Elizabeth Jean Mary St. George, daughter of Fred Angelo St. George and Romana Marie St. George (Sangiorgi), was born March 27, 1928 in Erie, Pennsylvania. She had two brothers. Sister Damian and her brothers grew up in Erie, Pennsylvania. Her brother Don and she shared a love for music, spirituality, good humor, and all things canine, and remained close until her death. Both she and Don became lifelong friends of the Benedictines. Sister graduated from Villa Marie College before entering the monastery.
Sister Damian entered Mount Saint Mary's Abbey January 17, 1952 as a Lay Sister, receiving the name Sister Damian. She received the Cistercian habit July 17, 1952. First vows came in 1954 and Simple Perpetual Vows followed in January 1957. When Solemn Vows were again possible for Cistercian Nuns, she pronounced these with the other Sisters June 25, 1957.
Cooking and hand sewing were skills listed on her application to the monastery and for decades her special culinary creations delighted the sisters, brothers (of Spencer) and guests. Most of Trappistine Quality Candy's special recipes were created and/or perfected by Sister Damian, who was the candy cook for as long as she was physically able. Though she passed the kettle and spoons to younger sisters, she continued to produce creative specialty confections for several more years. Her artistic talent was a late discovery and a happy one. She developed and used her gift by painting cards for special occasions.
An unflappable good humor balanced her strong will that was purified with the years. The same sharpness of wit relating humorous stories that brought delight to the community was in the early years exercised in sharp words to coworkers. Here, too, there was purification over the years. God’s grace was abundantly active in her life and with her cooperation. Her spirituality was grounded in the liturgy and scripture. Though naturally a great talker, silence was a treasured value. She is remembered saying of silent retreat days, “You just want to be with your Beloved.”
Sister’s contribution to community life was multivalent. Recovering from double knee replacement about 19 years ago, she amazed the community with a ballet performed with our physical therapist/Family Sister. Seeing pictures of her and her brother as youngsters performing was proof of her aptitude and love for dance. So many times she was called upon to give us a light touch with her treasure of jokes, humorous stories, and impersonations.
Her later years were heroic. Hearing diminishment was a trial for one who savored good music. Long walks in the woods with the monastery dog gave way to shorter outings with a walker and finally to house-bound mobility using a power chair. Yet her good humor prevailed. In the final weeks and days she said she could no longer read. When asked if she wanted someone to read to her, she said “no,” she had God’s presence. She said she was going home to Jesus.
Her passing on March 13, 2009 was peaceful and quiet: a falling asleep in the Lord in the presence of her Abbess, ourinfirmarian, our Family Sister and with her brother on the phone. Two other sisters our Chaplain had left just ten minutes before. Though we are sorry she was not home with us when the hour came, we know she had us in prayer. Her death came shortly after the community completed Vigils.