Catholic Herald staff
Writer’s note: Since 1961, the Superior Diocesan Council of Catholic Women has annually awarded the Pax Christi Award to an outstanding member of the organization. The Catholic Herald has featured articles on each of the 2017 finalists and here presents the winner.
Evelyn Lompa, winner of the SDCCW’s 2017 Pax Christi Award, is a member of St. John the Apostle Parish in Sheldon, which is clustered with parishes in Lublin, Gilman and Jump River.
“Evelyn’s dominant qualities are talent, productivity and being young at heart,” SDCCW President Barbara Gagliardi said.
Describing Lompa as “tremendously skilled in domestic areas,” Gagliardi called her “a reliable person who uses her gifts generously for the service of others.”
She continued, “Evelyn is never threatened by others’ gifts and style, but instead rejoices in and supports new approaches and ideas. She is a mentor for all of us serving the CCW.”
Lompa was the fourth of 12 children. Growing up in hard times, the children helped raise cash crops to pay for school clothes. Her mother was injured in a farm accident when her younger brother was 7 months old. At 10 years old, she and her 14-year-old sister were tasked as primary caregivers for their siblings. All this developed a deep sense of nurturing in Lompa and fostered her desire for a career in the medical field.
Though their parents were baptized Catholic, they never attended church. Lompa and her older sister would find any way to get to church for Mass and catechism lessons, even hitching rides on the milk truck.
What most stands out about Lompa is her conviction.
“I just had that feeling that I needed Christ in my life,” she said.
As Lompa continued her search for spirituality and religion, a devout young man, her neighbor, started offering her rides. Well matched in their values and goals, the two fell and love and were married for 55 years before he passed away.
The young couple moved to Illinois after they were married. During visits to their hometown of Sheldon, Lompa’s parents were able to witness their faith and the growing faith of their two sons who attended Catholic school. It was a huge blessing for Lompa to be a role model to her own parents and see them later return to full participation in the church.
Coupled with this strong sense of conviction, Lompa is driven to fulfill her goals, no matter the challenges.
“Under my high school picture in the school annual, I wrote, RN – that was my goal,” she added.
After she was married, she went back to school to become a nurse’s aid, followed by EMT certification. Over time, she earned her LPN status and finally became a registered nurse, graduating with honors.
When asked by the Catholic Herald where her motivation came from, she said, “I just had that drive and commitment. I wanted to help people. That was always my goal. As a child, I was poor and I just wanted to do good and the Lord was always helping me somehow.”
Beside the faith and the Council of Catholic Women, nursing was Lompa’s great love for 30 years.
She explained, “When you are a nurse, you are trained in taking care of others. I had holistic training. It was a program where we learned to take care of the whole body – spiritually, mentally, physically.”
Her nursing knowledge was also applied in her family. Lompa is a cancer survivor. She has always made caring for her health a priority, and she also cared for her father and husband in their compromised health.
Lompa has worked to serve the needs of those in her family, community and employment.
During 10 years working for Northwest Home Care, Lompa worked with an incredibly challenged boy. “When I started out, all he could do was roll on the floor,” she said.
Helped by various therapies over the 10-year period, he worked up to cruising across the sofa.
Lompa shared, “You had to be so patient to care for him. I kept saying, I am working out my salvation taking care of this guy.”
He started out in foster care and was later adopted by the family. Never able to even speak the names of his nurses, his life is one society would find hard to value.
Working with him, seeing his own perseverance in reaching a goal, left a huge impression on Lompa and her co-workers.
“He could never speak my name, but he could click it,” she added. “And he could sign ‘I love you.’”
At 21 years old, he remains very challenged. But whenever he sees his former nurse, he is able to blink to acknowledge her time with him.
The Lompas moved back to Sheldon after living in Illinois for 18 years. Feeling immediately welcomed in her parish, she got involved in the CCW.
Lompa’s résumé of service for her parish and CCW on the parish, deanery, diocese, province and even national level is well-recognized. She has held positions of secretary, director, committee member and chair in various capacities.
Ten of her 54 years of service (and counting) were spent on the national level. An organizational tool she developed for new council presidents is now part of the resource manual for the National CCW. She serves on the board of the SDCCW as parliamentarian and chair for the nominating committee.
Speaking of the CCW, Lompa acknowledged, “The women were my support, and I just blossomed.”
Lompa spoke of accompanying and inviting new women to activate their membership. She expressed the need to always look for new talent, and the teamwork which lays a foundation of leadership development in others. “I see things in other women, because I’ve been there – somehow I’ve been from the bottom of the totem pole all the way to the top.”
When asked about her reaction when her name was announced at the Pax Christi winner, Lompa said, “It blew me away. I was astounded.”
The award has been celebrated by the parish of St. John’s as well, a true acknowledgment of Lompa’s commitment and the parish that has been the foundation of her lifelong living of the faith.