Holyoke nun celebrates 80 years as a Sister of Providence
Date: 7/13/2010July 14, 2010
By Lori Szepelak
HOLYOKE -- Sister Ellen Leddy, SP, embodies the spirit of Providence that is the hallmark of the Sisters of Providence. Since 1929, Leddy has made Western Massachusetts her home -- helping and healing others through the ministries of the religious congregation.
As she recently reminisced about celebrating her 80th year in the religious community -- and turning 99 -- Leddy was quick-witted and full of stories that could amuse one for hours. She resides at Providence Place in a small apartment that she shares with another sister.
The Sisters of Providence (SPs) recently observed milestone anniversaries of six of their members during a Mass of Thanksgiving in Our Mother of Sorrows Chapel at Providence Place. Among the Jubilarians renewing their religious vows during the liturgy and celebrating their Jubilees were Leddy, 80 years; Sisters Maria Assumpta McGrath, Marita Callahan, Mary Brendan Dowd and Dorothy Young, all 60 years, and Sister Mary Caroline Mador, 50 years.
Leddy, the historian of the congregation, was formerly known as Sister Marie de Lourdes. She served as the SP's historical librarian in the Horan Library at the Providence Mother House in Holyoke from 1982 until its closure in 1999. Leddy was also a consultant for the congregation's 1999 publication, "Seeds of Hope: The History of the Sisters of Providence."
She first ministered for 22 years as a registered medical technologist in laboratories at Mercy Hospital, Springfield, Providence Hospital, Holyoke, and St. Luke's Hospital, Pittsfield. She then served as local superior for Sisters attending Boston College and living at the House of Studies in Chestnut Hill and followed that service with nine years as director of postulants.
Leddy entered the social service and pastoral counseling fields in the late 1960s, first serving at the Municipal Home and Holyoke Day Nursery, and then at Mount Saint Vincent Nursing Home, all in Holyoke. Additional ministries included service as sacristan at Mount Saint Vincent Nursing Home, and both assistant coordinator and coordinator at the Providence Mother House. She also served as a Minister of the Eucharist at Mount Saint Vincent Nursing Home and Blessed Sacrament Church, also in Holyoke.
She attended schools in Harvard, graduated from Mount St. Joseph Academy in Brighton, and attended Fitchburg Normal School. She holds a master of arts degree in religious education from Providence College in Rhode Island and master of education and bachelor of science in education degrees from Boston College.
As the late afternoon sun was setting, Leddy had poignant stories of her years in the region, especially remembering her early days as a medical technologist. In those days, her role included taking blood chemistries and blood sugar levels. She noted it was not uncommon for a patient suffering with pneumonia to die.
"Vaccines were a saving grace," she said.
Some of her fondest memories included learning the religious life from Mother Mary of Providence Horan, who was the driving force behind the Sisters of Providence being the first congregation in Western Massachusetts in the late 1800's to serve the health care needs of the Catholic immigrant population.
"People were very fond of her," Leddy said, referring to Mother Mary. "We knew her as 'The Mother.'"
Today, the Sisters of Providence Health System includes Mercy Medical Center, Springfield; Providence Behavioral Health Hospital, Holyoke; Weldon Rehabilitation Hospital, Springfield, and the Mercy Continuing Care Network.
At 99, Leddy is spry and despite a touch of arthritis, she said her health is "very good."
"God blessed me with good health," she said.
Her daily regimen includes morning prayer, breakfast and Mass, followed by contemplative praying. By late morning, Leddy is socializing with residents at Providence Place. She chuckles when she says she is always looking for someone to challenge her to a game of Scrabble in the afternoon.
As she talked about her youth, she teared up reminiscing about her beloved parents. Her mother, Margaret (Golden) Leddy, died when she was a junior in high school.
"It was the end of the world," she said of losing her mother.
Leddy stayed strong for her father, Edmund Leddy, who worked in Boston and came home on weekends. Leddy added she was fortunate to have a strong, supportive extended family which helped her through her teen years.
Leddy's family of Sisters for 80 years has been her saving grace, and she is proud of the legacy that the SPs embody.
"Our Sisters have always seen the needs of the community and addressed them," she said. "I'm glad I chose the Sisters of Providence all those years ago."