Cover photo for Sr. Mary Ellen Devereux, Rsm's Obituary
Sr. Mary Ellen Devereux, Rsm Profile Photo
1926 Sr. Mary 2020

Sr. Mary Ellen Devereux, Rsm

November 28, 1926 — November 14, 2020

Preceded in death by her parents, William Alexander and Irene Elizabeth (Hotchkin) Devereux. Survived by her sisters of the Sisters of Mercy; sister, Betty Ludwig; other family members and many friends.


Mary Ellen was born in Grinnell, Iowa, to William and Irene (Hotchkin) Devereux on November 28, 1926. At her baptism, her godmother, who was preparing to enter the Franciscan Order of Sisters, prayed she would also become a Sister but forgot to clarify which order!

Raised in Adair, Iowa, during the depression, her parents struggled to provide all the typical activities such as dance and piano lessons. There were many happy times surrounded by her relatives, who lived nearby.

When it came time for high school, Mary Ellen’s parents decided to send her to Mercy Prep boarding school in Council Bluffs because they thought it was a college prep school, not preparation for the convent. Mary Ellen said this about her time at Mount Loretto, “I loved my time there; the tranquil, prayerful setting, good classmates, and very special teachers.” After graduation in 1944, Mary Ellen spent the next months praying that she would enter the convent if it was God’s will.

She did enter the Sisters of Mercy community in February 1945 and began her teaching ministry after taking final vows. She taught in Omaha, Chadron, and Lincoln, Nebraska; Des Moines, Iowa; Grass Valley, California; and Independence, Missouri. Sister Mary Ellen also ministered as a principal at St. Peter in Des Moines, Iowa; St. Mary in Grass Valley, California; and St. Joseph in Williston, North Dakota.

In 1983, the Provincial Team asked Sister Mary Ellen to come to Omaha as the retirement coordinator at the convent attached to Mercy High School. While there, she earned a certificate in gerontology from University of Nebraska at Omaha.

Sister Mary Ellen left Omaha to serve as the retirement director at Mercy South Convent in Denver. She returned to Iowa and served as a volunteer at Mercy Court, in support services at Martina Place, and then as a volunteer at Mercy Medical Center, all in Des Moines.

Sister Monica Reichmuth, her Personal Contact for many years, said, “Mary Ellen had a beautiful spirit and liked things to be beautiful in her surroundings. She enjoyed spending time in conversation with her friends and could often be found near the tabernacle in the chapel praying the rosary.”

Several years ago, Sister Mary Ellen wrote her autobiography and ended it with this favorite poem from Nancy Woods,

“Reaching back from here

All that I remember of my life

Are the great round rocks and not

The unimportant stones.

I know that I experienced pain and yet

The scars have healed so that

I am like the tree covering itself

With new growth every year.

I know that I walked in sadness and yet

All that I remember now

Is the soothing autumn light.

I know that there was much to make my life unhappy

If I had stopped to notice how

The world sings a broken song.

But I preferred to dwell within

A universe of fields and streams

Which echoed the wholeness of my song.”

Private graveside services are scheduled for Wednesday, December 2. A memorial service will be held later when the Sisters are able to gather.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Sr. Mary Ellen Devereux, Rsm, please visit our flower store.

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