by MaryLiz Bugos, Special to The Circuit.
Firefighter. Emergency Medical Technician. Biochemist. Plumber. Carpenter. Mechanic. Gardener. Beekeeper.
But the one thing Elaine Fischer never thought she would become was a Benedictine Sister. In 2015 she celebrated 25 years with the Sisters of Mount Saint Scholastica.
As a child, Fischer was stubbornly opposed to the idea of becoming a Nun. Growing up on a small farm outside of Ottawa, KS, Fischer developed a passion for nature and science at a young age. Her plan was to become a doctor or scientist. But God had other plans.
When one of her grade school teachers asked if she was considering religious life, Fischer recalls her spontaneous reply: “I’m not going to do that! That’s crazy.”
After graduating high school, Fischer made plans to attend Kansas State University and major in Biochemistry. “I just wanted to help people, so after college I was planning on joining the Peace Corps or going on to Medical school,” Fischer said.
But somehow, the idea of a religious vocation just wouldn’t leave her alone. “Okay, I’ll try it and then get out of here,” Fischer said. She spent a Summer volunteering with the Sisters of Charity in Kansas City, serving the needs of the Hispanic community. “But it just didn’t feel right,” Fischer said. “I needed people to pray with.”
The Benedictine values revolving around community, pray and work are what led her to the Sisters in Atchison, KS. “I decided to enter the Convent and focus on what God wanted me to do. If it didn’t feel right I would be off to the Peace Corps,” Fischer said.
Soon after joining the Convent, God opened a door that allowed her to combine both her passion and her vocation. “I applied for a job as a firefighter EMT in Atchison,” Fischer said. “No one really thought I would get hired, but I was.”
Although it was an unusual job for a religious Sister, it suited Fischer perfectly. “I have a gift for staying calm in bad situations,” Fischer said. “And I just love helping people. It’s a privilege to be able to help people on their worst day.”
Because working as an EMT was more of a ministry than a career for Fischer, she found great satisfaction in the demands of her job. “The hardest part is that after you get the patient to the hospital, your job is done,” Fischer said. “You might not ever know how it turned out.”
After seven years as an EMT, Fischer accepted a new position as director of maintenance at the Mount. The hands-on work allowed her to employ her natural skills and do something she enjoys for the good of the whole community. “My work at the Convent fits with my gifts and talents,” Fischer said. “It’s just right.”
The Sisters at the Mount now rely on Fischer’s technical savvy to solve numerous daily problems. “She is called upon constantly by sisters or guests or employees, to either recover thousand dollar necklaces out of drains that have been dropped accidently, or jump start car batteries that died, or tires that went flat,” said Sr. Barbara Smith, OSB. “She is always there to be a helping hand! Sister Elaine loves the sisters and they love her.”
The community at the Mount has learned to respect Fischer for her can-do attitude and her myriad of interesting hobbies. “Truthfully, I do not think there is anything she cannot do,” said Sr. Loretta McGuire, OSB. “Elaine is an avid reader books of all kinds: physics, spiritual, novels, ecology, carpentry. Too many to count.”
One of Fischer’s most recent successful endeavors includes raising honeybees. “We harvested 525 pounds of honey this year, from nine hives,” Fischer said. “I love beekeeping. It’s just fascinating.”
Fischer’s excitement talking about her beehives is contagious. “Those little critters are a wonderful example of community,” Fischer said. “They all work together for the good of all. The queen bee is like the prioress and all the worker bees pretty much do what she says. There is very much an aspect obedience.”
Reflecting on her 25 years as a Benedictine Sister, Fischer knows she made the right choice when she gave life at Mount St. Scholastica a chance. “I knew I could become my best self here,” Fischer said.
Of course, the journey has not always been easy. “There are always hard times and dark nights,” Fischer said. “But deep down you still have solid peace. And when it is hard to feel God’s presence, that’s when you have a community for support.”
To anyone considering a religious vocation, Fischer gives the following advice: “Do some exploring, and don’t be afraid to try.”