Changing Me, Changing Us!

Posted by Spalding Hurst

October 22, 2023

Discover the profound and transformative power of presence in this touching reflection by Sister Eva Kowalski. Through her journey as a hospice volunteer and her personal battle with illness, Sister Eva shares the invaluable lessons learned at Hildegard House—a ministry that cares for those at life’s end.

As a result of my volunteer work in Hospice in Nelson County and visiting PLWAs in Ft. Lauderdale, I became aware of my gift of helping people to die. That gift also came from my own experience of facing death due to a diagnosis of liver and colon cancer.

Hildegard House is a ministry that cares for people who are dying and who have no one to care for them. During a five-hour shift, another volunteer and I respond to the needs of the residents, needs that would be met by a nurse and a nurse’s aide. However, more importantly, the time I spend with the residents, sharing prayer or a conversation, holding their hand, being present in silence, and, when appropriate, using humor are “sacred moments” that I treasure. When a resident is actively dying, we take turns being with that resident. At this time, I deem the power of presence to be deeply profound and powerful.

My efforts to perform quiet acts of compassion during my shift at Hildegard House are my means of making an impact in this ministry. In my encounters with the dying, staff and volunteers, I strive to treat them with absolute dignity and respect. The face of Christ comes in myriad ways at Hildegard House.

The powerful examples of how the residents choose to die at Hildegard House are genuinely amazing. Their struggles and coming to peace with death (or not) present a path we must take. In their journey to death, I realized my life should perceive and appreciate beauty in all God’s creation and have a deepened appreciation of life itself. I have come to value how I choose to live with each day I am gifted.


  1. Patty Jones

    Sister Eva Marie has the purest of heart that I have eve met. I have known Eva since I was 1 years old. Her parents took me in as a foster child in 1961. She has a peaceful soul. Truly a gift from God. She has fought her own health battles and God healed and spared her to do more great work in his name. Her voice is pure comfort and tranquility. She knows with all her heart that we truly do go on to a better place and into the arms of Jesus. Our personal journey that each of us will take at the end of our lives.

  2. Eugenie Coakley scna

    Sr. Eva, It is an understatement to say you (and the other volunteers) are filling an important role, a crucial ministry. All people deserve dignity, and love over the course of life, right to the end.

  3. Betty Blandford scn

    Eva, I have never known anyone with your calm presence and deep awareness of all that is real and blessed. I deeply admire and appreciate you so much,
    May we blessed with your presence and gifts for many years to come.

  4. Carlette

    Thank you so much for doing this ministry. It takes a special person to be able to journey with someone at the end of their physical life. Thank you so much. I’m sure they are blessed to have you be present with them.

  5. Charlotte Hazas, SCNA

    Sister Eva, I have known you and your work at St. Thomas-St. Vincent Home, at St. John Center, and now at Hildegard House. You have been a gentle and calming presence at all three places. Thank you, and may God gift you with many more days.

  6. Maria Brocato

    My dear Eva, what a blessing for you and Hildegard’s residents to have your compassionate presence!

  7. Louise Smith

    Eva, thank you for your compassion, prayers and peace you give to those you are serving. Blessings and peace.

    • Basanti Lakra

      Thank you Eva for sharing your experiences of accompanying the persons on the last stages of their life with respect, dignity and love. It is indeed an invaluable ministry!


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