Celebrating 75 years of commitment to religious life, Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Sister Evelyn Ann Schumaker recalls her journey from Woodsfield, OH to Holy Family Convent, Manitowoc, WI.
“Mom, can I go to the Convent?” It was mid-April in the year 1933. Alice had just come home from school and was busy ironing. The little eighth grader was a bit nervous as she waited for her mother’s reply. After what seemed like an endless pause the answer came: “You will have to ask your Dad.”
While she was ironing, Alice tried to decide on the best time to approach her father. “When he comes in from the chores would not be a good time,” she thought. Her two older brothers and six younger siblings would be gathered for supper. What a hub-bub her question “in public” would create! No, she would wait until after supper when her father would be reading the newspaper.
The opportune moment finally came. Mustering courage, she stood before her father and said, “Dad, can I go to the Convent? Mom told me to ask you.” He lowered the paper and looked at his daughter intently. He sensed that she was really serious. Then he said, “We’ll have to think about this.” His answer meant that he would talk it over with her mother and the pastor at St. Sylvester’s.
Monsignor Mehler’s encouragement must have helped Alice’s parents to make the difficult decision to permit their young daughter to leave home permanently. But they were faith-filled people, and they would not put an obstacle in the way if God were really calling her to religious life. After consulting with Sister Roman, Alice’s beloved teacher, they began to make the necessary preparations for her entrance.
On a beautiful evening in mid-June, Mr. Schumacher took Alice and three sisters to the train station in Barnsville, Ohio, 18 miles away. At boarding time he entered the coach, put the suitcases up on the rack, and got the Sisters seated. He then kissed his daughter good-bye and left the coach. His final words to her were, “Do whatever they tell you.” He seemed to realize that obedience is essential for unity and happiness not only in family life but in religious life as well.
Alice loved convent life from the very beginning. At reception time she was given the name Evelyn Ann, her youngest sister’s name. Having completed initial formation, four years of high school and four years of college, she began her teaching career in Wellsburg, West Virginia, teaching first and second grade there for twelve years. Some of those little students from the 1940’s still keep in touch with her. Her remaining teaching years were in Wisconsin.
She received a Master’s in Education at Creighton University in 1956 and a Master’s in Theology at Marquette University in 1968. She continued classroom teaching until 1974 when she was assigned to a new apostolate in the area of spirituality.
Sister began her new work in developing a series of spiritual themes for recollection weekends which were given at the Motherhouse. She also began to give summer retreats to small groups of Sisters. In time she began to put some of this content into monthly papers which were sent to the missions. Between the years 1980-1983, Sister Evelyn Ann authored three small books published by Living Flame Press: Pray with the Psalmist, Covenant Love, and Presence through the Word.
In 1988 Sister was appointed to be a core member at the House of Prayer where she remained for eight years. There she gave directed retreats and wrote a series of papers on “The Deeper Realities of Apostolic Religious Life.”
In 1996 Sister went to San Damiano Convent, Slinger, where she continued her writing, using the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the writings of the Popes as some of her main sources. She continued this work when she returned to the Motherhouse in 2003. During these years Sister Evelyn Ann wrote four more books on the spiritual life. These books are:
Holiness, The Heart of Renewal. 2005.
The Lasting Legacy of Pope John Paul’s Message to Religious
Pray Always! 2008.
The Contemplative Dimension of the Apostolic Religious Life
Invitation to Intimacy. 2010.
Christian Discipleship as Taught by Jesus in the Farewell Address of John’s Gospel
These four books were published by the Institute on Religious Life, with encouragement and support from Rev. Thomas Nelson, O. Praem., the IRL national director, and Mr. Michael Wick, the executive director of the Institute, with Ann Carey as the helpful proof reader.
Sister Evelyn Ann is now retired in St. Rita’s Health Care Center. As she looks back over the years, her heart is filled with deep gratitude to God, her community, and her family. As in everyone’s life, there have been ups and downs. And yet, not only the ups but also the downs can be sources of real growth. It is all a matter of allowing God to enter in and become operative in our lives.