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Sr. Mary Ellen Boyle

mary-ellen-boyleDominican Sister of Peace Mary Ellen (Mary Mel) Boyle (84) died at Grant Medical Center, Columbus, OH on November 1, 2016. She was born in 1932 in Jersey City, NJ to James and Kathleen Walsh Boyle, the only girl with four loving brothers. In 1950 she entered the Dominican Sisters of St. Mary of the Springs, now the Dominican Sisters of Peace. Sr. Mary Ellen earned a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from St. Mary of the Springs College (now Ohio Dominican University) in Columbus, OH and a Certificate in Montessori Education from the Midwest Montessori Teacher Training Center in Evanston, IL. Sr. Mary Ellen taught primary grades in parochial schools in Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio and Connecticut from 1951-2001. She was a founding teacher of St. Mary of the Springs Montessori School, where she taught from 1966-1974. At the time of her golden jubilee in 2001 she spoke with great delight of the 41 years she spent teaching children in kindergarten and first grade. Sr. Mary Ellen was an accomplished Irish step dancer and also had a flare for the dramatic. She often engaged her students in plays and musicals, bringing much joy to the school communities where she served In 2001 she moved to New Haven, CT to help with the establishment of a new ministry, Springs Learning Center, dedicated to providing a holistic literacy program with one-to-one tutoring provided by volunteers. From 2001-2014 Sr. Mary Ellen applied her teaching skills as a tutor with adults at the Center. In 2014 Sr. Mary Ellen moved to Mohun Health Care Center in Columbus, OH. Sr. Patricia Twohill, in her preaching at the funeral, said:

I once saw a greeting card that said:  “Some people come into our lives and quickly go.  Some stay for a while and leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never the same.”  Well, our Sr. Mary Ellen had very tiny feet.  But she left giant footprints on the hearts of each of us gathered here today and on many who could not be here.

She left us all before we were ready to let her go.  We now wonder who will decorate Mohun’s  third floor with the same attention to detail?  Who will be so aware of the person who needs just a little extra attention, a kind word, a special affirmation?

On the Feast of All Saints, the very day Mel went home to God, Pope Francis promulgated five new Beatitudes.  I couldn’t help but wonder if he was thinking of Mel when he wrote them.  She seemed to embody each one.  Let me just share three.

Blessed are those who renounce their own comfort in order to help others.

That was Mel’s whole life.  She tried always to think of others, her Sisters in Community, the Mohun Staff, her friends, members of her crowd, colleagues in ministry, and her beloved family. The Leadership Team, too, felt her support.  After every webcast she called with great excitement, commenting on what she had heard, asking questions for clarification, and expressing pride in our congregation’s directions.  Mel thought of others.  Even as she lay in her hospital bed, she did not complain.  Only when we asked, “Does your head hurt?” would she admit it with a simple “Yes.”  Alert to the end, when we placed the phone to her ear so she could hear the last goodbyes of some who were far away, she greeted each one by name and very softly said “Hi” to each.

Blessed are those who see God in every person, and strive to make others also discover him.

Mel had a keen eye, and that is partly why she was such a good teacher.  I teased her when we lived together and called her “Ole Eagle Eye,” because she didn’t miss a trick.  The same eye that noticed when laundry supplies needed to be replenished and then went out to buy them, or  that carpets needed to be vacuumed and just did it, also tried to see the good in every one she met.  Again, in her final hours, she demonstrated this.  She could hardly speak when Father Stan came to the hospital to anoint her.  Sister Carole said, “Mel, Father Stan is here to bless you.”  Clear as a bell she said, “He is such a good priest.”  Can you imagine how he felt?   She probably had days like all of us, when she thought, and maybe even said, a negative word, but she would re-orient herself quickly and try again to bless others.

Blessed are those who look into the eyes of the abandoned and marginalized and show their closeness.

Mel did this every day as well, especially in her last years at the Springs Learning Center where she welcomed every adult learner as if they were entering the doors of Harvard or Yale.  In her presence each student found a warm and healing reception.  They knew she wouldn’t look down on them because they were poor, or make them feel embarrassed because they couldn’t read, or judge them because they were undocumented.  She received each one with the same respect and closeness.

No one would dispute that how we live our lives is part of the legacy we leave when we die.  But how we die also gives a message.  In life and in dying, Mel left us an example.

To her community I think Mel would say, “I am so proud of us; I am so glad to have been a Dominican Sister of Peace.”  She was generative and related supportively to each one of our new candidates and novices, wanting them to be as happy a Dominican Sister as she was.

To her family, who knew her as "Auntie Mame," I think she would say “You were the lights of my life.  I loved each one of you as if you were the only one.  While you may, at times, have had your struggles with each other, I did not have these with you, but loved you just as you are, and always will, even now from heaven.”

Let us cherish Mel’s memory, and know she remains close to us in the Communion of Saints.  Every time you visit the Christmas Tree Shop, think of her. Every time you see an Irish step dancer or hear a jig or reel, think of her. Every time you get out the decorations for each holiday, think of her. Every time you are desperate for a prayer, think of her and know she is praying for you now before the Throne of God.

When she died, I could just see a whole honor guard of Angels lined up outside the gates of Heaven, welcoming her as she crossed the threshold into eternity. I could see her dancing along that path, with a big smile on her face –dancing right into God’s loving arms!

With the psalmist she says, “You set a table before me, you anoint my head with oil, and my cup overflows.”  She heard God’s voice saying, “Come to me,” and she believed the truth of John’s Gospel, “Everything the Father gives me will come to me, and I will not reject anyone who comes to me.”

Her dancing feet truly have left footprints on our hearts, and we are all better for it.

A Vigil of Remembrance and the Mass of Christian Burial were held at the Columbus Motherhouse on November 10 and 11. Burial followed at St. Joseph Cemetery. Memorial gifts in Sr. Mary Ellen’s memory may be submitted securely online or sent to the Dominican Sisters of Peace, Office of Mission Advancement, 2320 Airport Dr., Columbus, OH 43210.

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