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Ellen Marie Rissky

April 9, 1941 – November 30, 1982



Ellen Marie Rissky was a woman like every other woman, and yet she played a unique role in the life of the Order, in the life of the church and in the life of the world. 


Drawn to the service of all humanity, Ellen became a member of The Order: Ecumenical nearly four years ago. Her style of passionate persistence in any assigned task marked her as an unquestionable asset to her team and centrum. Ellen’s quiet example of service gave permission to others. She had a deep affection for children and played a special role in the lives of many of the emerging generation. She was the one to respond in obedience to the most mundane assignments, such as rising at 4AM to turn on the furnace. Equally, she gave herself completely to enabling the success of an entire team. Her leadership and constant attention to detail. permitted winning such practical victories as the raising of more than $100,000 in donated goods and services for the Global Research Council in July 1982. Ellen was a solitary person, and yet one who found joy and significance in her friendship with colleagues. She was an avid reader in many areas and an interesting conversationalist. One would often find her door open and candles lit in invitation to those who might choose to join her in listening to jazz or discussing: poetry, theology or health care. 


Deeply rooted in the church, Ellen demonstrated fully her leadership and willingness to be the servant on behalf of others. The church provided her with a meaningful identity: as the religious and sustained her life-long participation in what she described as “an unceasing conversation with God”. She chose to struggle creatively with her fate as a single woman through her unselfish resolve to expend her one life. 


Ellen was a top flight professional in the health field. As an undergraduate she sought excellence in clinical psychology. As a graduate student she pursued an advanced course load at the same time she maintained a full time job in her very demanding field. As an administrator of the mental health center ward she demonstrated the capacity to remain calm and either firm or gentle as the case required, while simultaneously handling a multitude of complex demands, Her staff could always count on finding her available for consultation and support. Her care for the world was also made manifest in her care for the world of nature, her enjoyment of the out-of-doors and her devotion to a succession of pets. The exemplary detachment that allowed her to give up her dog and make herself available for an overseas assignment was, for her, a symbol of her decision to expend her life in service to the world.



Ellen was like any other human being in her quest to know the meaning of life; and yet she was a unique gift to history, Ellen Marie Rissky was a woman whose life was a demonstration of courage, creativity, compassion and constancy. 


In the Name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Ghost; Amen. 






We are gathered here to mark the sojourn through life of Ellen Marie Rissky. Ellen was sent by God to live in this world a part of the family of humankind, and now she has been removed by God from her station. 


Ellen was born in Lyons, Illinois on April 9, 1941 and died on November 30, 1982 in Sevagram, India. She was the daughter of Mary Rissky of Frankfort, Illinois and the late George Rissky. She was the sister of Magdalene Nikodem of Mokena, Illinois; George Rissky and Phillip Rissky of Downers Grove, Illinois; Raymond Rissky of Lyons, Illinois, and Major James J. Rissky of Springfield, Missouri; all of whom survive her. 


Ellen attended Washington and Costello Elementary Schools in Lyons and graduated from J. Sterling Morton High School in Cicero. She attended Morton College in Cicero, Illinois, and received an Associate of Arts diploma. She graduated from Elmhurst College, Elmhurst, Illinois with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1966. In 1970, she obtained a Master of Arts Degree from Illinois State University in Normal, Illinois, From 1977 to 1979 she was a doctoral candidate at The Illinois School of Professional Psychology and continued at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology until 1980. 


Ellen’s youth was enriched by an interest and ability in music and she played the trumpet in many school and church events. She was baptized in the Berwyn Bible Church which she attended in her youth. Later she joined the Plymouth Brethren Church of Wheaton, Illinois, 


From 1966 to 1967 Ellen served as a child care worker at the Elgin State Hospital in Elgin, Illinois, In 1968, she became a rehabilitation counselor at Lincoln State School in Lincoln, Illinois, From 1970 to 1971, she was a psychology intern at Peoria State Hospital in Peoria, Illinois. She served as a child psychologist at the Muskingum Mental Health Center in Zanesville, Ohio during 1971. In 1972 she became a clinical psychologist at the Garfield Park Mental Health Center. From 1974 to 1975 she served at the Henry Horner Child and Adolescent Center. Having spent ten years of her career caring for troubled and retarded children and adolescents, Ellen moved, in 1976, to the care of adult patients at the Chicago Read Mental Health Center where she served as senior clinician until 1981.



Ellen participated in several professional organizations including The American Psychological Association as an associate (voting) member. She held full membership in The American Association of Mental Deficiency, The Illinois Psychological Association and The British Psychological Association as a full member. 


In April 1979, Ellen began a one year internship with the Order: Ecumenical Chicago House in Fifth City. While she was in Fifth City, in 1979, she participated in the Human Development Training School. From October to November 1981, she attended The 34th Global Academy at The International Training Center in Chicago. She remained there until September 1980 when she moved to the Chicago Nexus House.

In September 1982 she accepted an assignment to India and lived in Sevagram Village in the State of Maharashtra as a staff member of the village Human Development Training Institute.  There she conducted training programs in effective methods of transforming rural villages, an important aspect of her work with the Institute of Cultural Affairs. 


Ellen Marie Rissky, finally, was solitary. She lived her life in joyful obedience to God. Her life is now complete and will itself remain a part of the eternal love of God, being given back to the Mystery from which she came and to which she already belongs.


In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.