Sister Maria Elena holding a flower

Sister Maria Elena admires an Epiphyllum flower.

Inspired by the Sister Servants of the Blessed Sacrament who taught her, Sister Maria Elena Whitney entered the convent in 1949, at the age of 15.  “I entered the convent because I was in love with Christ. My love for Christ has no limits.”  She professed her perpetual vows in 1955.

Sister Maria Elena began teaching in 1951 and taught full or part-time for 59 years, “retiring” in 2010.  “Teaching does not end with retirement. It’s the beginning of a whole new world, if you want that,” she says.

In reflecting on her role as a teacher, Sister notes, “The words you give your students, they take to heart. They take these words to their home, their family and personally to live by. Catholic education is something we all need. We have to follow Jesus’ words: go out and teach! In the classroom, out of the classroom. We are teaching everywhere, every day. Our way of living, our actions, what we do. Students notice what we are doing. “

Now 82, Sister Maria Elena continues to follow Jesus’ call to teach. Despite heart problems and physical ailments that greatly limit her mobility, she teaches with the example of her life.  She shares wonderful stories, rich with details and humor.  Her positive outlook and joyful spirit encourage others.

Sister Maria Elena says, “We must never tire of doing good to others and to ourselves. That is what God wants us to do. It is God’s will. Be good to your body and keep going on even if it is to go up hill or go down rocky roads. Follow the Holy Spirit and you will remain on the right path.”

With the wisdom of a life lived in love of God and helping others know and live Gospel values, Sister shares that “God teaches us to, above everything else, love God above all, then love ourselves and love our neighbors as we love ourselves. We cannot love God above all if we do not have these other priorities in this order! As a teacher, you are not number one in kids’ hearts, unless you follow these rules in your own life.”

In 2016, through the generosity of its donors, SOAR! was able to provide a grant of $24,500 to the Sister Servants of the Blessed Sacrament in California to renovate bathrooms for accessibility.