“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. … If we live in the Spirit, let us also follow the Spirit.”
Galatians 5: 22-23, 25
In her life and ministry, Sister Mary Ellen Beyhan modeled many of the traits identified by St. Paul as the outcomes of living in and following the Spirit. Students of all ages — from first-grade through college — benefitted from her gifts as a talented and versatile teacher. Friends, faculty, staff and others enjoyed her warm hospitality and her cooking skills. She was a generous person in her commitment to be of service to others.
An SCL for 71 years, Sister Mary Ellen passed to eternal life in the Spirit on Holy Thursday, March 29, 2018. She was 91 years old at the time of her death in Ross Hall where she had lived for almost 11 years.
Mary Ellen’s story began on Nov. 8, 1926 with her birth in Tulsa, Okla., the first of three children of John and Olga Beyhan. She attended Holy Family Grade School and Holy Family High School in Tulsa. After two years of college, she entered the SCL Community on Aug. 14, 1946. She professed vows as Sister Peter on Aug. 15, 1948 and later returned to her baptismal name.
Sister Mary Ellen always wanted to teach first-grade — which she did along with other elementary grades. For 30 years, Sister taught at high schools in Colorado, Kansas, Missouri and Montana. Her subjects included religion, English, computers, algebra, sewing, cooking and the sciences. While English wasn’t Sister’s area of specialty, one high school student acknowledged her as the best English teacher he ever had. Sister also taught dance and did choreography for musical performances. At the college level, Sister Mary Ellen focused on biology, chemistry and environmental science. She had a bachelor’s degree in education and a master’s in biology.
As testimony to her excellence as an educator, Sister Mary Ellen received a letter of commendation from an administrator at Iowa Western Community College where she taught seven years. He wrote, “She is an excellent and challenging teacher, who possesses the uncanny ability of integrating quality standards with high student praise. Sister is concerned about her students (and humanity in general), and gives enormous amounts of her time to their needs and development.”
Sister Mary Ellen and her good friend Sister Mary Jo Coyle received similar accolades for their excellent work managing apartments for low-income families in archdiocesan housing in Glenwood Springs, Colo. Nonetheless, Sister Mary Ellen — the born educator — was happy to return to teaching as a college instructor in the Kansas City area. She completed her active ministry as a pastoral volunteer at Christ the King Parish, Kansas City, Kan. Sister became a resident of Ross Hall in September 2007.
Preceding Sister Mary Ellen in death were her parents. Survivors include her sister Ann Harker and her brother Michael Beyhan, both of Tulsa; nieces and nephews; and the SCL Community.