A Vocation Story about Sister Elaine Fischer, OSB
Benedictine Sisters of Mount St. Scholastica, Atchison, Kansas
While it might not seem possible, a woman can pursue just about any ministry as a Benedictine Sister. Proof of this: Sister Elaine Fischer.
Sister Elaine is head of maintenance for Mount St. Scholastica. She’s not the first of the community to hold this position, but she brings some unique talents to the task. In the building called the "maintenance shop" at the monastery, woodworking tools abound. She has created many pieces of furniture, among them nightstands, dressers, vanities and wardrobes for more than 40 patient rooms in Dooley Center, where the sisters live when they need daily care after medical procedures or as they age. There is a grandfather clock in the main hallway, chiming the quarter-hour, that she built, as well.
When one of the sisters passes to her eternal reward, the cremated ashes are placed in a wooden urn, handmade with love by Sister Elaine.
Sister Elaine's day may start before sunrise — as it does for many of the sisters — tending to overnight building emergencies or spending a bit of time petting the black Labrador, Sophie, or the cat, Joey. She built a special house for a pair of stray kittens — Cleo and Tigger — who took up residence beneath some pallets of mulch in 2021 and have made themselves part of the monastery family.
Her love of God’s creatures extends to the multiple bee hives on the monastery property, where she finds inspiration for her daily life in the way the thousands of insects live and work together.
She joins the community in the choir chapel, where the magnificent wooden stalls placed against north and south walls face each other as the sisters chant the Liturgy of the Hours. She sings in the monastic schola, adding her voice to sweet harmonies during Mass.
Sister Elaine serves on the monastic council, as well as the council for the Federation of St. Scholastica, a group of Benedictine monasteries that collaborate and support each other.
Sometimes Sister Elaine can be found riding the John Deere tractor, pulling a specially made trailer and giving rides to some of the sisters around the monastery grounds. Her genuine caring spirit includes helping sisters who've shared her life for decades make eggnog for the Christmas holidays, or devise a makeshift slip and slide for the sisters to enjoy a bit of fun on a warm summer afternoon.
Then, shifting gears like a well-maintained transmission, she'll climb into the lift, scraping and painting window frames or pruning tree limbs.
She plows the earth in spring, planting potatoes, corn, tomatoes and other vegetables, which supplement the Sisters’ meals. “From an early age, I knew I wanted to help people, to work with my hands and stay connected to the land,” she said. “Growing up on a farm, working the land and caring for animals with my family. On the farm, we learned to be self-sufficient and used creative problem-solving. I think those gifts and abilities are a part of who I am and when I entered the community, the gifts were recognized and further cultivated.”
Sister Elaine served as an emergency medical technician and firefighter in Atchison for seven years. “The ability to assess a situation and see what needs to be done quickly was further developed in my work at the fire station,” she explained. “The ability to listen and care for people when life is most challenging was expanded along with the deep sense of the dignity of all people and the stewardship of personal property.”
While she wears many hats, Sister Elaine is not so different from other Benedictine Sisters, who engage in a wide variety of ministries, showing how a vocation to religious life can integrate all skill sets.