Last On the Menu

We are saying goodbye to one of our grooviest Sisters here in Englewood Cliffs today. Sr. Eleanor Quin passed away last week. I just came back from the wake - the funeral will be tomorrow morning.

Ellie Quin was quite simply put a very groovy sister. She was a riot. I only met her since I've been here in New Jersey, but she definitely made an impression with her quick wit and sharp sense of humor. She's been slowly declining over the past few months. Everyone I talk to about her says I should have known her in her prime. I can only imagine.

Actually I can do a bit better than imagine. You see, Ellie wrote a rather successful book in the 1960's that is now out of print called "Last on the Menu." I was lucky enough to borrow a copy (from regular blog reader and friend Terry) a few months ago. Ellie entered the community "late" after working a few years on Madison Avenue. She put her skills to good use with Sisters of St Joseph of Peace as development director and fundraiser. She raised LOADS of money for our orphanage and hospital. She was also apparently a regular on the after dinner circuit, giving humorous talks. Hence the title of her book is "Last on the Menu." I was happy to see when I visited her body that she's going to be buried with a copy of her book.

I've long since returned my borrowed copy, so I can't quote from Ellie's own words. In its pages, however, she weaves a humorous story of her own journey to groovy sisterhood and her experiences in the community. My favorite story has to do with the fact that in her day Novices were not allowed to use the elevators - they were reserved for the professed sisters while the novices were to use the stairs. Ellie tells the story of one of the novices (it might even have been herself, I can't remember) who was dying to ride in the elevator and hid in one of the laundry baskets in order to have a chance to do so!

In the back, she tackles 25 tough questions about religious life. I remember one in particular, which asked what religious life would be like in 25 years. She wrote something to the effect of how religious life would still be around, but it would be different in form and function. There would be smaller numbers, it would be less institutionally based and more organized around charism. I think she also predicted more intercommunity involvement. Talk about prophetic.

Ellie died the same day as Anna Nicole Smith. That day at the dinner table, I had a sudden vision of Ellie welcoming Anna Nicole to heaven and telling her what's what. Today another Sister told me that she'd had similar visions. We were both sure that no matter what, Ellie's having a grand old time. As for me, I'm just glad that I had the opportunity to get to know her.