sister elizabeth deutsch
June 4, 1938 – May 19, 2009
After an accident in the novitiate, suffering was a major part of Sister Elizabeth’s life. Since 1958 until her death, it’s doubtful that S. Liz experienced many pain-free days. But what was so disarming about S. Liz was that she was by no means a passive sufferer. Despite whatever pain she experienced, she consistently also “served by working.”
S. Liz taught at three of our Academies: St. Joseph’s in St. Louis, St. Teresa’s in Kansas City and the Academy of Our Lady in Peoria where she not only made her mark on the students, but where she was also remembered by those in community as a life giving person who “had the gift of making life ‘fun’, often being the butt of her own hilarious stories.”
When S. Liz’s leg was amputated and she went on crutches and eventually to a wheelchair, it became obvious that no physical disability could or would confine or define her. She could move with greater agility than most of us. But it wasn’t her speed which made her a winner—it was her direction.
S. Liz’s years of working in the ER in both Kansas City and Tucson always moved her toward those who needed to be healed, touched, accompanied through their dying process. She moved toward families who were distraught and needed someone who understood their pain, their confusion and their loss. She sometimes had to “direct traffic” in the ER such as on the night a woman complained loud and clear she had been waiting far too long to be served. S. Liz gently asked her if she wanted to go down the hall and personally choose which person she wanted removed from a bed so she could get into it. Aha, the wisdom of Solomon!
S. Liz served as archivist for both the Carondelet Congregation and the CSJ/SSJ Federation where this history buff gloried in learning more and more about our roots and sharing her knowledge with all of us. Beyond that day-to-day ministry where she could have been lost in files, again S. Liz was known for her delightful, fun, life-giving presence which regularly buoyed the spirits of Congregational Leadership even in their moments of greatest stress.
Perhaps it was because she faced death so often that S. Liz seemed absolutely fearless. She was always willing to take risks—whether it be accepting a ride home from the ER on the back of a motorcycle at 3am, enjoying every ride at Six Flags, sitting at the front of the boat on Niagara Falls allowing the heavy mist to drench her completely, or leaving her comfort zone to travel across the country to a new ministry in Arizona.
S. Liz was known for being much more concerned about others than she was about herself. Notes and phone calls always let others know of her caring. Distance was no object. She could just as easily listen, provide counseling, and give spiritual direction on the phone as she could in person. Even at Nazareth, where she could have gone to “retire,” she remained an active, open listener to so many who came to her room. She was such an inspiration that aides would often come in on their days off to be with her.
As the oldest of five children, S. Liz had a special relationship with her four siblings, their spouses, their children and their children’s children, taking great delight in their family gatherings. As the only child in St. Louis, “Betty” (as her family called her) played a special role in her mother’s last days as she became frail and had to be moved to a nursing home. Betty’s wheelchair never kept her from stopping by almost every day to visit her mother.
Despite her pain, S. Liz’s life was always about others and never about herself. She never complained. If she had private conversations with God and ever asked, “Why Me?” we certainly were never privy to those. She accepted what God sent her, always with good – outrageous humor.
A prayer she asked to be shared at her final Liturgy was the prayer from the Stations of the Cross of St. Alphonsus Liguori. It perhaps captures best S. Liz’s utter self-emptying which seemed always to be filled with God’s abundant grace and joy.
Grant that I may love you always,
and then do with me as you will.
Sister Donna Gunn