Sisters’ Words of Wisdom: Sister Eleanor Wartman, OSB

Sisters' Words of Wisdom: Sister Eleanor Wartman, OSB

Sister Eleanor is pictured here gathering with her classmates from St. Benedict's Convent.

Sister Eleanor Wartman, OSB, was born in Victoria, Minnesota, where she attended elementary school. She graduated from St. Benedict’s High School in St. Joseph, Minnesota. Entering the novitiate at St. Benedict’s in 1948, she came to St. Paul’s Priory in 1949. She graduated from the College of St. Catherine with a B.A. in Elementary Education and English. She attended St. Thomas University and St. Cloud University with credits toward an M.A. in Education, graduating from St. Mary’s University in Winona, Minnesota, with an M.A. in pastoral ministry.

For her Words of Wisdom this month, Sister Eleanor chose to share, in her own words, the following compelling story of her work and service at Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish and how it has changed since COVID-19 began. It is an inspiring story.

“I came to Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM) in Minnetonka, Minnesota, 25 years ago to live my Benedictine life among the people there. Their welcoming spirit make it easy to partner with them in how to live with and relate to each other. It was obvious they, too, were living the values that Benedict outlined in his Rule, which is based on our Baptismal promises.

Pictured here, Sister Eleanor's leadership team included (left to right) Sister Catherine Schoenecker, Joan Utecht, Eleanor, Pat Collins, and Rolaine Diethelm.

“These values include the importance of prayer, hospitality, service, and reverent concern for each other. We learn from each other and reach out to serve whenever we notice a need. We care for each other and take time to listen, wherever and whenever the need arises. IHM is the perfect place for me to be, and I am honored to work with this community – Parish leadership and staff and, especially, the parishioners and their families.

“COVID put a stop to so many things. I did not let it stop me. I responded to calls many times each day during the pandemic. In addition, our parishioners were encouraged to check on the welfare of each other and let me know if I needed to get involved. I also connected people with Father John Bauer, our Pastor, for the sacraments and visits.

As Prioress, Sister Eleanor would often meet with the Federation President, Sister Colleen Haggerty, as seen here in 1992.

“Though I missed being able to physically visit parishioners and their families in their homes, hospital rooms and care centers, I found that much could be accomplished on our phone visits. The need and, however possible, meeting the need remained the constant. I am so thankful to the IHM staff as well as for the communication technologies that allowed me a lifeline to continue my Parish ministry!

“But loss of the in-person elements, so important to my ministry, was a hardship. I missed that we could no longer hug each other, whether in joy or sorrow; no longer gather and participate in parishioner groups such as “55 & Better”; no longer participate in fun gatherings and outings. I missed seeing “my” people, hearing their stories, and serving them. I believe, communication is richer when physical space and presence are shared.

In July of 2021, Sister Eleanor celebrated her 90th birthday. On Saturday, July 4, after the 4:30 p.m., Mass, cake, punch and coffee were served as many wished Sister Eleanor a very Happy Birthday!

“Grieving these losses, I asked: Though this pandemic has changed our ministry and service, is it possible that we could also find joy in the midst of it? We certainly learned new things and ways to serve! We needed to use our creativity and concentrate on what we could do rather than focusing on what we could not do.

“A change brought about by the pandemic that brought me joy is a deepening of my contemplative practices. I now spend less time doing and more time praying and listening. And I now have more time for prayer and reflection – more time to “listen with the ear of my heart” as St. Benedict exhorts in his Rule.

“I am blessed and honored to live my Benedictine life with the people of IHM. Together, we care for one another and reach out in service and prayer for anyone in need; we help each other with a balanced life of prayer and work and we reverence all we meet each day, as though we meet Christ.”