Remembrance of the life of Sister Ellen Thomas Reynolds SL
Sister Ellen Thomas Reynolds
September 25, 1914-January 11, 2013
Sister Ellen Thomas Reynolds was born in Rockford, Illinois in 1914. Baptized Marie Therese, she was the first of four daughters and two sons of Thomas James Reynolds and Marie Ellen Henessey Reynolds. She attended St. Mary’s Parochial School and Muldoon High School in Rockford before entering the Sisters of Loretto from St. Peter’s parish, Rockford, at the age of eighteen. Ellen Thomas receiving the habit and her religious name on April 25, 1933, pronounced her first vows on April 26, 1935 and her final vows August 15, 1937. She was in the 80th year of her religious life at the time of her death.
Ellen Thomas earned a Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics and education at Webster College (now University) in 1949 and a Master’s Degree in religious education at Nazareth College in 1959. Over the years, she received grants for post-graduate study in math and science at seven different universities.
For more than twenty years Ellen Thomas taught in and was principal of Loretto elementary schools in Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri and Alabama. For another fifteen years she taught high school math and science at Our Lady of Sorrows in Bernalillo, New Mexico; St. Augustine High in Lebanon, Kentucky; and De Andreis High, St. Louis, Missouri. In 1971, after nearly forty years of assignments to Loretto schools, Ellen Thomas returned to Rockford for another forty years, teaching grade school and high school and taking care of aging parents, and finally retiring. She died in Rockford in the midst of her family and her parish community on January 11, 2013.
Ellen Thomas wrote in her 1976 autobiography: “One of the outstanding memories of my early days in teaching was the Louisville flood of 1932 when we had to leave Broadway in row boats, taking only one article, travel another distance in a moving van (with one of our sisters sitting in the back reading “the Coming of the Monster”), and finally arriving at [the Sisters of Charity] St. Joseph’s Infirmary. There we helped where we could until transportation was arranged for us to get to our Motherhouse a few days later.”
An important part of Ellen Thomas’ sixty-year career of classroom teaching was her 1950’s role as principal of St. Monica’s in Lebanon, KY, when its students were integrated with those at St Augustine School, under the leadership of Monsignor Joseph Gettelfinger. She later wrote that St. Monica’s was her favorite assignment. For five years in the1960s, Ellen Thomas was a volunteer coordinator for a federally funded adult education program at St. Bridget of Erin Parish at the Pruit-Igoe Housing Project in St. Louis. This work, which assisted hundreds of people in obtaining their general equivalency diplomas, was one of her most rewarding.
In an Interchange article at the time of her Diamond (75th) anniversary as a Sister of Loretto, Ellen Thomas wrote, “On my first mission, a letter from my dad told me that from the start of his married life he had prayed daily that one of his children would be a religious. I knew then that my vocation was the result of my dad’s prayers as were the vocations of my two sisters who entered Loretto after high school—Sister Leo Marie and Sister Helen Ann.” Loretto is grateful for Ellen Thomas’ life shared with us and with her beloved students.