Thu, Apr 4th 2019 09:00 am
Sister Elizabeth Kovacs was born in a village of Western Hungary on Nov. 16, 1929. She was the second of three daughters of a Catholic family.
When she was a teenager Jesus called her to His service and she was eager to respond. At that time Elizabeth was attending a Catholic high school in Veszprém and had become a daily Communicant.
Young Elizabeth joined the local Catholic Youth Organization, which met regularly. Their goal was to grow in faith by learning more about Jesus. However, when the Russian Army occupied Hun¬gary, difficult times followed politically. Soon, all Catholic schools and religious orders were abolished. It was impossible to enter religious life. Still, the "call" lived deep in Elizabeth's heart and she hoped to become a religious sister.
She started to work in an office and gave religious instructions to grammar school and high school students in underground classes because such activities were outlawed. Her responsibility was to prepare them for the sacraments and to help organizing for them yearly retreats in the mountains. All these activities were dangerous, but she was happy to do these for Jesus.
Persecution became part of daily life for those who did not cooperate with the Communist regime; more and more families missed loved ones who simply disappeared without a trace. In mid-December 1955, Elizabeth's apartment was ransacked by the AVO (the secret police). Letters, photos and religious books were taken. After that, she noticed that she was followed everywhere and she learned to live with fear. On Dec. 26, she was arrested and taken to prison. As it turned out, one of her fellow workers was a member of the AVO.
She was not permitted to have a lawyer or con¬tact the outside world. Six months passed before she was allowed to contact her family, who didn't know what had happened to her. In the prison she was kept in complete isolation, basic rights were denied of her, and she lacked food, even fresh air, and she was interrogated day and night. It was very difficult to hold up under such circumstances. Prayer, faith in God and the hope for an end to the suffering gave her strength.
Miracles happen every day, even in prison. Her joy was great when she received a cellmate, a woman she already knew from the Catholic Youth Organization: Sister Lenke, who was a Sister of Social Service. From her, Elizabeth began to learn more about religious life, especially about the SSS community. She was determined to join it as soon as she was released from prison. After the Hungarian revolution at the end of 1956, with four other "underground novices" Elizabeth escaped to the free world. She arrived to the United States in May 1957. She continued her novitiate there and made her first vows on Pentecost 1960. So her dream of becoming a sister came true.
Sister Elizabeth's first assignment - while still a novice - was to work with children at the House of Providence in Syracuse as group mother. These children came from broken homes and needed much love and care. "Her boys" taught her many things, including how to play baseball.
This assignment lasted from 1958 to 1969.
Sister Elizabeth made her final vows at Pentecost 1967. Half a year earlier she became U.S. citizen.
She was still a group mother in Syracuse while she took undergraduate courses at Le Moine College, Syracuse, as a part-time student. Later she studied at D'Youville College in Buffalo, and graduated in 1972 earning a bachelor's degree in social work. After completing her studies, she ministered at St. John the Baptist Parish in Syracuse, until 1980.
From 1982 to 2007, plus many more years beyond retirement, Sister Elizabeth was working with the elderly and the sick of St. Aloysius Parish in Cheektowaga. She was lending a listening ear and an understanding heart to the shut-in elderly, or the nursing home residents, or the sick in the hospitals, bringing them Holy Communion.
In her religious community, Sister Elizabeth has been treasurer of the U.S. District from 1980 on. She served on the District Council several times and she was Chapter delegate in 1975 and 1991.
On the occasion of her golden jubilee as she looked back at her life Sister Elizabeth wrote: "being a Religious for 50 years has given me an opportunity to serve the needy, the neglected, and the poor of society. I have felt the Holy Spirit was present and active in my walk on this long journey. Many beautiful experiences have helped me to grow in love and to go on in this challenging world. I am deeply grateful to the Sisters for their love and support, and for allowing me to share the ups and downs of our life together. My only desire is to serve God's people as long as I can, and pray that He will bless this effort."
She died March 29, 2019, at the age of 89 at the Clarence residence of the Sisters of St. Joseph, where she resided temporarily and was cared for lovingly.
A funeral Mass was offered April 2 at Blessed Sacrament Church in Buffalo, followed by burial at Holy Cross cemetery in Lackawanna.