Sister Marie Ensslin, SDS was an educator who shared her love for learning, no matter the subject. Whether teaching math, rhythm band, square dancing or computer classes, her creative teaching style made learning fun and accessible for her students.
Sr. Marie also believed it was her responsibility to “instill values that will shape each student’s life as well as the lives of others.” She felt her ministry in education was a blessing, and said, “Every child deserves a great teacher – one who has faith in each student – and goals they can reach.” Throughout her years as an educator, she continued her own learning through course work, conferences and workshops.
Marie Ensslin was born August 16, 1934 in Milwaukee, Wis., Archdiocese of Milwaukee. She was one of four children born to Walter and Rose (Gorzynski) Ensslin. The Ensslin family were members of St. Leo’s Parish, where Marie attended school. She played the violin in the parish orchestra and was very involved in the CYO as well. She often helped the sisters after school, and said her inspiration to choose a religious vocation came from God at an early age.
While attending Divine Savior High School, she was influenced to join the Salvatorian Sisters by Vocation Director Sister Marie Estelle Li Pomi, SDS. Marie entered our Congregation on August 26, 1951 in Milwaukee. On August 12, 1953, she entered the novitiate and received her religious name Mary Richard. She professed her first vows on August 13, 1954 and final vows on August 13, 1960 in Milwaukee.
Sr. Marie earned her bachelor’s degree in education at Alverno College. She began teaching in 1954 and was assigned to schools staffed by Sisters of the Divine Savior. In Wisconsin, she taught in Bloomer, Dickeyville, Schofield, Milwaukee and Wausau. She also taught in Landover Hills, Md.
In 1971, Sr. Marie enrolled at the University of St. Louis where she earned a master’s degree in mathematics. Upon returning to Milwaukee, she taught at Notre Dame High School, followed by four years serving in the finance office of St. Mary’s Nursing Home.
In 1978, Sr. Marie returned to the ministry close to her heart – classroom teaching. As a specialist in education, she served as a consultant, taught students with special needs, and established a program for gifted and talented students. She was also excited about emerging technology, and was instrumental in setting up computer labs at two schools in Milwaukee. She believed students needed to enter the world of technology to meet the challenges of the future. Sr. Marie retired from her education ministry in 2004.
Sr. Marie had a very compassionate heart, especially toward her family. She was a caring presence for her elderly parents, and her sister and brother-in-law in times of illness. She was devoted to caring for her sister Dorothy, who had special needs. She encouraged her sister to reach her greatest potential by giving her opportunities to learn and do new things. Wherever Sr. Marie went, Dorothy was her companion.
Many people will remember Sr. Marie for her love of Eastern Spirituality. In the early 1960s, she became acquainted with the Byzantine-Melkite Rite by attending the Divine Liturgy. It was the beginning of her love for and involvement in Eastern Spirituality. She became an active member of St. George Melkite Catholic Church in Milwaukee. Through prayerful reflection and study, she felt called to live the spirituality of the Eastern Church and found it very life-giving.
During this time, Sr. Marie felt a pull to spend more time alone to listen and reflect on where God was calling her to be. At the same time, she attended many workshops and classes on personal growth and development. She also enjoyed classical music, singing in her parish choir, collecting Vatican stamps and spectator sports, especially football.
Sr. Marie was a longtime member of our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Milwaukee, where she especially appreciated the pastor’s homilies that challenged parishioners to do some soul searching. She also joined the Resurrection Choir, and even after moving into Salvatorian Sisters Residence (SSR) she remained a parish member.
Due to increasing health needs, Sr. Marie moved to SSR in fall 2008. She enjoyed retirement and searched for new ways to stay engaged in activities, including collecting stamps and coins. She was always ready to learn more about computers and continued to handcraft greeting cards for friends and family.
Sr. Marie celebrated 65 years of profession with the Sisters of the Divine Savior in 2019.