Sister Mary Evangelista Herber
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (Scripture Readings Advent to Pentecost, Carmelites of Indianapolis)
“Sister Mary Evangelista Herber — Vangie — has been a special light in our world for more than 103 years. Her life and spirit were a light for us and will continue to be. She has brightened minds, hearts and spirits of literally thousands through her ministry and her witness. She personified the virtues of humility, kindness, simplicity and charity,” said Sister Mary Montgomery in her commentary for Sister Mary Evangelista, who died Nov. 1.
One of five children of Anthony and Martha (Schmidt) Herber, Elizabeth Herber was born July 8, 1903, in Hoagland, Ind. She attended St. Joseph Grade School and St. Augustine High School, both in Fort Wayne, Ind. She entered the Congregation Feb. 10, 1922, and professed first and perpetual vows Aug. 15, 1924, and 1929, respectively. She earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College.
For more than 60 years, Sister Mary Evangelista ministered in education, starting at St. Patrick, Indianapolis, in 1923. Her other Indiana pedagogical ministries were St. Margaret Mary, Terre Haute; St. Mary, Richmond; St. Charles, Peru; Annunciation, Brazil; St. Peter, Linton; St. Joseph, Hammond; St. John the Baptist, Whiting; St. Paul, Sellersburg; and St. Patrick, Fort Wayne. In Chicago, she taught at St. Leo, Our Lady of Sorrows and St. Genevieve. She also ministered two years in California at St. Elisabeth, Van Nuys, and St. Therese, Alhambra. From 1984 to 1988, Sister Mary Evangelista served in parish ministry at Holy Rosary/St. Patrick, Indianapolis. She returned to the Woods in 1988 and volunteered in a variety of capacities before beginning her ministry of prayer full time in 2004.
“Vangie enjoyed having a good time and simple pleasures — parties, dancing, singing, being in nature, watching the birds, visiting with friends. These later years her loss of hearing hampered some of her visiting. She enjoyed working with flowers, especially African violets and creating her own artistic cards of which many of us were the recipients. She savored her hot cup of coffee! And she enjoyed red wine before going to bed,” continued Sister Mary.
“Eucharist was paramount for Vangie, and she treasured time in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel. I had the privilege of accompanying her there a few times in the past two years. Upon entering the chapel, it was as if she were meeting her lover, which of course she was. I felt I was in the company of a very holy woman,” said Sister Mary.
“Sister Mary Evangelista liked to keep up with current events, and, you might say, pray the news. In 1985, Vangie created the St. Gabriel Province one-yard portion of a nationwide Peace Ribbon which ended up being 15 miles long. It was taken to Washington, D.C., to be wrapped around the Pentagon and some monuments on the 40th anniversary of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. Some of our sisters were present for the anniversary remembrance. The portion of the banner read, ‘We Are Family,’ with Earth in the background,” shared Sister Mary.
“How appropriate that Vangie was called home to God for all eternity on All Saints Day! Saint Mother Theodore says, ‘What have we to do in order to become saints? Nothing extraordinary; nothing more than we do every day. Only do it for His love.’ This sounds like Vangie to me. She often called on the saints in her prayer and enjoyed reading about them. She strived to imitate them and Jesus, to whom she gave her life. On Sunday in the hospital, as she awakened from a little dozing, she prayed, ‘St. Francis … Little Flower … Mother Theodore’ and rested her hands on her heart. Last Tuesday, Vangie came home to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, and on Wednesday she peacefully took her last breath at 8:25 a.m.,” continued Sister Mary.
“When Vangie was 95 years old, she took a hot air balloon ride on the north campus because another sister ‘sponsored’ her and went with her. She enjoyed it very much but was disappointed to go just above the trees. It was tethered. She wanted to be free! Vangie, you are free! You quite possibly are soaring or maybe dancing. We will miss your ready smile, twinkle in your eye and loving presence. We will remember you in our prayers. We thank you for being you and for living your life and faith so well. You are an inspiration to us. Your radiant light shines on in our midst,” said Sister Mary.
The Mass of Christian Burial for Sister Mary Evangelista was celebrated Nov. 6 with the Rev. Daniel Hopcus presiding. She is survived by one sister, Marie Bowers of Monroeville, Ind., and one cousin, Sister Marilyn Herber, SP, Indianapolis. She was preceded in death by two brothers and one sister.
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