Sister Mary Ellen Backes honored in the Diocese of Springfield, Ill.

Backes, S Mary Ellen croppedUrsuline Sister Mary Ellen Backes was honored in December with the Magnificat Award in the Diocese of Springfield, Ill., where she serves as pastoral assistant at St. Joseph Parish.

Sister Mary Ellen has served at St. Joseph Parish in Springfield since 1995, when she was an Ursuline Sister of Belleville, Ill. That community merged with the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph in 2005. The Magnificat Award is a diocesan recognition established in 2002, which was the 150th year of the diocese. She received her honor at the Bestowal of Diocesan Honors celebration on Dec. 8, 2013, at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Springfield.

Sister Mary Ellen is the only Ursuline Sister of Mount Saint Joseph serving in the Springfield diocese. She was honored with seven sisters from other religious communities, and one Franciscan brother. Lay members of the diocese were also honored at the celebration.

The honors program said this about Sister Mary Ellen: She is director of religious education for the Parish School of Religion and the former St. Joseph School, and director of the parish RCIA program. She is an ex-officio member of the parish pastoral council and a member of several subcommittees. Sister Mary Ellen is a participant in ecumenical gatherings and activities for the north side of Springfield and the organizer of a weekly adult bible study. She was a member of the first graduating class of the Spiritual Direction Training Program at Mount Saint Joseph in 2006, and offers spiritual direction in Springfield.

She received a medal which depicts an image of Mary and the Child Jesus taken from the icon commissioned for the diocesan sesquicentennial, “The Mother of God, the Life-Giving Spring.” The reverse bears the diocesan shield and the inscription “For Outstanding Service to God and Neighbor,” along with her engraved name.

Sister Mary Ellen has been an Ursuline Sister since 1963. She was a teacher and director of religious education in Illinois for several years, before becoming general superior in Belleville from 1989-95.


  1. Kathy Steckler

    Mary Ellen: Congratulations on this honor. I’m glad to know that you are doing well and that your life journey has been so fulfilling for these many years.

    Are you still playing your guitar?

    I was in Caseyville the other day and drove by St. Stephen’s and remembered the many times I helped you with the liturgies.

    Take care!


  2. Mary-Cabrini Durkin

    Congratulations, Mary Ellen! Your lifelong dedication to serving the People of God has been life-giving for so many and is an inspiration to all. God bless you and your ministry! Cabrini

  3. Sr. Betsy

    Congratulations, Mary Ellen! We are proud of you and your accomplishments. You are one of the many faces of Angela. Thanks for being that person who ignites and stokes the fire from within so many. Blessings! Betsy, osu

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