Sister Eileen Cordes was a Sister of Mercy for 64 years. Sister Eileen spent more time on her knees than most Sisters. Yes, she prayed regularly, but in her years at McAuley Center, Eileen was often on her knees, gardening tool in hand, happily planting flowers and weeding any number of gardens. When she wasn’t planting, she raked and swept up leaves and seeds from bird feeders in the McAuley Center courtyards.
Friends described Sister Eileen as a gardener, baker (especially of banana bread), a cleaner, “doer,” teacher, animal lover, and caretaker. Her many ministries included teaching at Michigan schools: St. Andrew School, Saginaw; St. Mary School, Bay City; Immaculate Conception School, Traverse City; and St. Mary School in Hemlock, where she was also superior and principal. She was a teacher and parish minister in Coopersville. In Grand Rapids, she helped establish HELP/Pregnancy Crisis Aid and later ministered at My Sister’s House for women in need of shelter. Sister Eileen became a guardian to two children, parenting them during their teen years. Before moving to McAuley Center, she cared for her friend Jane until she died. Even in the memory care unit at St. Anne’s Mead, Sister Eileen continued to serve by washing tables, cleaning the courtyard, and caring for the dog that visited each week.
In her reflection at Sister Eileen’s funeral, Sister Karen Egri speculated that if Sister Eileen had been around when Jesus was going to Jerusalem, “she would have gotten there ahead of Jesus, helped to get things ready, making sure the floor was swept, flowers were on the table, and banana bread was in the oven!” Karen added that she could “see Sister Eileen running to Jesus as he approached to make sure she tells him about. . . a family member, what the problem is, what needs to happen and make sure Jesus will take care of things.”