Counting her blessings

Event co-chairs, Laurelanne Bellezzo, left, and Jana Bott, right, present Sr. Evelyn Peterman with flowers and a gift after she was named one of two Women of Achievement during Zonta Yellow Rose Luncheon last week.

Event co-chairs, Laurelanne Bellezzo, left, and Jana Bott, right, present Sr. Evelyn Peterman with flowers and a gift after she was named one of two Women of Achievement during Zonta Yellow Rose Luncheon last week.

This year has proven to be one of celebration and accomplishment for Sister Evelyn Marie Peterman, a Franciscan Sister of Mary who has lived in Jefferson City for more than 15 years.

She celebrated her 70th Jubilee in February, marking 70 years in the convent, and Tuesday she received the Zonta Club of Jefferson City’s Women of Achievement Award.

“There’s a special joy in my heart knowing the Lord has been with me all these years and being able to spread God’s love to all the people in my life,” Peterman said upon receiving the award.

Peterman has lived in Jefferson City since 1996, and this summer she will return to the Franciscan Sisters of Mary Motherhouse in Richmond Heights to live with her fellow sisters.

“I have mixed feelings,” 84-year-old Peterman said. “I’m the last of the sisters left here. I live alone, but we’re meant to live in a community.”

When Peterman came to Jefferson City, she was chaplain at St. Mary’s Health Center and Villa Marie Rehabilitation Center. Although she retired as chaplain in 2007, she currently volunteers her time ministering to prisoners at Algoa and the Jefferson City Correctional Center.

“It’s wonderful to see some of them want to change their lives,” Peterman said. “I’m grateful they’re able to stand up and move on again.”

Peterman, a St. Louis native, entered the convent in 1943 when she was 14. She dreamed of being a sister nurse, and she achieved that and more.

She first attended St. Louis College of Pharmacy and became a pharmacist. In 1969, she was given permission to go back to school and become a nurse and eventually became a nurse practitioner.

In 1984, she served a mission in Kenya for five years and during the mission, her friend, Sister Agnes Reinkmeier, was killed in a Somali renegade attack.

“They didn’t touch me,” Peterman said. “I carry a rosary in my pocket and I believe our Lady protected me that night.”

She still thinks of Sister Agnes every day.

“The people loved her,” Peterman said. “She was a very good nurse, just a compassionate and wonderful lady.”

Peterman returned to the United States after the attack and said she suffered depression for nearly two years.

“I believe the Lord healed me,” she said. “I took a job as a hospice nurse and did home nursing and that really healed me.”

She moved to Jefferson City in 1996 and has lived there since.

She said she will miss the Mid-Missouri community when she returns to her motherhouse this summer.

“I will miss my ministries, going to the prison and visiting the sick,” she said. “It will be a total life change in many ways, but I know the Lord will use me wherever I go.

“I want to do and be wherever He wants me to be.”

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