Vocation Stories


Sr. Elsa Eckenrode, IHM

I wanted to be a sister since I was in third grade. The Mercy Sisters were my teachers in grade school. When it was time to do some choosing, I chose the I.H.M.s because the Mercy's always seemed so severe. Sister Mary Joseph, R.S.M. had a niece in the I.H.M.s. We got in touch through Sister Felix Merrick who was stationed at St. John's, Cresson, and the journey began.

When I told my Dad, he said, "OK, but be sure." My Mom cried buckets! She said I got her vocation, but I seemed to be going so far away. I'd fall into a pot hole and she'd never see me again.

In high school, we were asked what we would like to be after we graduated. I said, "an interior decorator." Now, I am an interior decorator of my soul -- my Spiritual Life!

All in all, it was the example of my parents, grandparents, brothers sisters, friends, relatives -- just the whole atmosphere of the town that helped me to attain the goal of becoming a Religious. The desire was something that never left me. I'd come home from a square dance, after having a good time, and I'd say, "That was great, Lord, but what more?"

When I spoke to my confessor about this, he replied, "I've been watching you and I see that you like people. Yes, I think you have a vocation."

The road was not easy. I had a twelve-year-old brother who had muscular dystrophy. I wondered if I should stay home and help take care of him. When I talked to the priest, he said, "Your parents are young enough to do this, so don't hesitate to do as God calls."

Saying good-bye to the whole town the night before I left home was very traumatic. The ride to Scranton on old Route 22 was so long, I thought I'd never get there. Arriving the day before Entrance Day was very hard. Saying farewell to my relatives, especially my parents, required a special grace from God.

I loved the Postulancy; it was like heaven. Sister Teresa Moran's talks at directory were all I could desire. When the Postulancy and Novitiate were over, I just wanted to stay at Marywood but, of course, I was sent on mission. The first assignment was Dushore, a small country place that was much like home. Mother Marcella called for me to return to Marywood because she thought I might be lonely, but Sister Jean Marie Swift told her I wasn't the least bit lonely and asked for me to remain for the summer. After that I went to New Bern, North Carolina.

The time has passed, and for the last 21 years, I have been at Marywood as a tutor in the E.E.I., (Educational Enrichment Institute). When I left the Altoona-Johnstown area, my natural sister said, "I knew you'd go back to Marywood; you always loved it." And so I'm back where I started and very happy to be here!

Sister Elsa currently serves as a prayer minister at Our Lady of Peace Residence in Scranton, PA.