Sister Evelyn (Mary Gilbert) Gregory, OSB
July 10, 1929 – July 21, 2021
Sister Evelyn (Mary Gilbert) Gregory, OSB, 92, a Benedictine sister of Mount St. Scholastica, Atchison, Kan., died Wednesday, July 21, 2021, at the monastery. The funeral took place on October 20 in St. Scholastica Chapel, with burial in the monastery cemetery.
Sister Evelyn was born in St. Joseph, Mo. on July 10, 1929. After graduating from the Mount Academy, she entered the community of Mount St. Scholastica in 1947 and made her final profession in 1952. She held master’s degrees in education administration and in Christian spirituality, both from Creighton University, Omaha, and was engaged in a variety of ministries during her long life. She was a teacher, principal, pastoral associate, spiritual director, and retreat director. A wise and beloved mentor, she served her community at various times as director of postulants and novices, of newly professed members, and of a group of lay oblates in St. Joseph, Mo. Since 2006, she had been on the staff of Souljourners, a program for the training of spiritual directors at the Mount’s Sophia Spirituality Center in Atchison.
Sister Evelyn was preceded in death by her parents, Leo and Elizabeth Fisher Gregory. She is survived by five sisters, Sister Elaine Gregory, OSB of Atchison; Jean Mazur, Kansas City, Mo.; Rita Hulsing (Irvin) and Janet Trompeter, both of Topeka, Kan.; Dottie Bauer (Vernon), Harlan, Iowa; and five brothers, Joseph (Barbara), Agency, Mo.; Gerald (Gail), Fairway, Kan.; Hubert (Bonnie), Easton, Mo.; John and Msgr. Robert Gregory, both of Kansas City, Mo.; and her monastic family. Arensberg-Pruett Funeral Home (www.arensbergpruett.com) is in charge of arrangements. Memorials may be sent to Mount St. Scholastica or made online at the Mount’s web site (www.mountosb.org).
Reflection at the Vigil for Sister Evelyn Gregory
by Sister Micaela Randolph
I am honored to have this opportunity to share a reflection for my friend and sister in community, Sr. Evelyn Gregory. In the name of the Community of Mount St. Scholastica, I offer our hospitality, our gratitude, our love, sympathy and prayers to all of you, Sr. Evelyn’s beloved family, especially to Sr. Elaine and all her siblings and their spouses, all her nieces and nephews, her cousins, the Oblates, Souljourners, Directees and her many, many good friends. She had such great love for all of you!
Evelyn grew up in a loving family, the 2nd of 11 children, our Sr. Elaine being the eldest. In this family, living on a farm and being surrounded by nature, Evelyn experienced beauty of every kind. She loved the sky, the changing of the seasons, wide open spaces and plants and flowers. Beauty was not lost on her! For her high school years, she attended Mount St. Scholastica Academy here in Atchison and right after she graduated from the Academy, she entered our community. Here she continued her love of life, sharing her quiet energy, her sense of humor, her sensitive nature and her wisdom with all who knew and loved her. She so enriched our community as she faithfully took her place among us.
She shared many stories of her happy childhood. One such story, she told me recently, was that her mother always made her chocolate pie for her birthday. Not a cake but a chocolate pie. Being that her 92nd birthday was on the horizon this past July 10th, I asked her what she would like. Yes, its chocolate pie! So Sr. Janelle and I took her two big pieces of chocolate pie, one for her and one for Sr. Elaine. She told me the next day that the pie was wonderful! I wish I could imitate her inflection when she used the word wonderful. I’m sure some of you remember.
Evelyn had a wonderful and childlike humility. She sometimes doubted herself and her gifts. I remember her calling me. It was the summer of 1984 and Sr. Marcia and I were going to Creighton to begin studies in Spiritual direction. Sr. Evelyn felt called to go with us but wondered if she might too old. At that time, she was about 55 years old. “Of course not.” I said. “You are not too old. “ And yes, she went with us and we had five wonderful summers at Creighton together. Little did she realize then how many wonderful years she had left in which to accompany others on their spiritual journey. (As so many of you here tonight have experienced.)
On July 21st, a Wednesday afternoon, Evelyn’s health was declining and so most of her siblings and their spouses gathered silently around her bed as Fr. Robert, her brother, began praying over her and he then anointed her with the oil of salvation, the sacrament for the dying. As he finished, some of the community members who had gathered around her bed began singing the Alleluia! It was a holy moment!
Later that evening as Sr. Evelyn was much closer to leaving us, some of the community again gathered around her bed. Sr. Elaine was sitting close to her bed and was holding her. Her brother Joe and his wife Barbara were also keeping vigil with us. We were all standing in silent prayer. Suddenly, Evelyn’s brother, Joe, began praying very softly but spontaneously as he raised his hand in blessing over Evelyn. It was a beautiful litany of praise. He prayed for courage, gratitude, strength, healing and forgiveness. The prayers flowed over all of us. A comfort for Evelyn, I’m sure, as she moved closer and closer to her death. And then, very quietly Sr. Evelyn left us for heaven. We all broke out in Alleluia once again. What a privilege it was to be there!
The Scriptures from Proverbs helps us to understand and appreciate her presence with us. Proverbs says she will find wisdom and understanding. And she did indeed find it and shared it generously. It was one of her hallmarks. Those who knew her called her a woman of wisdom. And she was, as a teacher of young children, teacher of high school students, as a School Principal as Director of Initial formation and later as Scholastic Director, as Oblate Director, as a Spiritual Director, as a Retreat Director and as a Staff Member of the Souljourners’ Program at Sophia Center.
In the reading from 2nd Corinthians, St. Paul tells us about generosity of spirit, cheerfulness and giving in abundance. Was that not Evelyn, Absolutely!
In Matthew’s Gospel Jesus shares a parable. He tells us that the kingdom is like a mustard seed. The smallest of all seeds but it becomes one of the greatest shrubs and the birds of the air come to live there. This parable is a beautiful metaphor of the life of Sr. Evelyn. Her humility, her concern for others, her humor, and especially her gratitude grew until there was room for everyone. She became for so many, a place of rest. A place where others could experience their own wholeness, where through her love they could make their home.
The Scriptures proclaimed this evening are powerful and speak to us of Sr. Evelyn. They fill us with gratitude for the gift she was to us. They give us a sense of how full and expansive was her life. They speak to us of humility, patience, creativity, generosity and above all Love. All this was visible in Sr. Evelyn’s life and hopefully they are more and more visible in our lives, too.
There is a song that I like and the words are: “Seek me and you will find me. You will find me in the life you are living.” Evelyn found Jesus all along the way in the life she lived.
Sr. Evelyn always told me that her father loved poetry and I believe she herself was a poet. So in honor of her and her father, I would like to end with a poem by Jessica Powers, who was a contemplative nun. The name of the poem is:
The spirit, newly freed from earth,
Is all amazed at the surprise of her belonging;
suddenly as native to eternity to see herself, to realize the heritage
that lets her be at home where all this glory lies.
By naught foretold could she have guessed such welcome home:
the robe, the ring, music and endless banqueting, these people hers;
this place of rest she knows, as of long remembering herself a child of God
and pressed with warm endearments to His breast. Amen.
Sr. Evelyn has gone from our lives but her legacy of love lives among us and will continue to teach us to be who we are called to be. We thank you, Sr. Evelyn. Amen.