“I praise God for the good that has been given to me.”

Quiet, tall, versatile, Sister Evelyn Schoenborn served in many capacities during her 77 years as a Dominican Sister. She taught school for nearly thirty years and then served the elderly in nursing homes. She also tutored adults who did not have opportunities for formal education. Her unpretentious manner and calm demeanor touched the lives of many.

Evelyn was born on a farm near Conklin, Michigan on September 8, 1924 to Robert and Lillian Margaret Laux Schoenborn. She was the fourth of twelve children, three others died in infancy. When Evelyn was seven, the family moved to a farm near Miriam, a small settlement located a few miles south of Belding. For her elementary education, she attended the public school in a one-room school. Then she worked on the farm at home. Further formal education would not come until after she joined the Dominican Sisters.

At the age of eighteen, Evelyn began working in Grand Rapids where she found the prayer of weekly devotions to Our Mother of Perpetual Help at St. Alphonsus parish a source of strength and solace. In May of 1943, during a novena there, she decided to become a Dominican Sister. She entered the Congregation the following September 8, which was both the feast of the Nativity of Mary and her own nineteenth birthday. One year later her sister Eleanor entered, receiving the name of Sister Mary Phyllis. Later another Schoenborn daughter, Marian, joined the Congregation as a postulant in 1953.

At her reception in March 1944, Evelyn was given the name Sister Mary Donald, after one of her siblings who died in infancy. She was known by that name until 1976, when she resumed her baptismal name. Following her first profession on March 13, 1945, she was privately tutored to earn her high school diploma. She then took college work leading to a Bachelor of Arts degree and a Master’s in Religious Education from Aquinas College.

Sister Evelyn taught elementary grades in several parish schools in Michigan, beginning at Mary’s School, a released-time program for public school pupils in Carrollton and Zilwaukee. This was followed by teaching elementary grades in St. Joseph, Pewamo; St. Mary in St. Charles; St. Peter, Douglas; St. Norbert, Munger; St. Thomas, Grand Rapids; St. Francis, Traverse City; St. Michael, Maple Grove and St. Joseph in Beal City. She was the prefect at Holy Rosary Academy in Bay City in 1951 and assisted/coordinated activities at Aquinata Hall in 1977-78. In 1979, she served in teaching and office work at St. Joseph, Wright. Subsequently, Sister Evelyn served at Marywood as seamstress/assistant and as housekeeper/receptionist.

In 1987, Sister Evelyn began a new kind of ministry. In her own words she described it as “…the most fulfilling and exciting mission – three and a half years working in the poor area of Northeastern Kentucky. There the culture is so different, and the Catholic Church is almost non-existent – only one Catholic church in the county where I lived, eighteen miles from our house.” She was an adult education homebound teacher and assistant at the Olive Hill Senior Citizen Center and worked part time in the activities department at the Morehead Life Care Center. For one year she worked for the FIVCO (five county senior centers) Agency, bringing supplies to eleven sites.

After Kentucky, Evelyn found ministry in Ann Arbor, Michigan, first as receptionist and patient companion at Glacier Hills Nursing Center and later as a home care assistant for Individualized Home Care, Inc. In 1993, she moved to Ionia and became coordinator for the Eucharistic Ministers for the homebound members of SS. Peter and Paul Parish. In 2002, after nine years of ministry at SS. Peter & Paul, Evelyn moved to Marywood. Soon after arriving, she heard of a need for pastoral care at Porter Hills and thus began five years of service with that health care facility.

Besides Sister Evelyn, three other daughters of the Schoenborn family entered religious life. Catherine joined the Glenmary Sisters and Phyllis joined the Grand Rapids Dominicans as did Marian who took the name Jacqueline which she retained after she left the Congregation. Sister Phyllis was one of five sisters who died in an automobile accident in September 1962. Sister Evelyn recounts the deep spiritual experience and consolation in “the support and prayers of the Sisters at the time of my sister’s tragic death.”

Sister Evelyn was quiet and unpretentious. “Even as a member of the Order of Preachers, God has not blessed me with the gift of speaking before crowds of people, but I am more at home working with small groups or individuals.” She preached through her patient, kind and consistent dedication to the people she served. Her supervisors expressed appreciation for her mature outlook, compassion and insight.

During her spare time, she enjoyed sewing, crocheting, needlepoint, latch hook, listening to music, reading, and taking extra time in prayer.

Sister Evelyn is survived by her sisters Sister Catherine Schoenborn (Glenmary Sister) Owensboro, Kentucky; Jacqueline Pangburn of Roseville, Michigan; her brother Lawrence (Karen) Schoenborn of Ada, Michigan; nieces and nephews, many friends and members of her Dominican community.