She started religious life on the farm: Sister Veronica Kovas celebrates 70 years of serving the Lord

By Hilary Anderson | Contributor
Sunday, July 17, 2011

Jubilarian Sister Veronica Kovas always wanted to be a nun and work outdoors. Her dream came true when she entered the School Sisters of St. Francis of Christ the King, Lemont, and assumed duties on her community’s farm. Now celebrating 70 years in the convent, she still wouldn’t change a thing.

“I can’t remember when I didn’t want to be a nun,” said the 87-year old Kovas. “I always thought I’d be a Carmelite but the Lord had plans for me to be a member of this community.”

Her second wish materialized when a hired farmhand quit and her community needed someone to help. Since Kovas grew up on her parents’ farm in Porter, Ind., she knew what the chores involved and received the assignment.

“I loved everything about the farm,” she said. “It wasn’t hard because I enjoyed it.”

Her daily chores included milking cows, feeding pigs, and plowing and driving a team of horses to help with the planting and harvesting.

She rose each day at 3 a.m. to milk the cows at 4 a.m. The second round of milking was 12 hours later.

“You have to milk the cows at the same time each day,” Kovas said. “You learn fast how to properly milk them.”

More responsibility

At first Kovas helped another hired hand with the work but eventually assumed more responsibility for the running of the farm.

“He did all the heavy work like plowing and cutting the hay but we helped him,” she said.

“When the hay was dry, we would load the wagon and bring it into the barn and stack it for winter. We used a harnesstype pulley on one of the horses to hoist the hay into the lofts,” she said.

Eventually Kovas learned how to drive the team of horses.

“Sometimes I would turn them too fast and crack an axle,” she said. “I loved being around the horses.”

On the farm they planted green beans, cabbage, tomatoes, carrots and muskmelons among other crops. Feed corn and beets were for the animals.

She also had the job of weeding between the rows of crops while driving the two workhorses.

The chores continued even when snow piled up. Kovas would shovel her way to the barn.

“It seems as though we had more snow back then but it didn’t keep me from my work. Sometimes I helped the other sister take care of the chickens and the orchard. We’d spray the fruit trees so they wouldn’t get those little marks on them from the bugs.”

Eventually the community received a tractor to make life easier but she continued working in her traditional nun’s habit.

Kovas also did the laundry for her community using a commercial washing machine with what she terms a big extractor similar to the rollers used to squeeze out the water in one of the early wringer washing machines.

Life after the farm

When the farming work ceased, Kovas transferred to another assignment of being a cafeteria planner and cook at Mount Assisi Academy

“I learned how to cook by myself,” Kovas said. “It was a matter of finding recipes that were relatively easy to make and which most everyone liked.”

Kovas said she’d look for ideas in magazines like Home and Garden or Country Woman.

Now Kovas spends her free time helping out in Mount Assisi’s kitchen. She enjoys making cookies, especially oatmeal raisin ones.

“I enjoy cooking but was happiest working on the farm. I was younger then and the work didn’t seem hard,” she said. “The problem with cooking is that you can never satisfy everyone with what you make.”