Vita of Sr. Eileen Bechtel
1920 – 2014
It was midnight between Wednesday, June 8 and Thursday, June 9, 1920, that a baby girl was born to Bertha (Wurm) and Aloysius W. Bechtel in New Washington, Ohio. The following Sunday, June 13, she was baptized at St. Bernard Church and given the name Frances Elizabeth Mary. She was the fourth of nine children – four sisters and four brothers.
Frances attended St. Bernard Grade School. She made her first Communion when she was seven and was confirmed by Bishop Stritch on May 24, 1928. She recalled her enjoyment in winter when it snowed and the kids could play, make forts and snow sculptures all topped off with snow ice cream. Her high school years were spent at New Washington (Dutchtown) High School.
Drawn to religious life she looked to the Sisters who had taught her. On January 5, 1939, Frances became a postulant with the Sisters of St. Francis of Tiffin, Ohio. She was received into the novitiate as Sister Mary Eileen on July 16, 1939 and professed her first vows on August 12, 1941. On August 12, 1944, she professed her perpetual vows to Mother M. Cecilia Wonderly, witnessed by Bishop Karl J. Alter.
Sister Eileen studied at St. Francis College in Joliet, Illinois and at Mary Manse College in Toledo, Ohio. She received a BA degree from St. Francis College and a ME degree from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She was the recipient of several summer National Science Foundation Grants where she studied modern chemistry at St. Thomas College in St. Paul, Minnesota, and radiation biology at the University of Creighton in Omaha, Nebraska.
Sister Eileen served as an educator in various capacities for nearly forty (40) years. Many of us lovingly remember her as a teacher with a keen interest in nature. She loved to take the students to the woods in the springtime and help them to identify the wildflowers and birds as well as to recognize various trees by their bark.
She taught in Ohio elementary schools at Carey and Bismarck (Seneca-Huron). She was both teacher and principal at St. Francis Convent High School in Tiffin, taught at Central Catholic High School in Toledo, and at Calvert High School in Tiffin. Also, she taught religious education classes at Bascom, Republic, Sycamore, St. Stephen, Bismarck and St. Mary, Tiffin where she was also the Director of Religious Education.
Sister Eileen served in various capacities in the congregation. She served as the Motherhouse Administrator, Supervisor of the Holy Family Building Project, Councilor in leadership, and as assistant in the infirmary. She was an excellent seamstress and spent a number of years volunteering her gift at St. Francis Convent and at St. Francis Home.
Always a lover of the history of the community and of the buildings and land called “Home,” Sister Eileen reflected that at her move to St. Francis Home on August 27, 2009, she “grew much in detachment especially in relationship to buildings and plans for the future.” She also said God’s holy love helped her accept “moving from the part of the convent where I had my bedroom and slept for 60 of my 70 years as a member of the community. It was my home for all those years.”
Special highlights for her include the celebration of her various Jubilees, reception of several awards including the Franciscan Peacemaker Award, The President’s Volunteer Service Award, the St. Francis Community Mother Elizabeth Schaefer Award, and with a smile she adds being crowned Queen of St. Francis Home.
Sister Eileen is preceded in death by both parents, her sisters (Marie [Bechtel] Supon and Sister Gregory Bechtel) and brothers (Harold J. Bechtel, Sgt. John Bechtel, and Gerald Bechtel). Surviving are two sisters (Alma [Bechtel] Long and Eileen [Bechtel] Studer) and one brother, Paul Bechtel.
She was welcomed home by Sister Death on Sunday, September 14, 2014, and with St. Francis, Sister Eileen can now say, “I have done what is mine to do, may Christ now teach you yours.”