You couldn’t miss her little red motor scooter as she jotted around the campus of Saint Leo University to and from Holy Name Monastery. Sister Mildred Gelis, OSB, a member of the Benedictine Sisters of Florida, passed into eternal life on July 26, 2019. Born to Lodo Ann and Jean Gelis on June 28, 1925, Sister grew-up in Slidell, LA. Predeceased by her three siblings, Sister Mildred is survived by her Benedictine Sisters community and several nieces and nephews, including Michael and Cynthia Lewis.
Sister Mildred attended public school and when Our Lady of Lourdes School opened, the Gelis children were enrolled. Staffed by the Benedictine Sisters from Holy Name in Florida, Sister, though very young, became convinced she wanted to become a nun. And so it was that after her high school graduation in June of 1942, she left home to respond to the call from God. She received her training as a Sister in the Order of St. Benedict at Holy Name in St. Leo, Florida and then attended Mount St. Scholastica College, Atchison, Kansas. Her undergraduate degree was from Loyola University, New Orleans and a graduate degree in Theology from St. John’s University, Collegeville, Minnesota.
Education was always Sister Mildred’s life’s blood. She taught in parochial schools in Ocala, Jacksonville Beach, and Sarasota. But it would be a little rural public school in St. Joseph, Florida that would prove to be the most challenging with first, second, third, and fourth grades combined. After 31 years of teaching and leadership positions, retirement in 1981 would not last long. Sister Mildred decided on another career and went back to school to learn printing. She joined the staff at Saint Leo University and eventually ran their Copy Center with duties that included copy machines, offset press, typesetting, making negatives and plates. She loved the work, but said, “the pressure of meeting deadlines could get hectic at times.” Sister was delighted to travel with friends in 1990-1991 in Europe and Japan.
Interviewed in 1997 by the Pasco Times at the age of 72 and still riding her scooter, Sister said, “I’m just very energetic. I can still outwork people 20 or 30 years of age. I like getting my hands dirty – as long as I can get them clean again!”
A wiz at machinery of all kinds, it was fun to watch Sister “fix” the motor scooter she rode back and forth to work. An easy-going soul, Sister Mildred also enjoyed working on cars which was helpful in keeping car maintenance costs at a minimum for the community. Other service to Holy Name included Scholastic Mistress, sub-prioress, and councilor. Sister also volunteered for a number of years on the St. Leo town commission. For sure, though, it was her skills with computers and technology that were outstanding contributions to the Sisters, saving the community untold financial expense.
Vigil Prayer Service will be held Friday, August 2nd at 7:00 pm, Holy Name Monastery (12138 Wichers Road, St. Leo, FL). Mass of the Resurrection will be celebrated at Holy Name Monastery on Saturday, August 3rd at 10 a.m.
In lieu of flowers, kindly direct donations in Sister Mildred’s memory to Benedictine Sisters of Florida, PO Box 2450, St. Leo, FL 33574; www.benedictinesistersoffl.org.