As I remember my early years, the person who stands out as having a big impact on my religious vocation was my mother. Although she passed into eternal life when I was 16, the gift of her deep faith and love of the Church had already made its impression on me. However, the actual realization that I might be called to religious life did not come until my senior year in high school. I had been educated in elementary school by the Springfield, Ill., Dominican Sisters. We moved to Decatur, Ill., when I was a sophomore in high school. It was at St. Teresa High School in Decatur that I met the Ursuline Sisters. By my senior year, I was pretty certain that what I wanted to do with my life was to serve God and God’s people as an Ursuline.
Teaching and serving as administrator of schools occupied my time during my early years as an Ursuline. After that I was more involved in what I call “internal” ministry, that is, ministry within the congregation. I served as provincial superior, novice director, and director of our International renewal program at our headquarters in Rome, Italy.
Now 54 years after my first vows, I find myself somewhat retired but still very active here in Cape Girardeau. I live with two other Ursuline Sisters. We are blessed to be members of St. Vincent de Paul parish, a community of prayer, service and worship.
I strive to live out the charism of our foundress, St. Angela Merici: to be a caring presence to people of all ages and backgrounds; to build relationships and connections with diverse groups of people; to live a life of contemplative prayer; to live community. One of the ways in which I live this out today is through the ministries in which I do volunteer work: St. Mary’s Food Pantry; Love INC (Love in the Name of Christ), a network of Christian churches in Cape serving people in need; and Blanchard Elementary public school, where I help two kindergarten classes with children from diverse backgrounds.
A vocation to religious life is a gift that invites one to live a life of love and service within the context of a religious community. Living and working with my sisters has been a source of strength and inspiration for me through the years. Our prayers and life in common give us the support we need to be present to others in their needs. The blessings are a hundredfold. I thank God for my vocation to the Ursulines. It has provided a path for me to walk whereby I have grown more and more into the creation God made me to be and, because of that, it is my hope that I give glory to God.
Sr. Mary Ellen Neeves at the Catholic Social Ministries Food Pantry in Cape Girardeau.