It may be surprising, but Sister Eugene Marie Schneider says the best thing about living as a vowed religious is “being obedient.”
“In being obedient, something especially unique always seemed to happen. God’s plans are always better than those of humans,” she says.
Sister Eugene Marie knows the truth of this. At 98 years old, she celebrates 80 years as a Sister of St. Francis.
Joining religious life wasn’t the original plan for Anna Theresa Schneider. As a child and teenager growing up in Camden, New Jersey, she dreamt of becoming a nurse. But at age 17, her sister Clara Marie entered the Franciscan Sisters. Struck by her sibling’s joy at becoming Sister Emeline and a question from her Latin teacher about whether she had ever thought of becoming a woman religious, Anna Theresa said, “the seed was planted.”
At age 23, Anna Theresa became Sister Eugene Marie. She told congregational leadership about her desire to become a nurse, and they registered her as a student at St. Joseph’s Hospital nursing school.
“But God had His plan because an emergency arose in Hoboken, and I was asked to teach kindergarten ‘for just one year,'” Sister says. Being obedient, she said yes. One year became 11. By then, Sister Eugene Marie had earned all the degrees necessary for teaching and “I knew I loved education as much as nursing.”
She taught in New Jersey, New York and Ohio schools before the congregation asked her to make a more significant move.
“Saying yes and going to Long Beach, California, leaving everything and everyone 3,000 miles behind, brought my sister, Sister Emeline, to me for the first time in 25 years,” Sister Eugene Marie said. “We have been together on various undertakings ever since.”
After three years in Long Beach, “with one phone call, we were asked to go to Tampa, Florida,” Sister says. One of her “joys” during the 22 years spent at Tampa’s Incarnation School was “directing plays with the children and bringing out their talents for the audience to appreciate.” There were new challenges when the Sisters moved to St. Petersburg, and Eugene Marie became Vicar for Religious, responsible for planning Jubilee celebrations.
As she celebrates her own Jubilee, Sister Eugene Marie remains confident that there will be women religious to serve where there is a need.
“God finds ways to draw people close to Him; Sisters help Him. That is their joy and reason for a consecrated life,” she says. “Throughout history, there has always been a revival of what is good and true.”