sister elizabeth ney


Sister Elizabeth Ney
October 17, 1943 – September 8, 2010

Words cannot express the multifaceted person that was Sister Elizabeth Ney, aka our Betty. She poured out her gifts generously as mentor, sister, friend, guide, leader, visionary, premier cook, dreamer and a loving Sister of St. Joseph. To all, but especially to the elderly, she extended reverence and respect. All who loved her have precious memories and many stories to tell.

Betty was born in St. Louis on October 17, 1943, although she would be the first to say that nobody thought she looked that old. Her parents were Peter and Mary Ney, and Betty was the youngest of five children in a close knit family. St. Matthew’s Parish and Grade School were central to their growing up. Elizabeth attended Xavier High School and did the normal things: played volleyball and sang in the glee club. Her mom was happy when Betty told her she wanted to be a Sister of St. Joseph because Betty described CSJs as being “more with it.”
Leaving home was not easy for Betty; her mom had been diagnosed with cancer the previous summer. As it happened her mom died just five days after Betty had left home.

After her profession in 1964, Betty became a teacher and undertook her first assignment at Visitation in Kansas City, where she taught math. Though a well-loved and capable teacher, Betty spent just a few years in elementary education. In 1976, she began her studies at the University of Illinois in Champaign, majoring in social work. From that time forward her focus was on serving the elderly.

Beginning in 1976, hers was a commute between Augusta and Kansas City, back and forth over the next 30 or so years, with a brief stopover in St. Louis and Jefferson City. In those years she traveled into the hinterlands of Georgia, setting up transportation and food programs for the elderly as assistant to the director of the Agency on Aging; in St. Louis she worked for the Mid-East Area Agency on Aging; she eventually became program director for the Missouri Division of Aging in Jefferson City, where she once again provided for transportation and home health services. She thrived in her ministry and her leadership skills blossomed.

After another stop in Augusta, Betty moved to Kansas City. There she spearheaded the building of Villa St. Joseph. A person of keen intelligence, gifted with an understanding of complex issues, skilled at analysis and strategic thinking, Betty had a talent for envisioning the future and bringing it to fruition. So she undertook this challenge with zest, seeing the project through to successful construction and staffing. Her co-workers remember her as always very positive and alert for ways to serve. Her fondness for the elderly established her as the resident expert on elderly services. Betty used her skills in much the same way at the time McGovern Commons was constructed at Nazareth Living Center.

While in Kansas City, Betty was a member of the Rotary Club. She did fundraising, participated in golf tournaments, rode on floats and altogether had a good time, not only because she enjoyed the activities, but also because of her commitment to the Villa and its residents and to St. Joseph Health Center. Elizabeth’s last ministry in institutional health was at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Augusta. She was one of the last to leave that hospital, where she had been vice-president for mission integration.

When she decided to enter the selection process for congregational leadership, she did so because she wanted an opportunity to give back to the community. She had a clear sense of herself and her gifts and knew what she could contribute in service to the congregation. Her wealth of administrative experience in health care, her financial expertise and her enduring relationships with Ascension Health were treasures and great gifts to the team and to the congregation.

When Betty learned she had brain cancer in January, she moved ahead with courage and good humor, undergoing grueling treatment and then gradually letting go of her responsibilities. In all encounters, even to the end, Betty was present to the other. Most recently, she even arranged for a pizza party for her reception group on the Thursday before she died. Does that surprise any of us! With loving family and friends nearby, Betty died peacefully on Sept. 8. May she rest in peace! Oh how you will be missed, S. Elizabeth, aka our Betty.

S. Mary Kay Hadican
S. Rita Louise Huebner

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