All About Multiple Sclerosis

More MS news articles for December 2003

A Packers fan like nun other

70-year-old has first Lambeau Field experience

January 3, 2004
Rebecca S Snaga
West Bend Daily News
At 70 years old, it should not be a surprise that Maureen Whelan’s voice is a little weak - but it’s not because of her age. Her voice is still hoarse from screaming her heart out at the Green Bay Packers game last Sunday.

During her lifetime, Whelan, a resident at Cedar Community Health Care Center, has been passionate about three things: football, God and music, though not necessarily in that order.

A Hartford native, Whelan grew up in an Irish family that settled in the town of Erin several generations ago. She attended St. Killian’s grade school in Hartford, St. Joseph’s High School in Milwaukee and Alverno College, where she studied music.

In 1947, at the age of 14, Whelan entered a convent and later became a nun.

"I had a music teacher in grade school I liked a lot and I wanted to be like her," Whelan said of her decision to become a nun. "I taught school for years."

Indeed, Whelan taught in schools from Chicago to Green Bay for 30 years.

In 1969, failing health forced Whelan to leave her calling. She found herself lacking the energy required of a nun.

"I couldn’t do the work anymore," Whelan said.

She moved to Menomonee Falls and continued to give private music lessons for another 15 years. In 1975, doctors diagnosed Whelan with multiple sclerosis, a degenerative disease affecting the nervous system. She started an MS support group in 1978 and stayed very active until coming to Cedar Community in 1999.

Even now, while she moves around in a wheelchair, Whelan serves as president of the health care center’s resident council. Her Irish humor and her dedication to Notre Dame and the Packers are inspirations to other residents.

"She’s always smiling," said Tracey MacGregor, marketing project manager at Cedar Community." She’s one of our ‘Shining Stars.’"

While music was a lifelong passion for Whelan, football came later. Whelan said her father was more of a baseball fan while she was growing up. But on holidays, her family watched football. Her godson, Kevin, helped to foster her love of the Packers, as well as Notre Dame’s Fighting Irish and the Wisconsin Badgers.

While she had accomplished many things in her life, including a three-week vacation to Ireland, Whelan had never been to a Packer game until this past Sunday. As a Christmas present, Kevin got them tickets to the game - and not just any tickets, but club seats.

"It’s fantastic," Whelan said of Lambeau Field. "You can see everything."

While it was difficult for her to pinpoint her favorite part of the day, Whelan said the Packers last run for a touchdown was terrific.

"Everybody was screaming, and I don’t normally scream at games," she said. "We were having so much fun."

Whelan was especially impressed with the performance of Brett Favre, the Green Bay quarterback.

"Brett Favre has done so well with that thumb," she said. "I believe his dad up in Heaven had something to do with it. He was playing his heart out for his dad."

As a souvenir of the game, Whelan got green-and-gold G-shaped Packer earrings. There are also pictures, still to be developed, of Whelan in a cheesehead hat.

"That was Kevin’s one condition," she said.

On Sunday, Whelan plans to watch the Packers playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks from the comfort of her room. While it won’t be as exciting as the stadium, she said her godson wouldn’t even tell her how much tickets to the game are selling for.

In the meantime, she attends Mass and prays for the Packers to win though she doesn’t know how much sway it holds.

"I’m praying that they win," she said, "but whom does God listen to?"

Copyright © 2004, West Bend Daily News