Sister Eleanor Mary Bringenberg died at Saint Joseph Villa July 6, 2022. She grew up in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, one of ten children. It is clear that she had a happy childhood with memories of trips into Bethlehem with her father and games with her mother. Looking back, she marveled at how well she and her sisters and brothers got along. While attending Holy Infancy Elementary and Bethlehem Catholic High School, recognized in the sisters the same quality of interaction she enjoyed with her siblings. She was impressed with their concern for and support of each other. While she always felt she wanted to be a sister, Mary Jane worked as a mail clerk at Bethlehem Steel before she entered the community in 1949.
Sister Eleanor Mary Bringenberg taught in elementary school for over 40 years, and kindergarten was her favorite. She said those little ones always came up with something surprising. Over the years, Eleanor especially liked teaching art because it challenged her to produce new ideas and encouraged her children to develop their individual creativity.
While happy on all her missions, her all time favorite was McSherrystown, which she cherished and felt she would be there many years. Nonetheless, her own health forced her to leave the classroom, and she admitted that it took her five years to overcome that loss. However, with the closing of the kindergarten door, the nursing home door opened. Eleanor volunteered at a local nursing home in Bethlehem and was surprised that her “little ones” were now in their 80’s and 90’s. Always exhibiting her generous spirit, she also volunteered at our Villa for almost 25 years. She usually worked in the kitchen or laundry, but she was always ready for “any good work.”
Eleanor was a private person who believed “live your life with joyful simplicity, content in what is yours to do.” She enjoyed her art, listening to classical music and books on tape. She shied away from group activities unless they involved her family To them, she was a mentor, a sounding board, and a prayer warrior, who had the knack to know the right time to connect with each one in a unique way.
When asked, Eleanor shared her favorite quote which she attributed to Teilhard: Be true to yourself but always look upward to the Divine. She lived simply and faithfully as a Sister of Saint Joseph for over 72 years. In her final days it was difficult to see her suffer, but as throughout her life, she faced what came her way with courage and grace. As her niece described Eleanor, she was still that funny, no nonsense, straight shooter who knew
what she wanted and was “in charge” beyond what was expected beyond what any of us expected.
Eleanor, you have given us an example of joyful fidelity, and we are grateful. May the Sacred Heart, whom you loved throughout your life, embrace you for all eternity.