By Elizabeth Wong Barnstead, The Western Kentucky Catholic
Finding a mentor to help in vocational discernment is vital, said Sister Eula Johnson, SCN, who recently retired from years of serving in the Diocese of Owensboro to move back to the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth motherhouse.
“(I’d) tell her to get in contact with someone who can walk with her, encourage her, answer questions she may have,” said Sister Johnson.
Sister Johnson strongly recommended, “getting involved in some kind of service.”
Sister Johnson and her religious congregation as a whole know what service looks like. The Sisters of Charity of Nazareth were the very first sisters to serve in the Diocese of Owensboro when it was established in 1937.
Founded in 1812 near Bardstown – where their motherhouse is still located – the congregation’s motto became “caritas Christi urget nos,” or “The charity of Christ urges us on,” referencing Second Corinthians 5:14.
That’s right – the Sisters of Charity have been around longer than the Diocese of Owensboro itself.
“We came in 1820 and set up St. Vincent Academy in Union County,” said Sister Johnson.
Other schools either established or staffed by the sisters included St. Frances Academy in Owensboro, (today known as Owensboro Catholic High School), St. Jerome School in Fancy Farm, St. Mary of the Woods School in Whitesville, St. Joseph School in Morganfield, and St. Stephen School in Owensboro.
Parishes previously served by the SCNs included St. Jerome Parish in Fancy Farm, St. Mary of the Woods Parish in Whitesville, St. Pius X Parish in Calvert City, Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Owensboro, St. Francis de Sales Parish in Paducah, St. Joseph Parish in Bowling Green and Holy Name of Jesus Parish in Henderson –to name a few.
Additionally, the sisters staffed Blessed Sacrament Chapel, the first African American parish in the Diocese of Owensboro, from 1937-1978, said Sister Johnson.
Upon coming to western Kentucky from the Archdiocese of Louisville, Sister Johnson herself worked at Oasis Shelter, an Owensboro center for women, for 11 years. She also spent 10 years working at Boulware Mission, an Owensboro-based homeless shelter.
In both locations, she served “victims of domestic violence or drug and alcohol abuse.”
In her spare time Sister Johnson volunteered at St. Lawrence Parish in Philpot, where she did “various and sundry things,” and also spent time teaching English as a Second Language in Owensboro.
And while with Sister Johnson’s return to her motherhouse means the end of SCNs in the Diocese of Owensboro, the congregation remains highly active in other parts of the nation and the world.
According to scnfamily.org, the SCNs currently serve in five countries, have three provinces, and work in 121 ministries. Charity Alive, (scnfamily.org/charity-alive), is a group of SCN-inspired young adults who meet to read, pray, share and experience fellowship in different capacities.
“The witness of our lives is very important for people,” said Sister Johnson.