Updated: May 17, 2022
Reprinted with permission from Martin Heini, KATHY Head of Church Music, Projects & Communication - Parish of St. Katharina Horw in Luzern, Switzerland, translated from German to English by Betsy von Atzigen
Photos courtesy of Evelyn’s social media pages.
Evelyn Steiner was born in the Philippine capital Manila. A formative childhood memory was the annual rainy season, during which it rained in torrents for months on end. When Evelyn was twelve, the family moved to Bangkok.
After attending the International Catholic School and completing her commercial training, she took a job as a secretary at a Norwegian shipping company. One day, she received a call from Toni Steiner, an employee of a Swiss travel agency, who wanted some business information. The two immediately found the proverbial rapport. Four months and countless phone calls later, they met in person. It turned out that their offices were just ten minutes apart.
Evelyn Steiner above first left.
The two were married in 1969 in a Catholic Church in Bangkok and soon after, the Vietnam War had broken out. Meanwhile they moved to Switzerland, where they started a family. Horw became the centre of life and their four children. Establishing contact with fellow Filipinos there proved difficult. At the Philippine Embassy, she was told that she was the only Filipino in the whole of Lucerne. Gradually, other Filipino nationals immigrated, and Evelyn contacted them. She regularly organised potluck parties to which everyone brought something for the common buffet. In 1985, she finally founded the Filipino Women's Association.
Evelyn Steiner, centre with garland, together with the Filipino community.
It all began in Horw
When a Filipino priest from Rome visited on Easter 1986, he wanted to celebrate an Easter service with the Filipino community. Thanks to Evelyn Steiner's good relations with the priest at the time, Thomas Frei, they were granted hospitality at the Zentrum Kapelle. Thus, the very first Filipino service in central Switzerland took place on Easter Monday. For the next 15 years, the priest travelled from Rome to Horw for the Easter service.
Water pumps for clean drinking water
On the initiative of Evelyn Steiner, the Samahang Pilipina Luzern association launched an aid project to build water pumps in 1988 in many rural areas of the Philippines. There was no clean drinking water then and it had to be carried for kilometres on foot. Thanks to tireless fundraising, a total of 26 water pumps were built.
A visit to the first and second graders’ religion classes remains unforgettable for Evelyn Steiner. At the invitation of catechist Olga Marbach, she talked about the hard everyday life of the children living in Philippine slums. This made such a deep impression on the students that they went from door to door collecting money. Quite a few also donated their entire pocket money. More than 2,000 Swiss Francs were collected, enough to build one water pump. Even today, an engraving indicates that this was financed by the children of Horw.
Church services as a meeting place
In 2000, the ever-growing community of Filipino Catholics in German-speaking Switzerland received its own Filipino priest. Since then, a service has been held every second Saturday of the month, at first in Horw, and in the church of St. Karl in Lucerne since 2005. To this day, it is an important meeting place, where the subsequent potluck party is a must. Because fellowship is very important.