Monday, September 10, 2012

Blessings Beyond One's Wildest Dreams, Commemorating Sister Elizabeth Ohmann's Sixty Years as A Franciscan Sister, by Ruth K. Meyer

This is truly a remarkable book. But the story itself, with the experiences and the achievements about whom it is written, is even more remarkable --especially Sister Elizabeth's many years as a missionary.

A brief introduction tells of Elizabeth's family and home life in Freeport, central Minnesota, where she was born in 1933 and received her early education through the ninth grade in her home town. She spent the final three years of high school in Little Falls, conducted by Franciscan Sisters, whom she admired and eventually joined as a permanent member. It was there that she felt the call to serve, if possible as a missionary, working with God's poor.

After her preparation as an elementary school teacher, she taught for several years in Minnesota, and in 1967 she finally realized her dream as a missionary. She spent four months in Puerto Rico, studying Spanish and the culture of South America, where the Franciscan Sisters had established a mission in '42. It was in the Altiplano of Peru, high in the Andes at an altitude of 12,000 feet. The living there were Aymara Indians, very poor and living nearly as they had done for centuries. She learned to love them and the indescribable experiences she shared with them. Then came the sad day when she was forced to move to a lower altitude, as she had developed Monje's disease from living at such an altitude for nearly ten years. She returned to the United States in 1976.

In 1999 Sister "Kizzie" (to family and friends) she spent time working in Ecuador, a poor country on the Pacific. This mission was short-lived, for after a few months she was forced to leave again, this time due to her having amoebas. She again returned to the U.S. Her South American missions were over, but there was more to come,-- along the 2,000-mile border between Mexico and the U.S. There she worked at first with the Tohono O'odham Indians, and later with Border Links and Humane Borders, from which she received in 2010 an award for her dedicated service in helping Mexican migrants stay alive as they crossed the desert between Mexico and Arizona. (This agency set up many water stations in the desert, where thousands of migrants were dying for lack of water. Through their efforts many lives were saved.)

Whether as a teacher in Minnesota, a missionary in South America and Arizona (and for a short time in Africa with her Maryknoll brother) and in other ministries, Sister "Kizzie" was a dedicated Franciscan with a deep spirituality, grateful to God for the opportunities she had to follow in the footsteps of Jesus and St. Francis. By her life she has inspired and enriched the lives of many. Her unique gifts and selfless generosity have not gone unnoticed.-- Besides the award she was given in 2010 as Volunteer of the Decade 2000-2010, she was included in 2007 in the Silver Anniversary Edition of Who's Who of American Women as "one of the leading achievers from around the country"! In 2001 she took time off from work to study in Chicago, at the Catholic Theological Center. She also spent some time with her family.

Congratulations, "Kizzie", for sharing your unique gifts so generously, and for making a difference in your part of the world. And to Ruth Meyer, the author and Kizzie's niece -- Kudos and Gracias for creating a marvelous book!