Evelyn Fugazzi, SCN: A Wonderful and Majestic Grand Journey!
The four-room house at 961 Forest Avenue in West Covington, Ky. where the nine-member Fugazzi family lived held mystery and charm. The place was a poet’s delight from the fresh running spring in the cellar to the slanted tin-roofed, upstairs back bedroom with its unfinished wooden rafters. (This room had been the pigeon coop of the former owner and boasted an eight-inch tiny window on the side and a 2’ x 3’ window at the room’s lowest point. No heat upstairs! Aunt Lizzie’s ‘treasure’ trunk, crammed with souvenirs (including her wedding dress) from a honeymoon trip around the world, was a fountain for endless creativity! Then there was Grandpa Lang’s unabridged dictionary, 12 inches in thickness; never a word was explored by me but it provided an ideal stand for the saddle, symbol of my Italian Poppa, Charles Joseph’s, unfulfilled dream of living on a farm. What fun for a little child to mount that horse, as the rain pelted the roof!)
My Irish Methodist Momma, Ada Jane Lang, had “class” and in the midst of day-to-day poverty-level living, was the promoter of love of the finer things, classical music, art, and, above all, values including ecumenical reverence and an appreciation of learning. All family members had musical talent of varying degrees. Out of necessity my three brothers, Charles, Leslie, and Robert, could tackle any job from plumbing, electricity, construction, to landscaping. Enroute to the outhouse, one walked along stone paths bounded by flowers of every kind, a rose covered trellis, a gazebo, swing, and vegetable garden. Millie, my second mother, kept the old Singer sewing machine throttle pumping as she not only made outfits from hand-me-down garments but also beautified the home with colorful curtains, etc. Elizabeth, (Wizzie) went to work at 16 and despite spinal problems, was our breadwinner in later years resulting in Dorothy and myself attending high school. Dorothy was four years my senior. She held daily classes in the gazebo at what she called her ‘City Chicken School.’ Plays, processions, mud pie bakeries, games, etc. were all part of the curriculum. Dorothy was highly gifted at the piano. She never had a pin out of place, a perfect little lady. I was her star pupil! I, Evelyn Jeanette, was a right-to-life baby, a living reality of Psalm 139. As a toddler, I am quoted as saying, “Who is the boss to us?” because I was lost in a crowd of elders. I never knew we were poor; rather I was enmeshed by the wonder and majesty of my storybook surroundings.
Of note is the fact that whenever the Sacred Heart Magazine arrived, little pre-school Evelyn would search to find a picture of a little girl hugging her horse, an ad for an academy. I’d then affirm, “I’m going there someday!” In fact I received an excellent education from the Sisters of Divine Providence, Melbourne, Ky., and was settled on becoming a member of their order. Yet God had other plans and in 1954, I arrived at Nazareth. I observed the girls in their equestrienne pursuits and wondered, “Is it possible that I am at the place from the ad with the little girl and her horse?” Indeed Sister Ancilla Marie was there but never rode that horse. Rather it was a mop and bucket and a world of potential for the likes of me! My golden jubilee was celebrated in 2007 and I can seriously say that my life has continued to be surrounded by wonder and majesty in the midst of the joys and challenges of missionary life!
Missionary life for me really started at Newport, Ky. in 1953 where I first met the SCNs when I became their first lay teacher. I was 21 years old. Sister Ellen Michelle was my mentor, a model of Mother Catherine. As a Sister, I worked in the education ministry as principal and teacher for 37 years in Kentucky, Massachusetts, Ohio, Texas, Mississippi, and Belize. I also spent eight weeks in India. For six years I ministered in Child Development Centers as Education/ Staff Development Coordinator and then Director. I also served as provincial councilor and Nazareth Campus Service Associate Director/ Personnel Director for two years. A special opportunity during that time was heading a gerontology project for the very elderly Sisters, ‘The Mary-Crafter Group. We actually ran a little business and all proceeds went to the poor!
Years later as a school principal, I went to the gym on a Saturday morning to observe students from all grades playing basketball. The primary group was there with their little shorts, big smiles and welcoming greeting. They expected their principal to be there! I was 58 years old and realized it was time for me to move on. I wanted something stable without having to face the challenges of living hand-to-mouth such as I had experienced in parochial schools. What could be more stable than hospital ministry? Famous last words! St. Vincent Hospital, Little Rock, Ark. was huge but once inside, I felt right at home. Back to school it was for Clinical Pastoral Education in chaplaincy. What a ministry! What a challenge! What a privilege to help persons to stand in the light of Christ! From there, I moved to Flaget Hospital, Bardstown, Ky. to complete a total of 14 years as chaplain. Today I am canonically retired and realistically in ministry of contributed services. In 2006 I completed a tenure as chairperson of ‘The Celebrating Mission and Ministry Committee.’ This diligent group published more than 262 stories of Sisters in the Western Province. I have had 17 different missionary homes, each with its own unique flavor and culture. Sacred memories and stories remain in my heart and soul.
When I reflect on being in mission as a Sister of Charity of Nazareth, my word is ‘Gratitude’. My blessing has been to have a continual awareness of God’s guidance and humor in my life. As Co-creators, we have had a grand journey. No matter what is going on, I know God is with me and wants only the best for me. Sisters ahead of me, living and deceased, have held out their hands of encouragement to me. I observe ever-increasing reverence, integrity, compassion, and excellence in my Sister colleagues! I hold out my hands to whatever the future holds!