Her Life, A Pearl of Great Price!

By CMM Evelyn Fugazzi, SCN

The glowing sunset suggested that tomorrow would be another glorious day for spring planting and housecleaning!  Emil and Mary Ann Strack Nabholz had settled in Conway, Arkansas and were raising a flock of beautiful children, twelve in all.  Emily is number eight and Teresa Rose SCN, number 10, in this group of 6 boys and 6 girls.  The chores were completed for the day and now the group gathered on chairs and blankets to watch the stars and await the rising of the lightning bugs.  The children loved to hear stories of their Swiss and German ancestors who had settled here long years ago.  During this special family time, they often sang together; a favorite hymn was, “Sweetly we rest on the Sacred Heart, Never from Thee Oh let us part!” 

Emily was born in an unpainted house amid acres of cotton. Theirs was a life of simplicity; their light, a coal-oil lamp; their water, from the well out back; their breakfast, around the kitchen table, was wholesome oatmeal.  Each had a chore and Emily was assigned to help her mother with cleaning and cooking; her specialties were stuffed peppers and ginger cake. She was blessed with good parents. Her father, Emil, was a person of many talents; he was farmer, barber, cobbler, carpenter, and butcher. This family was grounded in sound values including integrity and generosity; they were staunch Catholics!

The children attended St. Joseph School and were taught by the School Sisters of Notre Dame.  Emily’s sister, Elizabeth, joined this order and became an educator in Japan and Okinawa, and later, was involved in parish work in the states. 

Having completed high school, Emily enrolled in St. Vincent Infirmary School of Nursing on High Street in Little Rock.  A favorite place there was the chapel balcony where Emily observed the white caps of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth; to her they resembled white cats. 

One day Sr. Angela Marie requested that Emily deliver a mass stipend to Father Chaney, Hospital Chaplain.  The priest struck up a conversation which moved from sharing about her family to the question of whether Emily had ever thought of becoming a sister. [Indeed this thought had come to her in her early elementary school days.  Her spiritual growth had developed as she walked among the cotton fields, crossed the fence over the babbling creek, or observed the changing seasons. Her sense of the Good, the True, and the Beautiful was ever present even when she plucked a juicy tomato from the vine or reached for a ripe peach in the orchard. Emily found God in the land and in the green of nature.  Already she had a strong affective relationship with Jesus.]  Now, for Emily, it was an encounter, something opened up to her and she was filled with peace!

Along with fifty other young women, Emily entered the novitiate on September 24th, 1947. She received the name, Sr. Bernard Maria SCN.

For the next many years Emily was engaged in health ministry.  She received her basic degree in Nursing at Nazareth College (now Spalding University) in Louisville, completed her MSN at Catholic University, directed student nurses at Our Lady of Peace, Louisville, completed her Dr. PH in the field of Public Health at UCLA, worked as Health Educator in Los Angeles, and then became Director of Health for the SCN Congregation. Now a growing interest in Holistic Health resulted in her ministering at Weber Retreat Center in Adrian, Michigan.

In 1985, Emily was elected as Regional for the SCN Southern Province.  A special blessing during this time was Pat Ferrell SCN, her faithful friend, the wind under her wings, a person with a marvelous sense of humor as well as a very efficient and effective assistant.

Emily was elected as Congregational President in 1988, for her a humbling experience where she truly came to realize who she was in the light of God. Her faith was challenged as she moved with the many issues that presented themselves.  Through the support and love of the community, these issues were addressed and resulted in the furthering of our priorities:  These priorities were made operational and led to the planning for our Directional Statement.

After her term as president, Emily felt called to the ministry of Spirituality and Holistic Health.  She entered the Shalem Program for Spiritual Direction in Washington, DC.  Currently her time is spent in full time Spirituality and Holistic Health .  She directs retreats, provides spiritual direction, offers holistic health and spirituality programs, and teaches Reiki and other alternative therapies.  She has presented programs in India and Botswana, Africa. 

Emily enjoys family and community gatherings, travel, reading, walking, poetry, music, story-telling, playing Rumikub, parks, prayer, and nature.

Emily shares, “The only lesson I am called to learn is to love; every lesson in life will lead me to discover God’s love.  Acceptance in reverence of this truth is all that we ever need to make space for God in our busy world, to live in the precious present moment and in the living presence of God in all things. I am aware that family, nation, and world are intimately connected to the web of life through the one Breath; thus ‘Wherever one of us is, we all are!’

I treasure belonging to the SCN Community and sharing this life with my sister, Teresa Rose, whom I love and admire.  I experience the attributes of my mother enfleshed in belonging to a group of women; women who experience ourselves as the Body of Christ; women who are learning from the people we serve to be more humble and simple.  The people we’ve met along the way have taught us so much.  Life is truly a pearl of great price!”

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