by Rev. Greg Skiba
I was thinking this evening about Sr. Mary Evelyn Jegen, with whom, I had worked for a year at Bread for the World (BFW) Education Fund in Chicago in 1978. I felt moved to “google” her to see if she is still actively engaged in peace and justice work. So it was a wave of sadness that flowed through me when the barrage of obituaries and memorials scrolled out on my laptop screen, acknowledging her death just eighteen days ago. But then as I read through the many testimonials to her life’s passion for peace and justice from loved ones and co-workers, including your own, I felt much gratitude to have been fortunate to know, and be influenced, by her for a brief time.
After coming back from South Africa in 1977, without a church appointment, and being recommended to her for a position at BFW by a mutual friend, she took me into the small “Ed Fund” circle as a rookie “associate” — green Protestant clergy though I was, along with one other young woman in the office at Mayfair Methodist Church up on Lawrence Ave. in Chicago. Work began for the three of us, each day that year, by her leading us in devotionals and teaching us to sing Latin prayer songs together (Dona Nobis Pacem, Ubi Caritas, etc). With that, and sending me off to learn about “prayer and street ministry” in a seminar with a couple of priests, she set me on a track of contemplative prayer and meditation I doubt I would have found so early without her Roman Catholic guidance.
She was a gentle teacher, guide and a lovely, feisty gal, with great humor and patience — putting up with my poor office management skills and my grumbly self-criticism over my own “typewriter” inabilities… And then she commended me to change my plans of moving to NYC with the BFW office, no doubt especially out of “administrative work,” and to go try on the one place I was quite sure I never wanted to be — a pastor in a local congregation. And so it goes….
So, it’s odd that her remembrance should come to me, out of the blue as it seems, and that I would “google” to find her. The good Sister’s spirit is perhaps stirring about among various others whose lives she touched, however briefly and long ago, giving us one more of her “benevolent glances.”