Obituary: Sister Ruth Ellen Evers, SNDdeN
Ruth Ellen once wrote, “I was blessed in life with very good women and men to love – my parents, family and friends, and the Sisters of Notre Dame.” Ruth Ellen was the youngest of four children born to her German Catholic father and Irish Catholic mother in the small farming community of Newcastle, Indiana. By the time Ruth Ellen started school, Mr. Evers had moved his family to Cincinnati where various jobs provided a better livelihood to support his family. Cincinnati is also where Ruth Ellen came to know the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. At the time of her 60th Jubilee, she told the story:
“My contact with the Sisters began in elementary school – 1st grade through 8th at St. George School, Corryville. The Sisters were wonderful teachers, so kind and caring for all the children. They lived at the Summit, and invited mothers and daughters to the Julie Billiart Circle Meetings and to Days of Recollection as well as card parties for the missions of our Sisters in China. Monthly Sunday afternoons were special times ‘to be with’ the Sisters for social times and for prayer times in their beautiful chapel. The influence of the Sisters continued in my senior year of high school at St. Xavier Commercial School on Sycamore Street in Cincinnati. It was there that I made my decision to enter the convent at Mt. Notre Dame, Reading, on July 26, 1943. Since, during my high school years these were war times, any of the training of Novitiate that I found difficult, I accepted as part of ‘boot camp’ because I did get very homesick.”
Once she entered, it was her family who came to see her one Sunday a month, and in spite of occasional homesickness, her call deepened. Ruth Ellen had asked for “Ann” as her religious name because of her family’s loving devotion to St. Ann. She later shared, “My parents made a half dozen trips to her shrine in Canada. I entered the convent on her feast day.” She was known as Sister Ann Timothy until reverting to her baptismal name after the Second Vatican Council.
After professing her vows Ruth Ellen began a 37 year ministry as teacher and principal at schools in Reading, Phoenix, Hamilton, Dayton and Cincinnati. She later said she enjoyed her years of teaching and was sure she learned as much from her students as she taught them. Ruth Ellen’s philosophy of education was simple: love each student, listen to them and try to open their hearts as well as their minds. She saw each student as a unique gift from God and worked to help each one discover and fulfill their potential. As an administrator she reached out to individual parents as well as her students, especially when families were suffering from illness, loss of employment or the death of loved ones. As a faculty member and as a principal, she added her gentle counsel to help build a sense of community where ever she served.
Ruth Ellen had a deep desire to serve her brothers and sisters trapped in poverty. She remembered with great joy her experience of opening Most Holy Trinity School in Phoenix with three other Sisters. Besides classroom work, they went out to the surrounding ranches to teach the children of migrant workers. In the summers they extended their ministry to nearby mining towns. After Vatican II, Ruth Ellen consistently asked to be missioned to inner-city schools that had the greatest needs. She described her teaching years as “happy years”, but when she reached her early 60’s she saw another need and reached out to meet it. She wrote,
“…Vatican II brought many wonderful changes in the Church and in religious life. Sisters were well aware of these needed changes; and we adapted readily. After changing from black habits to modern suits and dresses, I knew we needed good hair care services and so I studied Cosmetology and received my Ohio License to practice the art. I called the hair salon I opened at Mt. Notre Dame for the Sisters, “YOU ARE SO BEAUTIFUL TO ME.” The Sisters enjoyed their weekly appointments, and I was happy to be of service caring for them for 12 years.”
The Sisters were more than happy to have Ruth Ellen care for them! As her cheerful smile greeted them, she listened to their stories and talked with each one about issues that were important to them.
From the early 1970’s Ruth Ellen, with Sister Pat Sammons, choose to live in the parish rather than the convent in order to be of fuller service to people in need. Together they chauffeured people to hospitals, visited patients, drove for Easy Riders and visited the poor and shut-ins. Both Ruth Ellen and Pat believed their presence bore witness to the value of the spiritual life. For years their outreach was in the Madisonville area. Later it would be Hartwell. After Ruth Ellen “retired” she continued her outreach: “Now I am in my retirement years, I am learning to accept my limitations and my diminishments through prayer, quiet time, reading, (fishing is my hobby), and enjoyment of womanly conversations visiting women at Franciscan Terrace, Mt. Notre Dame, and neighbors right on our street, as well as the homemaking duties of everyday living.”
In community as well as in ministry Ruth Ellen was known as a woman of prayer, caring, approachable, a good listener, a risk-taker and an expert story-teller. For a number of years she and Pat were part of the BREAD community: a group of Sisters of Notre Dame who gathered regularly to share prayer and life. Ruth Ellen took an active part in study days, Province Assemblies, days of recollection and celebrations great and small. Ruth Ellen was genuinely interested in people. When she asked “How are you doing?” she really wanted to know the answer. She listened attentively to what people had to say so she would know what intentions to pray for and how each needed to be lifted up to her good and loving God. While living at Mt. Notre Dame Health Center, Ruth Ellen would daily visit bedridden Sisters to pray with them. She had a special devotion to prayer in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament that went back to her childhood. Ruth Ellen also had the habit of visiting the Chapel each evening to renew her vows and pray for those in special need.
Ruth Ellen never forgot that her first community was her family. She was devoted to them – and by adoption to Pat’s siblings, nieces and nephews as well. Ruth Ellen enjoyed traveling to visit family and fishing trips! Fishing always touched into early memories of her father teaching her the sport and early family fishing trips. She loved welcoming new generations and rejoiced in the giftedness of each precious child. Ruth Ellen tried to be a blessing of love to each of them, as they were to her. She especially appreciated Tom and Lisa’s faithful presence in her life during her last years.
Ruth Ellen’s favorite saying about Saint Julie Billiart, the foundress of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, was that she was a woman who knew how to believe and how to love. Ruth Ellen, too, was a woman who knew how to believe and how to love. Her Sisters, family and friends have all been graced with her loving presence and example of a life fully and joyfully lived making known God’s goodness as a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur. We take comfort in knowing that her love and prayers for each of us continue.
Born July 23, 1926 in Newcastle, Indiana
Parents: George Walter Evers (born in Cincinnati, Ohio) and Mary Agnes Malloy (born in Cincinnati, Ohio)
Siblings: Frank Evers, Mary Elizabeth Evers, and Sally (Selina) Brackmann
August 8, 1926 at St. Anne Church, New Castle, Indiana
July 26, 1943 at Mt. Notre Dame
First Profession: January 26, 1946
Final Profession: August 13, 1951
Bachelor of Science in Education, Athenaeum of Ohio, Cincinnati, Ohio 1956
Masters of Education, Xavier University, Cincinnati, Ohio 1965
1947-1953 Our Lady of the Sacred Heart School, Reading, Ohio
1953-1957 Most Holy Trinity School, Phoenix, Arizona
1957-1961 St. Veronica School, Hamilton, Ohio
1961-1967 St. Agnes School, Dayton, Ohio
1967-1971 Cardinal Pacelli School, Cincinnati, Ohio
1971-1978 St. Augustine School, Cincinnati, Ohio
1978-1983 Corryville Catholic School, Cincinnati, Ohio
1983-1984 Student, Moore School of Hair Design, Cincinnati, Ohio
1984-1996 Cosmetologist, Mt. Notre Dame Convent, Reading, Ohio
1996-2011 Retired, Cincinnati, Ohio
2011- 2020 Ministry of Prayer and Presence, Mt. Notre Dame Health Center, Reading, Ohio
Died on March 4, 2020 at Mt. Notre Dame Health Center, Reading, Ohio