Sister Elinor Marie Farrell, MM

Born: February 24, 1918
Entered: October 18, 1965
Died: September 20, 2002

In today’s reading from St. John’s Gospel we hear: “If a person serves me, she must follow me and wherever I am, my servant will be there too.” These words from Saint John in many ways speak about how Sister Elinor wrote: “Religious profession to me means a way of serving God in a life that He has chosen for me – a unique way in which I best fulfill my purpose in the world. It is a privilege to have been called to religious life.” Sister Elinor Marie Farrell followed God’s call to her to be God’s servant for thirty-seven years until she died peacefully at eighty-four years of age in Phelps Hospital, Sleepy Hallow, NY, on September 16, 2002.

Elinor Marie Farrell was born February 24, 1918, in Uniontown, Pennsylvania, to John Farrell and Nora Moran Farrell. She had two brothers. Elinor grew up in the parish of Saint John in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, and graduated from Uniontown High School in 1935. After high school, she continued her education enrolling in night school to study secretarial science at Cleveland College and then later studying at the Stenotype Institute in Washington, D.C. After her studies, Elinor began working as a newspaper reporter as well as a medical secretary for a group practice of physicians. After three years, she was employed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and then later with a law firm in Washington, D.C. From 1960-1965, Elinor worked for the United States Information Service in Belgrade, Yugoslavia; Seoul, Korea and Bonn, Germany.

Elinor mentions in some of her letters that she always had a deep appreciation for the Maryknoll Sisters. During her tour of duty in Korea, she became acquainted with Sisters Gabriella Mulherin and Mary Hock. When Elinor was free from her responsibilities at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, she often volunteered her services at various Catholic organizations serving the Korean people.

After Elinor left Korea, she worked in Bonn, Germany. It was during this time that she reflected on her experiences with the Sisters in Korea and began to realize that she was called to religious life as a Maryknoll Sister. She first applied for entrance in May 1964 and forty-six years of age. When Elinor wrote regarding the possibility of entrance into the Maryknoll Congregation, the Vocation Director replied to her inquiry, that while Maryknoll was pleased to know of Elinor’s interest in mission, it was felt that due to her age and the nature of our work, entrance at forty-six years of age would be too difficult for her.

However, Elinor continued to feel the call to be a Maryknoll Sister and so again, in October 1964, wrote directly to Mother Mary Colman asking that her request for entrance be reconsidered. Mother Colman did reconsider based on the fact that Elinor had so many qualifications in her favor, such as her experience on the missions, her good health and her ardent desire to be a Maryknoll Sister.

Elinor’s dream to become a Maryknoll Sister was fulfilled when she entered the postulancy at Valley Park, Missouri, on October 18, 1965. She made her first profession of vows June 24, 1968, and her final profession June 18, 1971. Both ceremonies were held at Maryknoll, NY.

After profession, Elinor worked as the personal secretary for the Maryknoll Society Assistant Director of Development, Father Bernard P. Byrne. When she made known her desire for a mission assignment in 1971, Father Byrne wrote: “Although it will be my loss, I do not hesitate to give the highest personal and professional recommendation to Sister Elinor Marie as a very dedicated Maryknoll Sister and competent professional secretary. She is well balanced and stable in her personal life and spirituality and devoted and deeply committed to her religious vocation and the Maryknoll Community. She is mature in her thinking, judging and feeling with respect to other persons, work, and values. She is open and outgoing, moves easily with people, bridges ages and positions, has a great laugh and tends to brighten up the environment. She has good mission concepts and dispositions and would prove an effective team member in whatever region.”

Elinor received her first assignment to the Hong Kong Region in 1971. There she worked as an administrative assistant and secretary for Caritas, Hong Kong, contributed her secretarial skills to the Maryknoll Society, the Maryknoll Sisters Regional Governance and the Holy Spirit Diocesan Seminary. In 1979, Elinor wrote to the Hong Kong Regional Governing Board saying: “I would like to volunteer my services to help the Vietnamese refugees two days a week. My main reason is that human beings are at stake and I would like to do whatever I could to help them. Despite the fact that I don’t speak Cantonese or French, there is still lots that can be done on their behalf. Also, being a religious, I think I might be able to show them in some small way that the Church really cares for them.” For the next two years, Elinor spent two days a week working at the United Nations Office for Vietnamese Refugees.

In 1981, Elinor returned to the Maryknoll Sisters Center on her Renewal and accepted a position where she placed her secretarial skills at the service of the Maryknoll Nursing Home, the Center Council, Physical Plant and the Employee Personnel Office. In 1984, Elinor was assigned to the Western United States Region with residence in Gallup, NM. While in Gallup, she was the secretary to Bishop Jerome Hastrich and worked in the Chancery Office. Elinor returned to the Center in 1986, where she worked for the Maryknoll Society for four years and at the Maryknoll Sisters Admissions Office for three years before retiring in 1994.

Elinor was always willing to share her professional secretarial skills with the Congregation and the Society and this was gratefully appreciated. In a letter to Elinor in 1991, the Congregational Personnel Coordinator for Congregational Services wrote: “Dear Elinor, I wish we had ten of you! There are so few people any more who are both skilled in office work and procedures – and who really enjoy the work.” Elinor was a professional secretary who always maintained a high standard in her work. She came to Maryknoll to follow God’s call and spent her entire thirty-seven years as a Maryknoll Sister in service to mission.

We offer our sincerest sympathy to Sister Elinor’s family. We also thank our Maryknoll brother, Father John Moran, M.M., who will preside at this Eucharistic Liturgy of Christian Burial as we remember and thank God for the life of our Sister Elinor Marie Farrell.