Biographies

Sister Elizabeth Britz, MM

Born: December 4, 1915
Entered: December 8, 1937
Died: April 16, 1996

Sister Elizabeth Helen Britz (formerly Sister Mary Gerald) died at 7:15 am on April 16 in our Maryknoll Residential Care.

Elizabeth Helen was born on December 4, 1915 in River Rouge, Michigan, one of eight children of Frances Kettler and Hiram Britz. Completing Holy Cross Grammar and High School in Marine City, Michigan, Betty earned a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from Marygrove College, Detroit before entering Maryknoll on December 8, 1937. She made her First Profession on June 30, 1940 and her Final Vows on June 30, 1944 in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Her mission experience included teaching and working in Catholic Charities for 9 years in Hawaii after which she studied a semester of Social Work at the Catholic University of America. After teaching Mexican and Japanese children on the West Coast, Betty was assigned to Hong Kong from 1957 until 1972. During this time she earned an M.A. in Religious Education from the University of Detroit. In Hong Kong, Betty was appreciated as a superb teacher, loving and caring, helping especially those young women for whom study did not come easily. She encouraged leadership and service to the community at a time when Hong Kong was marked by rioting and frequent bomb threats.

One Hong Kong student phoned each day from Toronto while Betty was in the hospital and when she learned of her death said, “my truest friend.” Because Betty had strengthened this young student’s faith, she asked Betty to prepare her husband for Baptism. Betty remained a confidante to her three children. This was typical of Betty’s pastoral relationships. This student has passed the word on in Toronto and Betty’s students and colleagues there will have a memorial Mass for her.

From 1973 until 1992, Betty returned to the Western U.S. Region, this time to do pastoral and catechetical ministries in New Mexico and California. In 1978, she was a delegate to the General Assembly and served as a member of the Western U.S. Regional Governing Board from 1979 to 1984. For outstanding work for justice and peace she was awarded the Father Keith Justice and Peace Certificate of appreciation in 1990.

Due to health issues, Betty became a member of the Main House Community in September 1992. In December of 1995 her Hong Kong students invited her back for the 75th anniversary of the Maryknoll Convent School but for health reasons, she couldn’t accept.

A friend said she would describe Betty as “a wonderful soft shoe that just fits everyone; it’s walked the path, been re-soled, totally comfortable with herself and with others.” Betty had a steadfast commitment to community. Her sense of humor, even disposition and authentic reactions were gifts for all. She entered wholeheartedly into the preparation for the Congregational Gathering and General Assembly. Those who shared prayer groups with Betty touched her contemplative dimension.

We all know her love for the garden in the Court. She planted two peace rose bushes there in memory of her parents and deceased family members. She would celebrate 60 years in Maryknoll next year. It’s our turn to help Sister Benedicta plant the rose bush for Betty which her family graciously brought from Michigan.

On her Golden Jubilee in 1987, Betty wrote, “If you have not celebrated fifty years as a Maryknoll Sister, you will have some pure joy and deep appreciation of the great gift of life that has been given you.”

Betty has completed her long journey and in this Easter season we give thanks for the great gift of her life. We welcome our Presider, Father Gerry and friends of the Britz family from Michigan.