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Former Nun Becomes Casualty Of Mortgage Crisis

CHICAGO (CBS) -- As the nation's economy struggles, record numbers of Americans are struggling to hold on to their homes, to stave off foreclosure.  Right now, some 5 million homeowners are behind in their payments.

It can happen to anybody, even an elderly retired nun from Chicago. She's been foreclosed and is worried about being put out on the street.

She shared her story with CBS2's Mike Parker.

"It shattered me," says Mary Alice Keeler. "For 37 years, I've been faithful."

For decades, she was a nun with the Roman Catholic Dominican order. She was known as Sister Bernard Ellen and then left the religious life to care for her cancer-stricken mother. She later worked as a lay teacher in both Catholic and public schools, and bought a small house on the Southwest Side of Chicago.

Then she got sick and was hospitalized and in a nursing home for a time.

"I missed three payments," the 76-year-old said. "When I was able, I sent the one back. Then I was going to send the second one back." 

 She says the bank told her, "Don't send us any more money because we'll just send it back to you."

Then came the foreclosure notice from Chase Bank and the order to vacate.  It has not yet been enforced and the house has been sold to Freddie Mac, the federal mortgage agency.

State Rep. Bill Cunningham plans to try to convince the agency to work something out.  

"This is someone who worked very hard her whole her life for little or no pay (and) is now, kind of at the last straw, facing being put out on the street," he says. 

Mary Alice is hopeful. "I just think I deserve a little consideration," she said.

 The bumper sticker on her car suggests that despite all this, she has not lost her faith. It reads: "Thanx God."

Keeler says that if she can stay in her house for just a few more years.

"Maybe I'll go to the party in heaven and we won't have to worry about this anymore," she said.

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