Sister Ellen Leonard
My membership in the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph has given me the opportunity to develop my gifts and to share them with others.
"I entered the world under the eye of Sister Vincentia," says Sister Ellen, describing her birth in 1933 at St. Michael's Hospital, then under the direction of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Toronto.
Ellen attended St. Joseph's College School, where the teachers impressed her and she felt called to join the congregation upon finishing high school.
For 14 years, Sister Ellen taught elementary school. Then came the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) and her life changed. The Vatican Council directed religious communities to return to their roots. The earliest Sisters in France lived in small groups within their neighbourhoods. And so Sr. Ellen lived in a house with five other Sisters. "I set aside my habit. I moved from the big motherhouse and I left elementary education for the study of theology."
In love with theology
In 1969, studying theology took Sr. Ellen to Manhattan College in New York. "I fell in love with theology," she says. When she taught theology at the University of St. Michael's College, her students included seminarians, Sisters and lay people preparing for ministries. As well as teaching, Ellen wrote three books on individuals involved in the modernist movement in the early twentieth century: George Tyrrell and the Catholic Tradition; Unresting Transformation: The Theology and Spirituality of Maude Petre; Creative Tension: The Spiritual Legacy of Friedrich von Hugel. She published in many magazines including The Month, The Way, The Ecumenist, Horizons, Grail, and The Canadian Catholic Review.
Formally retired from teaching, Dr. Ellen is Professor Emerita while continuing to counsel students and write.
Commitment to women’s equality
2002 brought the celebration of her 50 years with the Sisters of St. Joseph. In 2005, Sister Ellen received the Woman of Distinction award from the YWCA, see image top right, in the area of religion and education for “a life of devotion to women’s equality."
"My membership in the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph has given me the opportunity to develop my gifts and to share them with others through my ministry of theological education," said Sister Ellen, “ I am grateful for this and for the Sisters with whom I live in community who continue to inspire me."