"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

 

Sister Joseph Ellen Noppenberger

 

Sister Joseph Ellen Noppenberger died Dec. 16, 2023, at the age of 96 in Mother Margaret Hall, the nursing facility for the Sisters of Charity. Sister Joseph Ellen was born on April 22, 1927, to Joseph G. and Lucille (O’Hearn) Noppenberger in Cincinnati, Ohio. She was one of four children, having two sisters and one brother. She was a Sister of Charity for 74 years.

Sister Joseph Ellen grew up in Norwood, Ohio, attending St. Mark grade school and graduating from Regina High School. She obtained a position in the Field Accounting Department of Western Southern Life Insurance in Cincinnati after graduation and then a civil service position with the Veterans Administration. It was during this time that she was introduced to the Sisters of Charity at St. Joseph Infant Home where her sister Jean was serving as a nurse. It was through that contact and volunteering with the children there that Sister Joseph Ellen began to consider religious life. Her older sister Jean had the same intentions, unbeknownst to her. Together the two sisters entered the Sisters of Charity Community in September 1949, the first siblings to do so since 1929.

Sister Joseph Ellen earned a Bachelor of Science degree in education from the College of Mount St. Joseph in 1967. In addition she had a natural, God-given aptitude for fixing things which she felt she inherited from her dad. On the various missions where she served she became known as ‘Sister Fix-it.’ Sister maintained convent yards and gardens, changed electrical plugs, fixed lamps, tape recorders, projectors and whatever else they brought to her. A wrench, saw, sander and other needed tools were never far away.

Sister Joseph Ellen’s ministries spanned 45 years, all in elementary education. She was first missioned to Margery Reed Day Nursery in Denver, Colorado, from 1951 until 1954. There she served as bookkeeper, supervisor of buildings and grounds as well as day care assistant for the upper school children. For the next two years Sister taught fourth grade students at Holy Trinity, Trinidad, Colorado. This began her 37 years in education, teaching in the following schools in Ohio: St. Bernard, Springfield (1956-’57); Holy Angels, Sidney (1959-’68); St. Brigid, Xenia (1968-’70); St. Matthew, Norwood (1970-’72); and St. Mary’s, Hyde Park, Cincinnati (1972-’93). Sister also returned to St. Joseph Infant Home as a group mother (1957-’59); it was good to have ministry years there and revisit staff members from the past.

Sister Joseph Ellen was the last Sister of Charity to serve at St. Mary’s, Hyde Park, first founded by the Sisters of Charity in 1908. She herself ministered at the school for 21 years. She helped establish the Magic Circle Program for middle-grade students. Students met in 20-minute sessions weekly; it served as a confidence-builder with everyone getting a turn to contribute to a topic.

At this time of ‘pre-retirement,’ Sister Joseph Ellen enrolled in a renewal program, Manna House in Concordia, Kansas, where she was encouraged by her peers there to consider a ministry of assisting others who could no longer do for themselves. She listened to their suggestions. In retirement at the Motherhouse, she served as a driver to medical appointments, shopping, the airport, or entertainment for Sisters living in the city of Cincinnati; she also volunteered at the Motherhouse front desk answering phones and greeting visitors, sewing hems and buttons, and in general ‘fixing things’ when they needed attention. Her gifts were welcomed and appreciated by many.

As Sister Joseph Ellen looked back several years ago, she remarked that while change was dreaded at times it always seemed to be for the best. “It was God’s plan and I tried to follow it.  The students I had the privilege to teach contributed to my learning experience as much as I did to theirs.”

Sister referred to her community life as having been one of joy and blessings. She looked forward to the joy of God’s presence.

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