Sister Eva Boone’s earliest memories are of her farm home in Howardstown – a small community “nestled in a valley surrounded by the beautiful knobs of central Kentucky.”
The knobs – the wooded, cone-shaped hills so distinctive to Nelson and surrounding counties – provided a physical and spiritual setting for Sister Eva’s childhood. “I believe that my vocation has its roots in the God of nature and of the earth,” she says. Her memories include a natural attraction toward prayer: “Most evenings as the sun was setting along the Rolling Fork River, my Dad and I would visit the church for a little prayer time.”
Mary Estelle Boone was the fourth of the four daughters and four sons of Richard Leo (known as Leo, or “Mr. Leo”) and Eva Regina Spalding Boone. Surrounded by relatives, the Boone children enjoyed community ballgames and picnics, and “a yearly birthday party for each one of us – something that made us feel very special.”
Just across the road from their home were St. Ann Church and rectory, the sisters’ home and the two-room school where all the children were educated by Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph. “The sisters, along with my parents and large extended family, taught us to love learning – and life.”
She remembers regular trips across the road to deliver bread, milk and other farm produce to the sisters, who “joined in our prayer, dancing, sports, singing and treks through the woods and hills.” Sister Mary Rose (Charles Mary) Lindauer, her “most marvelous teacher” in grades 2, 3 and 4, became a special friend and guide. Mary Estelle joined the choir, directed by Sister Mary Rose. She took piano lessons and then “Sister Mary Rose led me to the organ.” After that, she regularly played for the choir.
For high school Mary Estelle attended St. Charles School in St. Mary, Ky. – a public school which in those days was almost totally staffed by Ursuline Sisters. After her junior year, she remembers, “I decided to join the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph in their quest for God.” She entered the community as a postulant in September 1951.
After making temporary vows in August 1954, Sister Eva began a teaching ministry of 30 years. It was an energetic journey that took her from Owensboro to rural Nebraska, to Louisville and St. Louis, and to several other schools in Kentucky, Indiana and Missouri. Beginning as a primary teacher, she later began teaching junior high and several times served as principal. “I loved teaching,” she says. During this time, in 1954, she made perpetual vows as an Ursuline Sister.
Then, about 1980, Sister Eva experienced a call to a new ministry – a different kind of teaching. At LaSalle University in Philadelphia, she dedicated five summers to earning a master’s degree in pastoral ministry. She found the academic program enriching and inspiring, and she enjoyed the historical and cultural environment of the city, where she found “so much diversity – I was with people from all over the world!”
In 1984, Sister Eva began her ministry as director of religious education for St. Mary Parish in Hillview, in Bullitt County south of Louisville. After five years there, she went on to serve as pastoral associate in Burkesville and Albany in south central Kentucky, then in Fordsville in Ohio County south of Owensboro.
“Pastoral ministry with adults was tremendously challenging and rewarding,” Sister Eva says. “I was involved in the real daily lives of the people – I was invited into their sincere faith stories. This was still teaching, and much more.” She found herself working with other professionals, finding “opportunities for my own faith growth with those with whom I was working. Among these people I found lasting and deep relationships.” As a pastoral minister, she was engaged with persons of other faith traditions. She found this ecumenical aspect of her ministry especially rewarding.
After 14 years in pastoral ministry, Sister Eva took time off for a well-earned three-month sabbatical at a retreat center in South Carolina. This experience served as a preparation for yet another ministry and another adventure – retirement and service at Mount Saint Joseph.
At the Mount, she rediscovered her love for needlework – she had loved knitting and crocheting since childhood. While serving as switchboard receptionist at Mount Saint Joseph Conference and Retreat Center, she met one of the group of spinners and weavers who regularly meet at the Center. This new friend was eager to share her talents with Sister Eva, an eager learner who soon added spinning and weaving to her talents.
But there was one craft that Sister Eva had not mastered: quilting. She remembers herself as a fascinated child standing by her mother’s side during quilting parties at home. “I’ve always wanted to quilt,” she told Sister Cordelia Spalding, one of the Mount’s master quilters and a Boone family friend. “She was so sweet,” Sister Eva remembers, “and she took me under her wing forever . . . almost until she died.” Now Sister Eva is a master quilter herself and a valuable member of the group of sisters and friends who create beautiful quilts for the Ursuline Quilt of the Month Club, a project that raises funds for the support of the retired sisters.
From 2006-10, Sister Eva served as coordinator of the Ursuline community’s Peace and Justice Committee. Today, Ursuline Associate Mary Danhauer leads this committee, and Sister Eva is still a dedicated member. She reflects that “since retirement it has become more clear to me that my Ursuline community strives to relieve the suffering of the most deprived, to help preserve the earth for humankind, to help women and men have equal rights – to wake up the world with justice.”
Sister Eva experiences her active retirement at the Mount as the completion of a circle that began with her childhood surrounded by the beauties of God – “God who is everywhere,” as she learned long ago from the Baltimore Catechism. “I am living here among the fruits of Mother Earth,” she says. “It’s where I came from, and I’m happy to be living amid the same kind of beauty here at the Mount.”