Sister Mary Evelyn Jegen February 15, 1928 - July 4, 2014 Marilyn Jegen was the second of five children in a family that encouraged creativity and learning, love of the grandeur of nature and deep faith. Her desire to give herself totally to God led her to religious life. She wanted to enter an apostolic Institute and perhaps it was a resonance with Saint Julie's desire that her daughters have "hearts wide as the world" that helped draw her to the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur where she received the name Sister Mary Evelyn. Sister Mary Evelyn taught at the elementary and secondary levels for eleven years before being missioned...
Sister Mary Evelyn Jegen
February 15, 1928 - July 4, 2014
Marilyn Jegen was the second of five children in a family that encouraged creativity and learning, love of the grandeur of nature and deep faith. Her desire to give herself totally to God led her to religious life. She wanted to enter an apostolic Institute and perhaps it was a resonance with Saint Julie's desire that her daughters have "hearts wide as the world" that helped draw her to the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur where she received the name Sister Mary Evelyn.
Sister Mary Evelyn taught at the elementary and secondary levels for eleven years before being missioned to St. Louis University for her doctoral studies. Those studies took her to London, England for her first international experience of Notre Dame and the world outside of the United States. After completing her doctorate she began teaching at the college and university level.
It was while serving as an assistant professor in the History Department at the University of Dayton that she had an experience that changed her life. Some students asked her to help them file for conscientious objection. That request led her to take issues to prayer that raised new questions and insights, and opened her heart to a new call. She later said: "They converted me. I remember the date and hour of my decision. I was on retreat, and said to myself: 'This is where I stand. From now on I work for peace.'"
Sister Mary Evelyn began her work for peace in Rome at Regina Mundi Institute. While teaching there she also designed and carried out an international research project for the Pontifical Commission for Justice and Peace. The area of research was the emergence of the peace and justice movement during the Second Vatican Council, and the subsequent development of the Pontifical Commission for Justice and Peace and its ecumenical offspring. This research took her to other parts of Europe, to India, and to the United States. She returned to the United States and taught Catholic Social Teaching and Christian Spirituality courses at Mundelein College, Creighton University and the Education for Parish Service Program at Trinity College, Washington, D.C.
Starting in 1976, Sister Mary Evelyn combined teaching with board and staff positions in national and international religious peace and justice movements. She served as the first executive director of the Bread for the World Educational Fund, as the first director of Mundelein's Center for Women and Peace, helped establish the U.S. branch of Pax Christi, and served as Pax Christi USA's first national coordinator.
Under her direction Pax Christi USA grew to be a major factor in the religious peace movements in the U.S. Her work went beyond the borders of the U.S. During this period she made nine trips to Europe to coordinate the work of the U.S. branch with other national branches of the Pax Christi movement. She was appointed to the Pax Christi Human Rights Commission. In 1984 she was elected to the executive committee of Pax Christi International, and also elected vice president. Sister Mary Evelyn introduced the Pax Christi movement in India, Pakistan, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Australia and New Zealand. She served as a representative for Pax Christi International at the United Nations from 1992-2001, and continued work on Pax Christi International's Peace Spirituality Project. In addition Sister Mary Evelyn began working at both the international and the national levels with a new interfaith movement, Global Peace Services in 1989.
Sister Mary Evelyn lectured extensively on peace and justice issues at numerous workshops, conferences and symposiums at home and abroad. She served as editor of proceedings for some of the symposiums, and edited several books. She also wrote prolifically: articles for newspapers and magazines, book reviews, pamphlets and books. Some of the publications of her work appeared in Fellowship Magazine, New Catholic World, and The National Catholic Reporter. Her books included Following the Nonviolent Jesus, How You Can be a Peacemaker: Catholic Teaching and Practical Suggestions and Just Peacemakers.
Sister Mary Evelyn also witnessed for peace. Praying for peaceful solutions to the First Gulf War, she asked others to join her as she began a 24-day prayer vigil outside the White House in response to a "personal call to generate a prayerful presence around the White House." In 2006 she was one of four anti-war demonstrators arrested at the Cincinnati office of a U.S. House Representative.
In community Sister Mary Evelyn took an individual interest in each Sister. She shared her gifts of bread making (which for her was a prayer experience) and cooking, planning and leading prayer and gently facilitating community meetings. She brought joyful energy to relationships, the concerns of the world to the intentions of community prayer, thoughtful insights to all levels of community discussions, and beauty into her surroundings through her gift for gardening. During her years at Mount Notre Dame Sister Mary Evelyn faithfully visited her Sisters in the Health Center, often bringing a flower from her garden. She would share tea with them, take them for walks, share poetry with them and often discuss something she had just read or heard on the news. She appreciated the time she spent with each Sister-friend.
She valued her relationships with her family and friends. She treasured visits with her family, delighting in each generation. She enjoyed time spent with her sisters who answered calls to other religious congregations: Sister Evelyn Jegen and Sister Carol Frances Jegen. She made friends and made herself at home wherever her work took her. She appreciated the diversity of cultures and religions. She was gifted with the ability to maintain friendships across distance and time, her heart continually expanding to embrace new people and new experiences.
Sister Mary Evelyn accepted the illness that marked her last months with the simplicity and openness to God's presence that marked her entire life. A woman who lived what she taught, a paraphrase of Proverbs 3:17 might summarize her life: "Her ways were pleasant ways, and all her paths were peace." The Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur mourn her loss and join her family and many friends in thanking God for her life, so full of God's goodness.