Sister Earnest was born in Macao, and grew up in Hong Kong. She attended Maryknoll Convent School and Northcote Teacher Training College in Hong Kong. She taught at Maryknoll Convent School for four years before entering Maryknoll in 1968. She earned a B.S. in elementary education from Rogers College in 1970.
In 1970, Sister Earnest was assigned to Hawaii and taught science in the sixth, seventh and eighth grades. She then became audio-visual coordinator in the diocesan Religious Education office.
Sister Earnest began her many years of ministry to the elderly in 1973 at Catholic Charities Hawaii, which is an agency that four Maryknoll Sisters started in 1947. Sister Earnest began her work there as a bilingual outreach worker. She moved on to become a consumer education specialist, a community services advisor, and an administrative assistant. She received her Master’s Degree in Public Health from the University of Hawaii in 1984, and became the first executive director of Catholic Charities Elderly Services the same year.
Sister Earnest returned to Maryknoll in 1987 and was the director of the Third Age Office and then the manager of the Mission Education Office. She went back to Hawaii in 1993, to continue her ministry with older adults and their families, through her work at the Honolulu Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.
She returned to Catholic Charities in 1995 and served as the executive director of Catholic Charities Immigration Services. She became the social policy director in 1999, coordinating the advocacy efforts of Catholic Charities in Hawaii (CCH). CCH provides services to low-income families and elderly people, immigrants, refugees, homeless people, and youth and children who are at risk. CCH works with local communities of goodwill and national organizations to provide services and advocacy to those in need.
Sister Earnest’s contribution to improving the lives of older adults in Hawaii was recognized by the Hawaiian Pacific Gerontological Society in their Nalima Kokua Community Service Award, presented to her in 1994. The award states: “Throughout all her work, Sister Earnest has put service to the community and the seniors at the top of her priorities. With her many years of service, as well as her continuing energy and enthusiasm, she is dedicated to promoting the best life possible for our elders.”
In 2011, Sister Earnest served as Co-Director of the Congregational Personnel Office at the Maryknoll Sisters Center, Maryknoll, NY. In 2017, she was re-assigned to Hawaii.