May 2, 1920 – May 17, 2012
“I know the plans I have in mind for you - it is YHWH who speaks - plans for peace, not disaster, reserving a future full of hope for you. Then, when you call to me and come to plead with me, I will listen to you. When you seek me you shall find me.” Jeremiah 29:11-13
How appropriate this passage is for the life of Sister Eileen. God has now called Sister Eileen HOME. The covenant between God and Sister Eileen has been richly fulfilled.
God’s plan for Sister Eileen began in Lake Leelanau, Michigan, when she became the last of thirteen children (seven boys and six girls) born to Joseph and Anna Barry Popp on May 2, 1920. What a blessing was hers to have been a member of this large Christian family where faith in God was the permeating principle! On May 16, 1920 Sister Eileen was baptized at their parish church, St. Mary, Lake Leelanau, and given the name of Winifred Margaret. It was here that she also made her First Holy Communion and was confirmed by Bishop Joseph Pinten on October 22, 1933.
Lake Leelanau is a small, closely-knit community. At St. Mary School at the age of six Winifred began her education under the care of the Dominican Sisters ~ Grand Rapids. In grade two she conceived the idea of becoming a Sister – a thought she carried all through her school days. Winifred entered our Community on September 8, 1938, the fall after her high school graduation. On August 16, 1939 she received the habit of St. Dominic and the name of Sister Eileen of the Blessed Sacrament. She made her first vows on August 17, 1940 and was finally professed on August 17, 1943.
After further preparation at Aquinas College, Sister Eileen began her apostolic ministry. For over a quarter of a century, her mission assignments were to Catholic schools in both Michigan and New Mexico. Some of these years she had the dual responsibility of being both a classroom teacher and the administrator. The lower elementary grades were her specialty. During her years as a teacher she was assigned to the following places: Our Lady, Chesaning; St. Joseph, Bay City; St. Mary, St. Charles; St. Gregory, Hart; Belen and Ranchos de Taos, New Mexico; Sacred Heart, Saginaw; St. Mary, Charlevoix; St. John, Essexville; and Sacred Heart, Muskegon Heights. Not only did she teach three and four grades at one time in some of these situations but in some cases the class size was very large. At Ranchos de Taos she taught seventy-five students in first and pre-first!
In 1967 Sister Eileen became involved in Total Religious Education. Her first venture was at Carson City where the school had closed two years previously. Sister was really a pioneer in this field, for TRE is concerned with all parish members and ages. She was involved both at Carson City and at Weare. In 1973 Sister Eileen became a Pastoral Associate. Her parish ministry continued to expand at Sacred Heart, Muskegon Heights (1973-84) and St. Francis, Holland (1984-1989). Those to and with whom she ministered found her to be exceptionally understanding and compassionate. A true Dominican, she never passed up an opportunity to acquire additional knowledge to help her better serve God’s people.
At the time of her departure from Holland in 1989 Father Donald Weber, the pastor, paid her a fitting tribute: “In many ways Sister Eileen set the tone and established the guidelines for the position of pastoral associate in the Diocese.” One of the ministers in Holland with whom Sister Eileen was associated paid her this compliment: “Sister Eileen is one of the most joy-filled, compassionate and delightful human beings I’ve ever met. . . She’s filled with Christ’s warmth.” Later, she helped found a new ministry, the Prayer and Listening Line at Marywood. At the time of her Golden Jubilee she commented: “In my retirement years, I desired a ministry that would provide a safe place for hurting people to bring their difficulties and sorrows, where they could know through prayer and our listening that Jesus loves them and walks with them on their life journey. I’m not a counselor, but I believe the Spirit can come through.” Along with the Prayer Ministry Sister Eileen did part-time pastoral work with our Sisters at Aquinata Hall.
The Lord has richly blessed the life of Sister Eileen. She was a source of strength, understanding and compassion to all with whom she came in contact. Sister had her share of sufferings, too. One cross was the loss of her dear sisters, Sister Joseph Ann Popp in a tragic car accident in 1962 followed by the sudden death of Sister Cecelia Ann Popp in 1994. Surely she listened well to the Lord and He listened to her. Sister Eileen had a great respect and love for our Community and the many fine women in it. In 1984 she wrote: “I consider it a great privilege to be part of a Community whose members are deeply dedicated to God and the furthering of His Kingdom.”
God had promised that He would reserve a future full of hope for Sister Eileen. Her future is now a reality, and we pray that she who faithfully and wholeheartedly sought the Lord all during her life is now enjoying heaven and all its glory. May she rest in God’s love, peace and joy for all eternity.
Sister Eileen is survived by many nieces including Sister Ottilia Schaub, nephews, cousins, many friends and a loving Community.
Entered eternal life on May 17, 2014 at the age of 94 after 75 years of religious life.
We commend Sister Eileen to your prayers.
Sister Eileen as a child with her family after cherry picking, pictured waving on the far right.
Working in an administrative role at Sacred Heart, Muskegon Heights.
Sister Eileen on vacation in the mountains of Arizona
Ministering the blood of Christ in the Marywood Chapel in April 1999