Sister Ellen Mary Garrett
A Model of Mission & Service
The question of where Sister Ellen Mary Garrett is may actually be easier to answer than an inquiry regarding what she has been doing.
Sister Ellen Mary graduated from St. Mary High School in Storm Lake, Iowa, and entered the Sisters of the Presentation in 1961. She graduated from Clarke University (formerly Clarke College) with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education, and minors in math and religion. Later she would earn a master’s degree in education from Clarke with reading emphasis, including reading specialist and reading clinician. This background grounded her well to serve in elementary education as teacher and principal over a span of 44 years.
Not surprisingly, Sister Ellen Mary traces her professional career and sites by a mathematical equation. The equation explains her years spent in eight missions: Timber Lake, South Dakota, and St. Odilia in Shoreview, Minnesota, were interspersed among Iowa schools at St. Columbkille and Resurrection in Dubuque, Osage, Charles City, Key West and Danbury. A favorite part of teaching was the time spent in actual instruction of students and the time used to plan and create hands-on learning activities for each subject. Reading was a favorite subject, both teaching students to read and reading children’s classics to them. Strong favorites extend to math and science, both land mines for creative learning projects. She especially liked teaching liturgical seasons in religion
class and designing the learning activities that made each season real and interesting to students.
Since the summer of 2010, Sister Ellen Mary has been engaged at Mount Loretto, dividing her work hours between assisting in the Partners in Mission office and serving as librarian. She says, “In the course of helping in the Partners for Mission office, I have learned many computer techniques new to me; learning keeps my mind operating and I have enjoyed being a part of furthering our mission.”
Sister Ellen Mary Garrett, community librarian, surrounds herself with one of the great loves of her life ... books! Sister Ellen Mary especially enjoys her library work. She attributes this to her love of books since childhood. She particularly enjoys doing research on book reviews and selecting books for new purchase or retention, and ordering books requested by the sisters. “Organizational skills used in the classroom have been of benefit in my library work with assigning Dewey decimal numbers to books, shelving and alphabetizing in the card catalog,” states Sister. “Displaying new books and life summaries of saints daily, and delivering books to sisters in the infirmary are ways to make the library more inviting and personalize hospitality.”
Sister Ellen Mary recalls that as a young child, her favorite dreams were of being in a candy store or being a teacher or working in a library. Not only has she lived her dreams, but it is no wonder that she keeps a candy dish filled in the library.
Sister Ellen Mary is a woman of assorted interests and hobbies. In fact, her free time seems as full and varied as her work schedule. She has long enjoyed gardening, cooking and especially baking, crafts and particularly needlework, listening to classical music, playing card games of all varieties, word games and word puzzles, jigsaw puzzles, and board games. “Balancing the time available for all the books I’d like to read, craft activities and contemplative prayer is still a challenge,” shares Sister Ellen Mary. “In addition, I find it important to advocate on behalf of people without many options by making phone calls, and reading and signing on-line petitions to be sent to civic leaders.”
Both the fun and the work in Sister Ellen Mary’s days are managed by her well-honed qualities of observation and patience, accuracy and precision, skill as a champion of detail and a giant sense of humor, all bolstered by strong memory.
So the question: Where in the world is Sister Ellen Mary? The answer: In a candy store, a classroom, a library or hobby land.