As she completes her 99th year Lucille “Lucy” Ivie — Sister Mary Eugene — cannot recall every aspect of her long and interesting life, but some memories are very present to her.
Lucy was born in Whitesville, Kentucky, but grew up in Evansville, Indiana. She remembers a happy home life. Above all, she remembers her dear parents — her father, William Edward Ivie and her mother, Minnie Boarman Ivie. Will worked hard to provide for the children he loved dearly. Although he could be strict, he called Lucy by a special pet nickname, “Dude.” She remembers taking walks with him as a child, her small steps trying to match her father’s larger ones. They would walk together to the nearby Church and go in to pray.
When asked how to describe her mother, the reply was, “She was a gem.” Lucy/Sister Mary Eugene says that her mother was loved by all who came to visit, especially the young friends of her teenage children. Her mother, Aunt Minnie to many, was the nurse of the neighborhood. Lucy saw this and many other acts of charity at home, surely a source of inspiration for her future.
There were eight children in the Ivie household. One child died in infancy; the others were George, Norman, Marie, Margie (Marguerite), herself Lucy, Dolores and Eileen. Sister remembers that her family had both morning and night prayers together. In the family all helped with the farm chores, assisting with the tobacco crop, keeping fresh water for the workers, the younger ones “running our legs off.” Their home was large and Lucy remembers rolling up the rug and having dances for the neighborhood. Someone would play the fiddle and there would be much fun. In summer times the dances moved outdoors to the large yard but midnight was always the curfew time.
Painfully, she remembers her dearly beloved sister Margie who died of appendicitis at age 11. Margie was two years older than Lucy and they were inseparable companions. What stays in Lucy’s heart is Margie’s joyful acceptance of death and her words, “Don’t cry for me. I’m going to God in Heaven and I’ll be watching over you.”
The Ivie family also had the grief of losing their eldest son, George, in a work related accident when he was just 19.. Even now it is sad to bring back to mind those losses. Sister Mary Eugene says that her parents never got over the deaths of their dear children.
In 1932 when Sister Mary Eugene completed three years of high school she entered the aspirancy program of the Sisters of Providence near Terre Haute, Indiana. She remained in the program for three years and made very close friends. She and those friends keep in touch even until today. She recalls that time in her life with the Providence Sisters with much affection.
Sister Mary Eugene, however, was drawn to enter the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth which she did on Sept. 24,1935. “It’s funny how God calls you, but I have never doubted my call to be a Sister of Charity. The simplicity of the SCN Community attracted me and I always felt at home. It was as if I had been born in their midst,” she says.
At Nazareth on March 25, 1936, she received the habit and was given the name of Sister Margaret Rose. The next year on March 12, 1937 Lucille left the novitiate for health reasons and returned home.
God continued to call Lucy and she reentered the SCN Community on Sept, 24,1938. She has fond memories of Sister Samuel O’Bryan, her novice mistress. Following the novitiate process she received the habit the next March 25,1939, and the name “Sister Mary Eugene.”
There is a nice story about her name. By this time another Sister had the name of Margaret Rose. When asked her choice for a name, Lucille found out that Mother Ann Sebastian Sullivan wanted one of the new novices to take the name of Eugene in honor of the just elected Pope Pius XII. His name had been Eugenio Pacelli. Lucille was willing.
Finally on March 25,1940, Sister Mary Eugene made first vows and began her long years of dedicated service:
- St. Mary’s School, Memphis, TN — Grade 4
- St, Cyprian School, Helena, AR — Kindergarten, Grades 1, 2
- Holy Name School, Louisville, KY — Grade 3
- St. Thomas More School, Louisville, KY — Grade 6
- St. Andrew School, Roanoke, VA — Grades 4-7
- St. Vincent Academy, St. Vincent, KY — Grades 7, 8, later 3, 4
- Fr. Andrew White School, Leonardtown, MD — Grades 5, 6
- Motherhouse, Nazareth, KY — Infirmary service
- Russell Hall, Nazareth, KY — Work at Motherhouse
- Marymount Hospital, London, KY — Nurse Aide
- Nazareth Home, Louisville, KY — Nurse Assistant
- Motherhouse, Nazareth, KY — Community service
She has been happy in all of her missions she says. “I learned to adjust and be happy. Otherwise, how could I have stayed!”
Although she had always wanted to be a nurse, imitating her mother, Sister Mary Eugene loved teaching, especially boys. She found that she could handle boys with ease. About her teaching in general she says with joy, “I loved every minute, every child. I learned from them as I watched what they loved and treasured. Children can help us get to God in their acceptance and ability to forgive.”
Sister Mary Eugene took a nurse’s aide course in order to be able to help in the infirmary when assistance was needed there.
These days, in her 90s, one may find her, usually but not always with a cane, hurrying down the Motherhouse corridor going to Mass, going to meals, or to the courtyard to greet the Motherhouse cats. On the other hand, you may find her sitting quietly in prayer in her neat orderly room.
This interviewer is remembering Sister Mary Eugene’s words of wisdom, sprinkled throughout our time together:
“Community life has been a blessing for me. In my younger years, I found great inspiration in the older members of the Community. Now that I am an older member myself, I think of eternity and what lies ahead for all of us. There is no description for eternity, but we’ll see all our loved ones at once, as well as all the students we have taught, all the persons to whom we have given nursing care.
I know that I will feel at home knowing God’s presence, the God who was there for me in my puzzlements, in my hurts. God has a special place for each of us.
If we are open to God’s direction, it will be there. God will guide your heart. Remember, our life with God is what matters.”
Written by Sister Maria Vincent Brocato, SCN