CECELIA EARLINE HOBBS, MY AUTOBIOGRAPHY
ST. JEROME CHURCH
“Nestled in the small village of Fancy Farm in far western, Graves County, Kentucky, St. Jerome Catholic Church has the distinction of being one of the few churches that grew a town; that town and the church are still in existence. First the Catholics came, then the church was built, and the town of Fancy Farm was formed. From 1829, when the first Catholic settlers arrived, to today, the community has thrived in their faith, their farms and their families.” [St. Jerome Church, About]
Sister Earline and her family, Top: Mother and Father (Beatrice and Roy), Bottom L-R: Junior, Gene, Hubert, Mildred, Catherine, Lou, Earline, and Ann
My name is Cecelia Earline Hobbs; my name as a Sister of Charity of Nazareth, Kentucky was Sister Beatrice Maria. Yes, I am from Fancy Farm. My father, Roy Francis Hobbs, and my mother, Beatrice Fredonie Elliott Hobbs were married at Saint Jerome Church, and all of their ten children, Joseph Raphael, (J.R.), Mary Mildred, Hobert Francis, Catherine Marita, ,Cecelia Earline, babies Arthur Adrian and Mary Ann, (siblings who did not survive), Anna Ruth, Robert Eugene (Gene), and Mary Louise, precious little curly-headed beauty, were baptized at this church and seven of these children attended Saint Jerome Elementary School. [Of interest, is the fact that the school was actually registered in Kentucky as a public school. ‘Time Out’ was allowed for classes involving Religion.]
I want to share an experience I personally had during my school years at St. Jerome. The school was staffed by Sisters of Charity of Nazareth. When I was in grade six, Sister Cornelius Keating was my teacher. The spirituality, caring manner, patience, and level of presence exhibited by Sister Cornelius and my high school principal, Sister Mary Carmelia Taylor engulfed me. I was in awe and a certain thrill overcame me as I observed these Sisters in action. I sincerely believe that, during these encounters, the seed of my call to later become an SCN was planted within me!
By the time I was born, March 8, 1930, the 150 acre farm was more than well-established but many a story of its early days was shared when the family gathered together. Mom liked to share about her early endeavors, not only inside the house but also outside in the farm area including working the tobacco field. She brought along a blanket on which Little JR and Mildred rested as Mom carried out her share of the farm work.
Indeed Beatrice Hobbs was a valiant woman in so many ways! So Kind! So Selfless! Ever Present! Mom made every day of life seem special! When we returned from school each day, we could expect to experience the wonderful aroma of her home-made soup she had waiting for us, which Mom fondly called “soul food”. I can still remember the delicious cornbread and molasses that was sure to be part of her breakfast menu.
When I was two years old, as stated above, my mother gave birth to a baby boy and later, a baby girl, who died in infancy. (It seemed as though she was ever sad). As young as I was, I was deeply impacted myself as I tried my best to lessen my mother’s sorrow. This made a profound impression on my childhood and sometimes impacts me to this day.
Our parents provided an excellent example for a loving home life, grounded in spiritual development, spiced by fun and laughter, yet serious regarding our responsibilities. My siblings and I learned early in life that keeping our farm going involved all of us joining together to make it happen.
MY BELOVED FATHER/ ON THE FARM
My father, Roy, was my idol; I considered him as my soul mate and I spent as much time as I could, working at his side as he faithfully farmed his land. I learned so much from him including how to tackle any kind of mechanical job, large or small. While others spent long hours contemplating, designing and planning a project, Dad had his project underway. Speed in completion was ever present. When Roy Hobbs picked up the spade, the garden would soon come to life. And did we ever have a garden! Just about any vegetable that could be named, such as corn , tomatoes, cucumbers, melons, carrots, cabbage (for sauerkraut), green beans, great northern and other types of dried beans, kale, spinach, and other greens, beets, and on and on. Of course, we had fruit trees and when harvest time arrived, we all pitched in to assist in our massive canning project to prepare for winter. It can be stated that we were not wealthy where money was concerned but we lacked nothing for a comfortable life.
Of course, we had a variety of farm animals including horses, cows, hogs, chickens, dogs and cats. It is worthy to note here that a strict and abiding rule was that NO animals graced the inside of our home. By the time I was five years old, I was well versed in helping with the animals such as, milking four cows before going to school each morning. A great delight for me was to not only groom the horses but to mount a horse and head out to survey the wonders of our ‘vast’ acreage! As the wind kissed my face and blew my hair, I could feel my reflective inner self grow as I breathed in that pure air, gazed at the sky above, and felt a strong sense of God’s presence.
MOVE TO CHICAGO
A paradigm shift happened in our family when my younger brother, Robert Eugene, was about seven years old. I had completed my junior year in high school. My older brothers, J.R. and Hobert, were in the Service. Dad found it impossible to “get out the crop” for two years straight because of lack of help. The family found themselves moving from rural life in Fancy Farm to suburban life in Chicago! Dad was lucky to find a good office job with the L&N Railroad.
HIGH SCHOOL: LIFE WITH CATHERINE
How I enjoyed my carefree high school days! I not only had a vigorous desire for learning but also found time for an abundant social schedule. My colleagues, both male and female, enjoyed just hanging around together, attending dances and other functions provided, including fun at the amusement park. I was especially happy in the company of one nice fellow who just happened to drive a convertible. When the family moved to Chicago, it was understood that I would remain in Fancy Farm and live with Catherine so that I could finish my senior year in high school. [I want to insert here that Catherine was like a beloved second mother during my last year in high school and continued throughout my life to be a mentor for me through her staunch, faithful, selfless life.]
CALL TO RELIGIOUS LIFE
As stated above, I truly enjoyed my carefree life. But I also loved and appreciated the understanding and compassion of the SCNs and, as I matured, I felt a definite call to religious life. Preparing for my departure included saving the money for convent entrance. Thus, during the summer months, following my junior year, I worked in a hospital dining room and following my senior year, at the Chicago General Electric Company. By September 24th, 1948, I had arrived at Nazareth to enter the SCN Congregation.
What a life change! What a strange schedule! As the old saying goes, “Early to bed, early to rise makes a person healthy, wealthy, and wise!” I wasn’t exactly feeling wealthy or wise but I surely was feeling healthy and happy! In fact, I loved my colleagues and every minute of my new challenging life. At the end of six months, on March 25, 1949, I donned my blue novice habit, and was given my new name, Sister Beatrice Maria SCN. Of interest is the fact that during my second year in the novitiate, I was given the opportunity to assist Sister Reparata Hogarty with her 100 young first graders; what a privilege to experience missionary life. My desire to serve God was enhanced through this experience. On March 25, 1951, I made my first vows; it happened to be Easter Sunday and, for me, this was the day the Lord had made, and I rejoiced and was glad. The following day, I found myself on route to Saint Thomas More School where, for the next six years, I was successfully involved with teaching the primary grades.
As I carried out the mission of the SCNs in the ministry of elementary education in the years following, I came to realize just how much God had gifted me in so many ways. I found this ministry fulfilling and challenging. I endeavored to provide a creative environment for both teachers and students. As both teacher and principal, I have been noted for my enterprise in starting new programs, as well as having the ability to handle difficult situations such as the merging of schools. Ability for organizing groups that foster self-direction and leadership has been a constituent element, not only in education and health ministry, but also working with groups here at Nazareth since my retirement.
After many years, I felt God calling me to something deeper as I reflected on why I had become a religious? So, being a risk taker, I headed for Loyola University to begin Courses in Pastoral Studies and was soon diligently on my way toward a Master’s Degree in Theology.
When I graduated, I found myself in ministry at Presentation Academy for several years followed by three years as Youth Minister at Saint James Parish in Elizabethtown, Kentucky. I appreciated the opportunity of ministry with these older students yet there was a nagging force calling me somewhere that I could not yet identify.
A CALL OF A DIFFERENT NATURE!
Identification finally arrived when, in 1990, I received a call from Saint Vincent Infirmary in Little Rock, Arkansas. This hospital was inviting me to consider becoming a hospital chaplain. They asked me to come there for a visit as well as an interview and assured me all my tuition, housing, etc. would be covered by them. Wow! I visited Little Rock on Kentucky Derby Weekend in May. I was well received by everyone I met; I also took a round-trip ride on a city bus and was able to observe areas of poverty. This led me to a better understanding as to why, the interview I had received at the hospital, had included how Saint Vincent’s donated, annually, a very large sum of money toward direct help to the underserved. I let Saint Vincent staff know that I would be responding soon but I knew in my heart that I was on my way to a whole new life of ministering as a hospital chaplain!
CLINICAL PASTORAL EDUCATION
I arrived in Little Rock in August, 1990, and immediately headed to the University of Little Rock Medical Center [The Med Center] to apply to begin their Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) Program. This would be a twenty four month intense course in chaplaincy followed by certification by the National Association of Catholic Chaplains. I was accepted to begin in September. The system was divided into units and a certain number of units were required to become certified.
The following description is how it worked during my first year. After a week of orientation, I began arriving there on a given day each week at about 4:00 P.M. First I met with my supervisor for one hour; then I put on two beepers, the trauma beeper and the regular beeper. At this point, until 8:30A.M., the next morning, I was the sole chaplain in that hospital!
I visited all the wards in the hospital and took care of any beeper alarms. Any time after 10:00 p.m., I could proceed to another building where there was a bed room for my use and I could sleep with my beepers close at hand. Seldom did I stay in that bed for any length of time. After 8:30A.M. the following morning, I spent the day there in a variety of classes covering a variety of experiences that addressed both my personhood—[I might say I was taken apart and put back together] and also delved into the many dimensions of chaplaincy. Also there were any number of personal interactions about myself and my growth with colleagues, my supervisor, or professional teams to test my progress in proficiency and what was titled, “Claiming My Authority” which translates into being able to stand tall as a member of a hospital professional team.
In the meantime, on other days in my week, I ministered in the Chaplaincy Department at Saint Vincent’s Hospital. Believe me, it was a tough mountain to climb!
During my second year, if I returned to the Med Center or moved to a different hospital, I actually was a full time paid minister there, had more responsibility, and gained more and more knowledge, experience, finesse and courage needed for a certified chaplain. I am honored to say, “I MADE IT!”
MINISTRY AS CHAPLAIN: VICE PRESIDENT FOR MISSION EFFECTIVENESS
I ministered as a chaplain for patients and staff at both Saint Vincent Infirmary Medical Center, as evening chaplain, and at Flaget Hospital in Bardstown, Kentucky when I was invited there to be their Vice-President for Mission Effectiveness. During this period of my life and later, I was a member on Boards of Directors, and also involved in a variety of opportunities to collaborate with other agencies to promote a better life for the underserved. While in this ministry, SCN Hospitals merged with Catholic Health Initiatives. This was a major change but, among other things, it fostered the means to increase professionalism among staff members and monetary assistance to promote higher local community health care. An example of this is that, at Flaget, I met with other local agencies to determine the greatest need of county residents. We came to the conclusion that the working poor who could not afford insurance were desperate for healthcare; thus a clinic was started for them with volunteer professional staff. That Clinic continues today and, in recent years, dental care has been added to their medical provisions!
In 2004 I became a Motherhouse Coordinator and later have been involved in very interesting but unique types of ministry which I will describe as I continue here.
Sister Earline and Friskie the cat
NO PETS ALLOWED!!!
At this point, I would enjoy entering a lighter side of my life. In my section about life on the farm, I underlined the sentence that read, “It is worthy to note here that a strict and abiding rule was that NO animals graced the inside of our home.” This was a rule I adhered to as I entered convent missionary life. In fact, when a Sister I resided with mentioned that she would love to have a canary, I let her know that, ‘If any animal moved into this house, one of us would be leaving and it would not be me!’
Later on, we no longer lived together and I moved across the street from her. For sure, if her windows were opened, the smooth lilting song of Beppo, her canary, could be enjoyed as one passed her home; not to mention the fact that she also had a combination Maltese/Schnauzer puppy, named Beloved (Loved for short) who wagged his tail at me in friendship every time I passed by.
Ironically, she was not the only one who had a pet. Some months before I moved there, a friend had stopped by holding a fuzzy looking something that turned out to be a baby ‘American Short Hair’ kitten. She was doing a little job for me when she asked me to hold that kitten. I reluctantly placed the kitten on my lap. The little thing made itself at home there and I came to realize that my finger was gently stroking her precious smooth ear. Next thing I knew, the kitten had curled up in a tiny ball on my lap and was fast asleep; I looked down at that helpless little beautiful creature and my heart turned over! Friskie Hobbs had entered my home and my life for the next seventeen years! That cat was a delight! So curious! Continuous entertainment with her many toys and antics! She was all over the place including in my bed with me every night! [She is currently buried next to the Kateri Tekakwitha Statue on Nazareth Grounds.]
Back to the story! I didn’t really want a dog, of course, but kind of watched the fun Loved had as he and his owner shared many strolls. Next thing I knew, another friend arrived with, what looked like a long shoe string in her hand which, at its end, stood the cutest plus elegant little black and white Pedigree Pekinese pup imaginable. He should have been named, Prince; he was such a proud little dude. My friend let me know his official name was Montgomery and he needed a home!!! Needless to say, Montie Hobbs joined my family and, after a short time of conflict, became friends with Friskie to the point where, if Friskie were in trouble, Montie was right there to protect her! As years passed by it came to pass that I had two more dogs, Tobby and Tibby. When I retired and moved to Nazareth Village, Friskie came with me and I was able to find a fine home for Tibby. End of story? Not exactly! Since then, I have been called on to house “Chat”, a darling Abyssinian Pedigree and currently, Lou Lou, a sixteen-year-old miniature Shih Tzu puppy, sweet as she can be, and quite lively for her age. [Her original owner resides at Carrico Hall so part of my responsibility is to see that Lou Lou has frequent visits with her original owner!!] My other ‘interesting and unique’ calls have involved what I would name, “Emergency calls to action” to assist Sisters in a variety of situations. I have flown several distances and driven down many lanes to attend my unique ministry calls. I thank God for the good health I’ve had, even into my middle 80’s. I do realize that, at age eighty-seven, it is time for me to truly retire but who knows? When that phone rings, I take time to sit down before answering it because I never know what awaits me!
REFLECTION ON LIFE
I am a person devoted to prayer and spiritual reflection. I believe my call to religious life is grounded in the continual deepening of my relationship with God as I focus on mission in ministry.
My spirituality centers on connectedness to God and all God’s Creation. I experience continued growth in trust and awareness of God’s Presence and begin each morning with gratitude as I proclaim, “This is the day our God has made, let us rejoice and be glad!”
I continue to stay open to learning and love to read, am a person who appreciates and requires quiet time, yet enjoys a card game, a ride through the countryside, a stroll through the woods, and other simple pleasures. I am ever willing to lend a helping hand. I praise and thank God for my many and various life experiences. My life has been an exciting, challenging, joy-filled, and very gratifying journey!
Written by Sister Earline with assistance from Sharon Cecil, SCNA