By Bonnie Adams, Managing Editor
Marlborough – Years ago, there were many women in America who joined religious orders, choosing to forego a traditional life and instead serve God by serving others. Two of those women, Sister Eleanor Caviston and Sister Claire Morin, now both over 100 years old, live at the Marie Esther Health Center, run by the Sisters of Saint Anne, in Marlborough. And although they are technically “retired” from their active service, it is their faith in God – and their firm belief that they truly followed the path God chose for them- that continues to sustain them.
Both women celebrated birthdays in October – Sr. Eleanor is now 102 and Sr. Claire is 101.
Sister Eleanor grew up in Pennsylvania where, after graduating from high school, she worked as a telephone operator. Although her mother was religious and she had an aunt who was a nun, she did not consider a religious vocation until she was in her mid-30s.
It was when Sr. Eleanor saw the loving care that nuns of Little Sisters of the Assumption provided to a family friend who was ill and then to Sr. Eleanor’s mother, that she made the decision to join the order herself.
As such, she provided support and assistance to those with ill family members, often in their homes. Throughout her career she worked in Philadelphia and New York City.
“It was hard work, but I loved it,” she recalled. “I often took on the role of the mother in the family, helping to take care of the mother and the children. I loved working with children – they always made me laugh.”
“God always helped me,” she added. “He always helps you when you are helping others.”
Sister Eleanor knows, she said, that not everyone understands why a woman would choose to become a nun.
“People sometimes say ‘Why did you choose this life? Don’t you feel sad that you have given up so much?’” she said. “My experience has been one miracle after another. Religious life is filled with anything but sadness. Really this has been a life filled with so much joy.”
Sister Claire Morin was born in Worcester and then moved as a child to Laconia, N.H. She joined the Sisters of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, based in Quebec, at age 19, joining her sister, Lucille.
Sister Claire was a teacher for 40 years, instructing in “every subject,” she said. She taught in Catholic parishes in a number of cities including Brockton, Everett, Lowell, Salem and Laconia.
Throughout her career, she taught approximately 1,700 students, all of whose names she has carefully written in a small journal she still has. To her delight, she still hears from some of them.
Although she could be strict, it is through her recollections that one realizes Sister Claire not only had a loving spirit, she also had a fun, mischievous side.
She laughed as she recalled playing marbles one day during recess with several young boys. What they didn’t know was that their teacher had played marbles as a young girl with her brother – and was still very good at it.
“When I saw one of the boys years later, he still remembered that I had beaten him that day!” she chuckled.
It was when her parents became ill that Sister Claire left her teaching position so that she could take care of them.
Her faith and love for God continues to be the defining, most important part of her life. Whenever possible she attends daily Mass in the Marie Esther Chapel.
“Every day I get up and I offer my whole day to God,” she said simply. “I still do it and always will. That’s our life.”