be for others at BC
Sister Ellen Leddy ’57, MEd’60
Sister Ellen Leddy ’57, MEd’60, of the Sisters of Providence, is not your typical Boston College alumna. She recently celebrated her 100th birthday, joking, “I was 100 years 100 times; I had so many cakes. I can’t party every day for the whole year!”
Since her birth on Palm Sunday in April 1911, Sister Ellen’s destiny has been entwined with the Catholic Church. Growing up in Harvard, Mass., the only child of working-class parents, she often heard her father’s story of how the first time he saw her, he gave her a palm branch from that day’s Mass—a symbol of triumph, because she was his little victory.
In 1929, at the age of 19, she joined the Sisters of Providence, based in Holyoke, Mass. Years later, Sister Ellen found herself at what is now BC’s Lynch School of Education. “I never thought of going to BC because it was all boys,” she recalls. “But the community sent me there because there were many sisters studying nursing at the University as well. It ended up a good fit.”
Sister Ellen’s eight-decade career has taken her from working as a medical laboratory technologist at three Massachusetts hospitals, to serving as local superior for sisters attending BC, to directing formation for her community’s newest members. She has been a social worker, coordinator of the motherhouse, and a community historian.
Sister Ellen says there is no secret to her longevity and success. It has always been about trust. “You take what comes,” she says. “And somehow, the good Lord takes care of you. He knows what He’s doing, even if we don’t.”
What is the most satisfying moment in your professional life?
Once, when I was on night call as a medical laboratory technologist—which wasn’t very common—I processed someone’s lab work and saved that person’s life.
In your personal life?
To feel you’ve saved somebody is a big thing.
What is your fondest BC memory?
There was a big snowstorm, and since we lived across the street from the University, some boys came over to shovel our sidewalks. The sisters living with me were from Worcester, Mass., and they told those boys that they were Holy Cross fans. The BC boys threw their shovels down on the sidewalk and left. It was so funny to see.
What is something your friends don’t know about you?
Something I never told anyone was when I once locked myself out of the house and had to sneak back in—while wearing my habit.
How much can you sing of the BC fight song?
[laughs] Not much. I was once told, “Keep quiet. You don’t keep on key.” That kept me from wanting to learn any song really!
How have you changed since graduation?
I don’t think I have changed all that much.
What would you do if you were BC president for a day?
When I was there, I probably would have allowed women into schools other than nursing and education.
What is the secret to success?
Just keep going. God will take care of the rest.
What was your first job?
I worked as a medical technologist in a laboratory at Mercy Hospital in Springfield, Mass.
Why did you decide to attend BC?
BC was chosen for me by the community. I was sent to the school of education. Most of the other sisters were sent there for nursing. It was a good choice, but one that was made for me.
Where did you live freshman year?
The community lived in a house on Commonwealth Avenue across the street from BC. No matter if you went to Boston College or not, all the sisters who were in school lived there.
How do you relax?
I used to do macramé.
What was your favorite BC class?
I liked my history classes best.