Sr. Eleanor Strehle
1922 – 2012
A picture speaks a thousand words and Sr. Eleanor had hundreds! They surrounded her on the walls of her room at Our Lady of Wisdom Health Care Center in New Orleans and filled numerous albums. In some yellowed photographs she’s with her parents Adeline and John, who in the words of her dear cousin Clare were said to adore their only child and treat her like a princess. Born March 14, 1922, she was named Joyce, a derivation of the word joy.
When Joyce joined the Marianites in January, 1944, she bonded with another family. In those photos her postulate and novitiate companions grow old along with her, revealing them at every major anniversary of their commitments as well as in between! She was given the religious name Eleanor, which means shining light, pronouncing first vows in 1945 and perpetual vows in 1948.
Sr. Eleanor enlightened the minds and hearts of the students and parents she was called to serve at Holy Family, Port Allen, Louisiana (1969-70) as well as many ministries in New Orleans, teaching at St. Cecilia (1945-53), Holy Angels (1954), St. Agnes (1954-55 and 1959-69), St. Mary of the Angels (1955-57), St. Rita (1957-59), St. Andrew the Apostle (1970-72)—ministries abundantly captured in photos! She served as principal twice: St. Agnes (1959-69) and St. Andrew (1972-78). Former students and their parents maintained strong ties with Sr. Eleanor for decades, some until the time of her death. One of her “boys” said at first he wasn’t too happy to have been placed in Sr. Eleanor’s math class because she was known as a strong disciplinarian. He discovered that she had discipline not out of fear but out of respect and love.
When she left ministry in the classroom, Sr. Eleanor served as assistant to the Marianite treasurer and later offered family service to care for her mother and her aunt. From 1985-88 she served as Director of Institutional Research at Our Lady of Holy Cross College. In 1988 she was on the staff at Holy Angels and the faculty at Our Lady of Holy Cross until 1992. She then served in the Marianite finance office, continuing also as an instructor at Our Lady of Holy Cross until 1994. Her last ministry before she retired in 2002 was as treasurer of Our Lady of Holy Cross Convent.
Myrna Abadie Gorman, a former Marianite and best friend for over 50 years , heard Sr. Eleanor’s final words spoken a day or so before she died: “I don’t want to cause trouble for anyone,” she said. Several Marianite-companions attested to that, saying she was a pleasure to live with in community, always concerned about others. At Our Lady of Wisdom Health Care Center, many who cared for Sr. Eleanor and many residents who shared life with her since 2009 attest that she without fail offered to all a smile, a promise for prayer, a song, a hug, her greeting of “Hi, Hon!” She remembered lyrics to so many songs and cheers and sang them time and again at Wisdom to the delight of all. She was a sports enthusiast who first knew Rusty Staub as an elementary student at St. Cecilia School in New Orleans. She stayed acquainted with him throughout his Major League baseball career and beyond, once visiting him in New York where he played for the Mets, the visit captured in happy photos. Of course, she was thrilled when her beloved Saints won Super Bowl XLIV.
In her last weeks as her health steadily declined, she often expressed to her family, her Sisters and her friends she had known for decades (ever-present in so many photos) how much she loved them. This woman of joy and light—Joyce, Sr. Eleanor—loved our Blessed Mother and the last song she sang just days before her death was “Gentle Woman.” Her last full day on earth was the Feast of the Presentation. Sister died peacefully in her sleep at 2:30 a.m., Feb. 3, feast of St. Blaise, finally seeing in complete joyous illumination the God she loved and served her entire life. The Rite of Christian Burial was celebrated Feb. 6th in the chapel of Our Lady of Wisdom. Sr. Eleanor’s body reposes in the Marianite mausoleum on the grounds of Our Lady of Holy Cross, New Orleans.
May the angels lead her into paradise!