Lover of Life/Friend to God’s Special People

Edited by Evelyn Fugazzi, SCN

I was born on my grandparents’ farm in the room of their home that was the original log cabin on the property. One of ten children, I was born into generations of hard-working Germans who had a deep faith in God.  Love of God, manifested in helping our neighbor, was very prevalent in our home and neighborhood.  I had a wonderful childhood, full of love and laughter, as well as hard work.  I was loved by parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters, and lots of aunts, uncles, and cousins.  I’ve always felt a close bond with my maternal grandmother even though she died when I was five years old. Perhaps it is because she died in the same room in which I was born.  We were a close-knit extended family. We were so rich in love, joy, and happiness that I didn’t know we were poor in material possessions until I went to high school and heard the girls talking about their indoor plumbing and running water.

I loved living and playing on the farm.  I really didn’t even mind all the work.  I couldn’t wait to go to school and enjoyed the first few weeks, until I found out that school and party were not synonymous.  From age three to age six, I went to school with an older brother or sister for Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine, Easter, and end-of-school-year parties.  I thought school meant party.  After three weeks in first grade, I decided to quit school.  Was I ever surprised when my mom told me that I couldn’t quit!  She did ask me why I wanted to quit.  I said, “We’ve been in school for three weeks, and all we do is work.  We haven’t had a party yet!” And, after all these years, I still enjoy parties!

For one who didn’t enjoy school in the beginning, I’ve spent a lot of time there.  Teaching has been my main profession, even though I’ve also worked as a pastoral assistant and a vision therapist.  In these ministries, I was also teaching.    My all-time favorite ministry was teaching religion to physically and mentally challenged children and adults. I love being with them; I probably received much more from them than what I gave to them.  My inspiration and challenge for working with them was my sister Eddie, who had Downs Syndrome.  After Eddie died, I was drawn to work with them.  These people have taught me to see with the heart.

I made my first Profession of Vows in 1963, and began teaching in 1965.  I’ve always taught junior high and high school students. At present, I am teaching at St. Joseph’s School in Bardstown.  I work with small groups of students who have some difficulties in learning.  I teach them reading and math skills.  I’ve always been drawn to help those who need it most.  I especially like working with 4th and 5th graders, since this age level is a new experience for me.  I enjoy reading, walking, theatre, and seeing all the beauties of nature.  One of my favorite spots in this area is Bernheim Forest.  When I drive into that natural preserve, I feel as if I am entering a sanctuary; I feel God’s love and peace surrounding me. Another spot I enjoy is St. Anthony’s Cemetery at Browns Valley, Kentucky where many family, friends, and relatives are resting.  It, too, is Holy Ground–a place where I feel God’s love and peace.  I can spend hours in both places, just hanging out with God.  We have lots of conversations in these places.