July 11, 2014

Faith, nature and adventure guide sister’s ministry

Holy Cross Sister Eileen Flavin, parish life coordinator at St. Agnes Parish in Nashville for the last nine years, holds Kailyn Wilson during a parish pancake breakfast on Feb. 9, with Alex Wilson, left, and Jamie Bube looking on. Sister Eileen is celebrating her golden jubilee as a Holy Cross sister this year. (submitted photo)

Holy Cross Sister Eileen Flavin, parish life coordinator at St. Agnes Parish in Nashville for the last nine years, holds Kailyn Wilson during a parish pancake breakfast on Feb. 9, with Alex Wilson, left, and Jamie Bube looking on. Sister Eileen is celebrating her golden jubilee as a Holy Cross sister this year. (submitted photo)

By Shirley Boardman (Special to The Criterion)

NASHVILLE—When Eileen Flavin was born in Michigan City, Ind., in 1943, her family could not have anticipated the life and adventures that awaited her. Her parents prepared her by living a life of faith and enrolling her in Catholic schools.

While still an elementary student, a teacher suggested that she consider a religious vocation, but Eileen resisted the calling, anticipating a life as a wife and mother.

In high school, however, she sought advice from Father William Peil, a priest of the Gary Diocese, who counseled her and connected her with a Holy Cross sister.

In 1961, after applying to both St. Francis College and the Holy Cross Congregation, she was surprised to be quickly accepted by both, putting before her a decision that would eventually evolve into a life of faith, service and adventure.

She entered the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Cross in September 1961, made her first profession of vows on Aug. 15, 1964, and her perpetual profession on Aug. 15, 1969.

Sister Eileen—formerly Sister Mildred Eileen—also holds a bachelor’s degree from Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Ind., and a master’s degree from Loyola University in Chicago, Ill.

She taught elementary school in Illinois, served in parishes in Michigan and Indiana, and accepted a two-year assignment in Rome.

Then her vocation brought her to minister at St. Agnes Parish in Nashville.

In 2005, Sister Eileen was appointed to the position of parish life coordinator of the Bloomington Deanery faith community.

Sister Eileen quickly came to realize both the richness of nature, artists, craftsmen and the Brown County spirit of hospitality, as well as the poverty that makes up this rural, southern Indiana county where more than 50 percent of the school children are on the free or reduced lunch program.

Now, together with Father Eric Augenstein, sacramental minister for St. Agnes Parish and director of vocations for the archdiocese, Sister Eileen sorts out the sacramental needs of the parish, supports the many committees and volunteers who contribute to the care and management of the 11 buildings on the property, and ensures that the more than 400 parish families and many visitors receive pastoral care.

She starts and ends her day with prayer for all that is before her—whether it is resolving the problems brought by woodpeckers who have drilled holes in the walls of the parish’s church, or helping the parish council find the ways and means to convert a goat barn to a parish office.

Switching gears from saying the prayers of the dying with a failing member, to being present at a wedding, to focusing on a financial statement in support of parish administration means that Sister Eileen’s daily routine can test every skill.

As a member on a number of town advisory groups and spiritual director for the Society of St. Vincent de Paul of Brown County, Sister Eileen is continuously confronted with the challenges of the county’s vulnerable people, whether it be for food, shelter or emergency assistance for utilities. As a member of the Brown County community, she shares in the network of “safety net” providers for emergency services.

Her role as parish life coordinator may take her to visit members who are being cared for in hospitals in Indianapolis, Columbus and Bloomington, as well as taking the Blessed Sacrament to shut-ins.

Traveling the roads of southern Indiana has meant close calls with horses, deer, fog, ice and debris dropped by loggers and farmers. Since arriving in the county, her congregation has arranged for her to have a durable all-wheel drive vehicle to help ensure her ability to navigate the back roads and weather challenges.

For all Sister Eileen has done, the parishioners of St. Agnes are grateful to be able to celebrate this 50-year milestone with her.

On Aug. 16 and 17, Sister Eileen will be recognized at each Mass in gratitude for her love and dedication to her ministry, and a reception and program will be held in her honor on Aug. 17.

Her ministry to her parish and the county defy anything that the little girl in Michigan City could have anticipated for her life.
 

(Shirley Boardman is a member of St. Agnes Parish in Nashville. All are welcome to join the parish at any of the Masses, the reception and/or the program. For more information on the Aug. 16-17 activities, log on to the parish website at www.stagneschurchnashville.org, or call the church office at 812-988-2778.)

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