Sister Mary Emma wins Chamber award

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Sister Mary Emma Jochum was recently honored with the Citizen Award at the 16th annual Perry County Chamber of Commerce Business Awards ceremony in Tell City, Indiana.

She was cited for her decades of community involvement, and for her extensive and rich Perry County history.

Sister Mary Emma, who recently retired after 24 years as director of faith formation at St. Paul Catholic Church in Tell City, was also the subject of a recent article, titled “Saintly Spirit,” by Editor Vince Luecke in The Perry County News.

Luecke granted permission to reprint excerpts from the article:

“Sister Mary Emma, whose high horsepower mode of living easily surpasses that of her electric wheelchair . . . walks with people on their journeys of faith . . . .

“She’s a sister who knows no stranger. She’s been at the sides of people of other faiths, too, walking spiritually hand in hand with Methodists, Episcopalians, Baptists and United Church of Christ members who share a love of Jesus and one another. She’s also a friend to those with no particular faith at all . . . .

“Sister Mary Emma has overcome lots in life. As a young nun, she broke vertebrae in her back in a car crash that left her paralyzed . . . .

“She could have returned to the monastery and lived a slower-paced life. But Mary Emma pushed forward, determined not to be slowed or limited by her disability.

“She fought off the natural inclinations of despair and continued her work for others . . . .

“Sister Mary Emma first came to Tell City in 1993 . . . that began a remarkable journey in which a sister in a wheelchair began touching the lives of thousands of people in Tell City, from babies to those in their last months of life . . . .

“’If you ever needed something to happen, Sister Mary Emma was always up to the challenge, if it was something she believed in and fit in with her Catholic identity,” said Joan Hess, who directs Catholic Charities for the Tell City Deanery. “Large or small, she tackled each task she undertook with the same enthusiasm and tenacity, but always in a kind, compassionate manner.’

“’Anyone who can have total control of over 200 children each Wednesday during the school year and have them come back week after week to learn the word of God, has a gift,” said Janet Damin, one of Sister’s helpers and a greeter at religious education classes. “She has such a skilled team of teachers under her, it’s a place I’ve wanted to be, to be a part of the good that goes on there. She has always been a people person and she has never been a stranger in this community. She has helped me strengthen my faith in God and given me an all-round meaning to what is important and what isn’t. . . . ‘

“(Rebecca) Fenn (a member of Evangelical United Church of Christ) recalls watching Sister Mary Emma at this summer’s vacation Bible school and being impressed that with only weeks to work at the parish, she was invigorated and connecting with children. ‘You can see her love of God and God’s word in her actions,’ she said.

“Sister Mary Emma has always had a special way of bonding with teens and is proud of the service projects her confirmation students have carried out . . .

“’They learn that service should be part of their spiritual lives,’ she said. ‘Faith means taking your beliefs and helping others.’

“She’ll return to the Ferdinand monastery family but it’s hard to get a nun who loves her faith and kids to slow down entirely. She’s already signed up to help with two grades of religion classes at St. Ferdinand Church.

“’I’ll be back home at the monastery I love but I want to be around young people. They keep us young,’ she said.”