by Joe Bollig
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — She admits it sounds corny, but Sister Eva-Maria Ackerman, FSGM, doesn’t care.
“I really love to be up early in the morning and watch the sunrise,” she said. “It reminds me that every day is new, and no matter what’s going on, you can always start over. And God is always there — always.”
Sister Eva-Maria saw some spectacular sunrises during her previous assignment in Cuba. But she’s already learning that Kansas has some of its own to offer.
This past July, Sister Eva-Maria arrived in the archdiocese to take up two positions. First, she became an administrative assistant in the advancement office at St. James Academy in Lenexa. Second, she was appointed the archdiocesan delegate for religious and consecrated life.
This is a new position, but similar to a position she held while in the Archdiocese of St. Louis.
“We are blessed by the presence and ministry of many religious men and women in our archdiocese,” said chancellor Father John Riley. “Archbishop Naumann desires to more closely collaborate with them and to support them in their ministries.
“He has desired to have more ongoing communication and dialogue with them and is especially sensitive to any needs that they have which may not be currently met. Many of our religious are from other countries, so ongoing and frequent outreach to them makes them feel welcome and supported.”
Sister Eva-Maria is a native Texan, born in Houston. Her family moved to different cities in Texas, eventually ending up in Corpus Christi. She received a bachelor’s in journalism with a minor in sociology in 1976 from Texas A&M in Kingsville. As a layperson, she worked for the newspaper of the Diocese of Corpus Christi.
“I started my work the day Pope Paul VI died,” she said.
She would receive a master’s in religious studies in 1990 from Christendom University in Arlington, Virginia.
In 1979, she entered formation to become a member of the Sisters of St. Francis of the Martyr St. George. The Sisters have their motherhouse in Thuine, northwestern Germany, where they were founded. Here in the United States, the order is based in Alton, Illinois. There are about 110 FSGM Sisters in the United States. All eight of the Sisters in Kansas work in the archdiocese — five of them engaged in various ministries, and three studying at Benedictine College in Atchison.
“Our charism is to make the merciful love of Christ visible in our service,” said Sister Eva-Maria. “We are involved in the more traditional apostolates of teaching and heath care. We also work with youths.”
In her 42 years of religious life, Sister Eva-Maria has been involved with a number of ministries. From 1996 to 2009, she was director of the office of consecrated life in St. Louis, where she met Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann.
One of her more interesting assignments, from January 2011 to January 2021, was in Havana. There, she helped with oversight of domestic services, taught English and worked in administration at Cuba’s major seminary, San Carlos y San Ambrosio. She worked as well in the offices of the Cuban Diocese of Santa Clara.
It was a ministry of service that she won’t soon forget.
“I miss the people,” said Sister Eva-Maria. “The people are warm and friendly. It’s a culture of friendship and family, and they share with you what they have. I felt, for me personally, it was a time of formation. They’re very Caribbean, so they don’t let some things bother them. They looked at us like ‘what’s the matter’ [when] we had to schedule and know what’s going on next. I found it was very hard to plan but that was very good. We could over- plan what’s going to happen next week and not live in the present moment.”
The Catholic Church in Cuba is relatively poor, but all parishioners — even the children — make sure to place a peso in the collection basket. They do what they can with the resources they have, and the people who do go to church are very faithful.
The greatest compliment she received from the Cubans was: “You’re almost Cuban, Sister.”
Sister Eva-Maria believes her Cuba experience will help her in her work as delegate here in the archdiocese.
“I think that I have a totally different way of looking at it now because I’ve gone through being in a foreign country and a different country, and I didn’t know the language,” said Sister Eva-Maria. “I understand better now the sacrifices foreign Sisters, priests and Brothers make to come to our country to serve. Hopefully, my experiences will help me to better assist them in whatever their needs are.”
“Sister Eva-Maria is a welcome addition to our archdiocesan staff and to the St. James Academy staff,” said Father Riley. “I have very much enjoyed the ministry and charism of the Sisters. I enjoy celebrating Mass for them in their chapel and providing the occasional Holy Hour — and they are very good cooks.”
“We certainly would welcome more of the Sisters to the archdiocese,” he concluded. “I encourage the faithful to pray for an increase in vocations to consecrated religious life, so that the church and the faithful may benefit from their witness of faith and their services to Our Lord’s church.”