‘SPEAK, LORD, I LOVE TO LISTEN TO YOUR VOICE. SEE LORD, HERE I AM. MY HEART IS SILENT, LORD. MY SOUL IS STILL, WAITING UPON YOUR VOICE. TELL ME YOUR WILL.’ FROM SPEAK LORD BY MARIENNE UZLER
Sister Phyllis was born on her mother’s birthday, May 31st, in the little town of Conception Junction, Missouri, the youngest of five children. “I want to acknowledge my family who gave me much love and support; my parents Julius and Marie Echterling; sisters Betty Lewis, Mary Lewis, Helen Welch and brother, Edward.” Sister Phyllis has the happiest childhood memories -her dad jumping the fence to play baseball with all the neighborhood children, Christmas filled with popcorn balls, taffy, singing around the piano and special gifts.
“I’ve known that I was to be a sister since I was a little girl growing up in Missouri. My dad would tell me I was going to be a sister. His gentle fatherly reminders helped me to know God’s will for me and so I entered Mount Saint Scholastica Convent in1950.” Sister Mary Phyllis made her profession on January 1, 1952.
She ministered as a teacher at St. Mary’s, Walsenburg, Colorado; St. Peter’s, Council Bluffs, Iowa; and Capulin, Colorado. She spent some time as cafeteria manager at Benet Hill Academy. Though she loved the children and served generously it seemed a piece was missing in her life. That piece was nursing. She subsequently became a nursing assistant, receiving “on the job” training in the hospital in Walsenburg, Colorado. She then ministered as a nurse’s aide at St. Francis and Penrose Hospitals in Colorado Springs, DePaul Hospital in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and St. Joseph’s Hospital in Denver. She was also the supervisor at Hildegard’s infirmary at Benet Hill Monastery for many years.
Sister Phyllis then ministered at Benet Pines Retreat Center warmly welcoming all guests, while cooking meals, cleaning and doing laundry filled her days. Her cheerful smile and gentle ways touched many people. Today Sister Phyllis continues to volunteer with the retreat ministry, drive sisters to appointments, participate in daily prayer, helps in the kitchen and food service. One of her ministries includes house and pet sitting. But the favorite ministry now is her animals. She collects, washes and gives away hundreds of stuffed animals to retreatants, children, immigrants and anyone who needs a little extra love. Her favorite pastime is garage sales, Good Will stores and bargain hunting for special items for the sisters she cares for.
“Our relationship with God is one of love. God loves us. From the very nature of this relationship we know that God wants us more than He wants our works. We must become holy.” (A quote from the book by Father Philip Schuster, OSB Seeking God’s Will Through Faith, Hope & Charity sums up Sister Phyllis’s life.)