Tuesday, July 3, 2007
Goodbye Sister Elma
I know few people who have rendered as much service as my dear Great-Aunt Elma. She passed away yesterday at the age of 90. Growing up I didn't see her that often because she was in Lesotho, and only now I realize how long she was there and how she served! St. Mary's Academy in Oregon honored her in 2004 for her service and commitment to their values. This is what they wrote,
"Sr. Elma Fitzgerald has lived her life answering God's call to service, as a Sister of the Holy Names both in this country and in Lesotho in southern Africa.
In 1941, she received word that she would perform missionary work in Lesotho but her plan was thwarted by World War II. Instead she was sent to Tampa, Florida to continue teaching. In 1946 Sr. Elma finally traveled to Lesotho to teach, and she was soon asked to study nursing to replace an ill sister who needed to return home. During her nursing training she was invited to build a maternity center to help reduce the number of deaths during childbirth. Elma accepted the challenge and finished her nursing education in the US. She began the new maternity center in 1960 and provided thousands of women and children medical care through all phases of pregnancy. The Sisters also established clinics where mothers and children could receive immunizations, instruction on nutrition, and handouts of food staples.
In 1971 Sr. Elma was asked to start a nurses' training school. She found herself in a building that was an abandoned hospital in terrible disrepair with no money for supplies or teacher salaries. Sr. Elma returned to the US and spent six weeks fundraising for her new school. When she returned she witnessed extraordinary demonstrations of generosity that she calls "miracles", which provided the rest of the needed supplies. After seventeen years Sr. Elma left the school in the charge of one of her former students. Next Sr. Elma built a Health Center to provide outpatient care, a maternity ward, and living quarters for resident nurses. She found funding, hired a contractor, and opened the doors. After five years at the Health Center and 48 years in Lesotho, Sr. Elma came home to Marylhurst, where in "retirement" she teaches Mary's Woods residents computer skills."
I will always remember her work ethic, she told me once about repairing the washer and dryer at their facility for the Nuns because no one new how to fix it. I believe she was in her upper 70's then! Thank-you for your exemplary life of service. You will be missed Aunt Elma!