily Anne earned a Bachelor of Science degree in education from The Athenaeum of Ohio (Cincinnati) in 1951. She was also trained in Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) in Sacramento, California, completing the work in 1976.

Sister Emily Anne’s ministries spanned more than 50 years, which included classroom teaching and administration in Catholic schools (21), vocation/formation director (five) and pastoral ministry (26). She began her years of service at Elizabeth Seton, Norwood, Ohio, teaching primary age children in 1945. In 1949 she went to Holy Family, Cincinnati (1949-’51). Next it was Holy Redeemer, Kensington, Maryland (1951-’55 and 1968-‘70); St. James, Bay City, Michigan (1955-’56); St. Louis, Mount Clemens, Michigan (1956-’60); and St. Bernadette, Westlake, Ohio (1960-’63). 

At this time the Catholic world was beginning to find ways to implement the ‘window-opening’ influence of the Vatican Council II on the Church and individuals’ lives. In 1963 Sister Emily Anne, along with four other Sisters of Charity, were called upon to help this happen in the Sister of Charity Formation program. It proved to be a challenging time as well as being a tumultuous period of unrest for those in the Church and religious life. She credits the more than 300 young women that graced our Community during her five years in formation as having a significant influence on her life and continued to be a blessing to her after.

In 1990 Sister Emily Anne was asked to organize and establish a Pastoral Care Department at Good Samaritan Hospital, Dayton, Ohio. She credited the wonderful, supportive people who assisted her, helping with a new language and a very different kind of work. After the program was up and running she went into Clinical Pastoral Education, working in several California hospitals; next she came to St. Mary-Corwin Hospital in Pueblo, Colorado to organize and develop a department of Pastoral Care there. As chaplain Sister was also responsible for Mission Effectiveness and Values in Leadership Programs and chairing the Bio-Ethics Forum.

She would say that some of the most profoundly spiritual and emotional opportunities occurred when she was in her pastoral care ministries. “I found ministering to sick and dying persons and their families to be a sacred privilege,” Sister Emily Anne stated. “I was also able to minister to each of my parents as their health failed. I treasured these occasions because for the greater part of my life as a Sister I spent far away from my family.”  

In retirement Sister Emily Anne had more time for her flower gardens, being outdoors, reading, short trips to the mountains and volunteering. Her retirement ministries included offering her time to SET (Service, Empowerment, Transformation medical clinics), prison ministry, transitional housing for the homeless and Habitat for Humanity.

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