SEPTEMBER 2004: SISTER MARY EVELYN LAMB
There has been one consistent theme throughout Sister Mary Evelyn Lamb’s life and that is to depend on God.
Sister Mary Evelyn was expected to be born in February 1923, but God chose December 27, 1922. "I was a surprise late Christmas present and the first of 12 children in this Lamb family," Sister Mary Evelyn said.
Growing up in Missouri
The family lived on a farm in Aud, Missouri, and the children learned to work at many tasks for long hours every day. For Sister Mary Evelyn, babysitting her younger brothers and sisters was her job, and she also learned to cook and bake, do laundry, and all household tasks from a very young age.
Her mother was a teacher who had converted to the Roman Catholic religion from a Methodist family. "I loved school and began first grade at four years of age," she recalled. "Daddy didn’t think that a high school education was necessary for a girl, but Mom and I persuaded him to permit me to go after I had finished grade school," she added. However, her education was put on hold because she contracted the measles and wasn’t permitted to return.
"I felt I was being called to religious life and really wanted to go to school; but since I wasn’t permitted, I worked in housekeeping and factory work until I was 21," she recalled. "Then I decided to return to the same high school as before and was permitted to finish in two years as the Valedictorian and received a scholarship to a teachers’ college," she related. She then taught in two different one room rural grade schools during a time when schools were consolidating and pupils were being bused to town.
At this time, her conscience kept reminding her that God was waiting for her to become a Sister and not a teacher. However, many people seemed to be expecting her to date and eventually get married. "I didn’t want anyone to know what I was planning," she said. "so I did date but if anyone seemed to care much for me, I would drop them quickly," she added.
Tragedy Leads to Conversion
World War II began, and her brothers were drafted. They encouraged Sister Mary Evelyn and her oldest sister to write to them and some of their friends in the service. "My oldest brother’s best buddy was transferred off the ship in the Pacific to go to school out east and stopped by to visit us," she related. "My sister, Earline and I went with him for a boat ride on a nearby lake," she recalled. Tragically, the boat capsized and Earline drowned. Amid the crisis in the lake, Sister Mary Evelyn remembers "bargaining with God to save me so that I could go to the Convent." She then realized that it was a miracle that she survived and responded to God’s call.
"Early in my life, I remember that my father was very religious and really taught us to pray," Sister Mary Evelyn said. "He also taught us to depend on God and to attend daily Mass whenever possible," she added. Her mother taught the children catechism from a "big, brown catechism book our pastor had gotten for her," she said. "Daddy would read us bedtime stories from the Lives of the Saints, and every night before we went to bed, we knelt in the dining room and prayed the rosary led by Daddy," she recalled.
This prayer devotion throughout her life helped her over several years in finding a Congregation. At first, she thought she wanted to be a missionary and to do health care. She then learned about the Hospital Sisters from their publication in the St. Anthony Messenger. "When I visited here in Springfield, I knew this was where I belonged," she recalled. She entered the Community in 1949 and made her final vows in 1957. She received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Education from Quincy University in 1956, a diploma from St. John’s School of Nursing in 1958, and a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Nursing from Sangamon State University in 1975.
Artistic Gifts from God
Recently, Sister Mary Evelyn has developed her interest in painting. She now finds enjoyment in various styles of painting including the use of oil, watercolor, and pencil with portraits, landscapes, and abstracts, to name a few. She also has attended classes on painting icons and has successfully completed the 2004 Creation Icon Writing Workshop under the direction of Master Iconographer, Xenia Pokrovsky.
Her artistic eye was at work recently: "Sister Christa Ann Struewing invited me to go with her for several days to her sister and brother-in-law’s home. Each evening we went out in their motor boat to watch the sunset on the lake, and every evening it was cloudy. But on the last evening, I witnessed a fantastically beautiful sunset which seemed to have many scenes, and God seemed to out do Himself that evening."
She has had many assignments with the Hospital Sisters including work at St. John’s Hospital (Springfield), St. Vincent Hospital (Green Bay), St. Mary’s Hospital (Decatur), St. Joseph’s Hospital (Chippewa Falls), and St. Francis Hospital (Litchfield). She also worked for the Springfield & Sangamon County Community Action, the Alverna Home Nursing Center (Chicago), and Interfaith Caregivers, Inc. (Eau Claire). In addition, she has and continues to assist in many capacities at the Motherhouse.
"I have done many different things and works and have studied a lot and am learning all the time," she said. "I never know what God will ask of me but have always been interested in many and diverse things," she continued. She noted that there is now more freedom to choose and to speak about experiences in the Community. In addition, she enjoys the added freedom and responsibility for spiritual growth. "I hope and pray that God will continue to use me in whatever way He wishes," she concluded.