Sister Ellen Poist SSJ
has been missioned at Mount Saint Joseph Convent since 1998. Her responsibilities include coordinating the social events—primarily those that take place in the dining room. Decorating the dining room is a part of that too, and she creates beautiful table centerpieces for each season and holiday.
When Ellen was teaching 5
grades in Severna Park, her parents gave her the family Christmas tree for her classroom. Ellen used the tree to teach the children about the Jesse Tree in religion class. She also made angel ornaments out of yarn and hung them on the tree for each student—the beginning of a now much loved tradition at the Motherhouse. When she came to the Motherhouse in 1998, Ellen brought the tree with her and placed it in the Convent dining room.
As her first Christmas was approaching, Ellen wanted everyone to have something to take home after the annual Christmas luncheon. She decided to make an angel ornament for each person who lived and worked at the Motherhouse and lovingly placed them on ‘her tree’.
The next year Ellen added a tag, with the name of each person on the ornament. She has done that every year since—this year making 126 ornaments—and she has this huge task down to quite a system, with the help of
Sister John Christopher Tate SSJ
. On the day of the luncheon, everyone looks forward to finding ‘his’ or ‘her’ ornament on the tree.
Over the years Ellen gradually added more and more places to her decoration responsibilities: window candles in offices and bedrooms, wreathes on all the main outside doors, common areas in the Convent (corridors, parlors, hospitality area, front entry)—all beautifully decorated.
In 2005, Ellen and
Sister Ann Moriarty SSJ
came up with the idea of having a Heritage Tree at the Motherhouse at Christmas time. They sent out an invitation to the Congregation and asked for a symbol of each ministry, in the form of a Christmas ornament, which would be placed on the Heritage Tree. The response from the sisters was wonderful! Over the years, ornaments representing new ministries were added to the tree. In addition, Ann cross-stitched ornaments representing all the states where sisters were ministering. Ellen designed an ornament for each of the Superior Generals.
They also created a garland/chain of red paper links—one for each sister and the day she died, beginning with the year 1853. As you can imagine, this garland/chain is very long and Ellen puts the chain representing the last three years on the Heritage Tree each year.
We are so grateful to Ellen, for once again, transforming the Motherhouse, through her generosity and care, into a place of tradition, light, and joy at Christmastime.