Sister Effie Whitten, 1914-2008

Born March 15, 1914, Acworth, Georgia
Entered St. Walburg Monastery, Covington, Kentucky, August 10 1934
Received habit, August 13, 1935
First Profession August 14, 1936
Died March 23, 2008

Sr. Effie was born in Acworth, GA on March 15, 1914 to John and Pauline Perkins Whitten. She was the fifth of eight children, five girls and three boys. Effie attended elementary schools in Atlanta, Georgia but after her conversion to Catholicism in 1925, she attended high school in Cincinnati. After a brief sojourn in Atlanta, she returned to Cincinnati to discern a religious vocation. Here she befriended two Benedictine Sisters and through this contact she learned of St. Walburg Monastery where she became a postulant on August 10, 1934. Effie received the Benedictine habit and her new name, Sister Gerard, on August 13, 1935. Profession of first vows occurred on August 14, 1936, followed by final profession three years later on August 14, 1939. When the community was given the option to return to an earlier name, Sister Gerard became Sister Effie. Silver, Golden and Diamond Jubilees were celebrated in 1961, 1986, and 1996.

Sister Effie was a life-long teacher. Beginning in 1936, she taught, at one time or another, all eight grades in various schools until 1986 when she retired from regular classroom teaching. During this period Sr. Effie also participated in the Federation of St. Scholastica Teacher Exchange Program which took her to schools in Illinois and Colorado. During these more than fifty years her students received many awards at Science Fairs and 4-H Clubs, in poster, speech and essay contests. For the next eleven years-until 1997-she taught Creative Writing to eighth graders at Villa Madonna Academy where her students won many honors and awards.

Anyone who knew Sr. Effie was aware of the pride she felt in her southern heritage. Her paternal grandfather was a Confederate soldier who died in the 1864 Battle of Atlanta. His wife was of Cherokee parentage. Maternal grandparents were Irish immigrants during the 1850’s potato famine. Her father was a native Texan; her mother, a Georgian. References to this past often arose in Sr. Effie’s conversation.

The Sisters of the monastery and the infirmary staff were very aware of Sr. Effie’s declining condition over several months. She had become a fixture in the wheelchair, then the geriatric chair, and, for the last weeks confined to her bed, not recognizing most of us. Death came very peacefully on Easter Sunday evening, March 23, 2008. Sister Effie is survived by her Benedictine community, nieces and nephews in Georgia and many friends.

 

Tribute to Sr. Effie Whitten by Jack Challis, VMA Alum:

“I first met Sr. Effie 12 years ago when she taught a writing seminar to my 8th grade class. Unlike any other writing teachers I have had before or since, Sr. Effie taught that good writing obeyed hard and fast rules: a strong introduction, attention grabbing topic sentences on each subsequent paragraph, and a succinct conclusion to bring it all together. Sr. Effie taught me to write like a boxer in the ring. She encouraged me to develop my own writing by entering local essay competitions, and we actually won a few. I particularly remember we won a 100-word essay contest sponsored by the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, and Sr. Effie drove down to Frankfort with my family for the awards luncheon.

I stayed in touch with her throughout high school and college; whenever I visited the monastery, I tried to make a point of visiting her. The last time I came she told me and my wife about her youth in Georgia, and the story of how a Southern Baptist girl became a nun. I could conclude with some weak platitude about how saddened I was to hear of her death or how I will keep her memory alive for the rest of my life, but that would not be sufficiently daring for Sr. Effie. Rather, the real tragedy is that so few people get to experience life to the extent that she did and I only hope that I can follow in her footsteps of living life to the fullest.”