As a child during the Great Depression, Sister Elise Renk always enjoyed learning and would walk more than two miles from her home in Pittsburgh’s Mt. Oliver neighborhood to the South Side library where she would borrow books to read.
As a student at the former St. Henry School, Sister Elise admired the Millvale Franciscan sisters who educated her, inspiring her to become a teacher as well as pursue a life of religion.
Sister Elise earned master’s degrees in education and in secondary administration then served as a teacher and principal at seven Catholic schools in the Diocese of Pittsburgh for 50 years.
Always eager to learn and push herself, in 1990, when Sister Elise began working at the former St. Francis Medical Center in Pittsburgh’s Lawrenceville neighborhood, she learned to use a computer.
“I’m a person who likes a challenge and I don’t want to become stagnant,” said Sister Elise, who will turn 100 years old on March 17.
“I want to live out my life interested in what is going on.”
She said she’s grateful to be alive in the information age, and still spends time on the computer.
“I can still do games and they are a challenge because they make you think,” she said. Sister Elise also enjoys attending weekly exercise classes, fitness walking and writing letters to friends and family members.
Her secret for living to be 100?
“You have to try to be positive even though many times there are hardships that are negative,” she said. “You still have to try to find maybe a speck of good in it and enjoy what you are doing.”