For many of our sisters, the relationship with the congregation began during their school years. Sr. Eleanor Horneman is a definite exception. She was taught by the Ursulines and the Sisters of Charity and had considered entering the Ursulines. So what changed her mind? “A case of laryngitis and a talk with a local priest led me to his sister, a member of our congregation at St. Anthony Parish in Baltimore,” Sr. Eleanor explained. “Through Sr. Inviolata, the superior, I entered our congregation at our Lady of Angels Convent sight unseen!”
Sr. Eleanor served in a variety of ministries. She spent her earlier years in education on elementary, secondary, and collegiate levels. “I enjoyed teaching high school students, especially my years in co-ed schools,” she recalled. “It was here that I read Chardin’s The Future of Man and have been intrigued with the concept of evolution since then.”
Sr. Eleanor also served in congregational leadership on both provincial and congregational levels. “My time in congregational leadership coincided with major changes growing out of the call of Vatican II. This impacted our life in major ways,” she explained. “We had just completed new documents that were to serve as directions for how we were to live as a community. Since there were varying interpretations of these documents, I had to learn how to deal with conflict in a healthy way.” During those same years, she traveled to Zambia to discuss a request for our sisters to minister there and later recalled the impact that the people had on her. “The impact of the lifestyle of the Zambian people in their joyous simplicity remains with me,” she recalled.
Eleanor views her eight years as provincial of the southern province as a learning experience. “The sisters were enthusiastic in living the Franciscan style of joy and sharing that joy in service,” she explained. “They dealt with areas of conflict with consideration and concern. I learned that diversity can bear much fruit and help me to be more patient and understanding.” During her years in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, she also served on the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council and chaired the program Renew the Vision. Bishop P. Francis Murphy appointed her regional planner in western Maryland. She and Srs. Marietta Culhane and Marie Joan Maenner moved to Midland, an area which she described as “the forgotten part of Maryland where the pockets of small towns bear the brunt of deep coal mining and strip mining.” But it is here that—were it possible—Sr. Eleanor would return. “The people are so receptive and generous with the little they have,” she explained. “They deserve to have a Church of joy.”
Srs. Eleanor, Marietta, and Joan, also brought our Companion in Mission Program to the women they met during their years in Emmitsburg, Maryland. These women “readily absorbed our Franciscan theology which gave them a new vision of Church,” Sr. Eleanor said. “They continue to witness to it with their lives.”
Currently Sr. Eleanor, together with Sr. Marietta, ministers as a volunteer at Assisi House, where she serves on the liturgy commitment, helps plan the calendar, and occasionally plays the piano for liturgies.
Sr. Eleanor reflected on the gifts she has received. “My eyes have been opened to the beauty of so many with whom I have lived and worked,” she said. “The opportunity to share in their joys and to be with them in moments of fear has truly helped me to see Christ present in our world. I have had the opportunity to see the broader picture of the Church in 10 states as well as in Assisi, Rome, and Zambia. Of course, one of the greatest gifts is learning the Franciscan vision.”
Perhaps I might add one more gift to Sr. Eleanor’s list. Based on her response to my questions, Eleanor seems to be both a listener to that inner voice that whispers to each of us and a life-long learner who responds to the inner voice of her God who speaks through life’s experiences.
Ann Marie Slavin, OSF