"I thought, 'Hey, that's not a bad idea!' But it appealed to me more for the adventure than anything else."
"I wasn't a leader; I was a follower. If she hadn't suggested it, I never would have thought about this life. Maybe God used her to get me in. On my own I don't think I would have gone."
So it was something of a lark that led her to St. Anne Convent. Her father didn't want her to go, but her mother said, "Don't worry. She'll be back in three days."
That was 65 years ago.
She found life at the convent strict, "but it was strict at home, too. You could feel the caring, the sisterhood of everyone in the novitiate." As she started her career as a Sister and teacher, Ruth learned that travel was part of the lifestyle.
"The first place I went to was Mt. Sterling, in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains of Kentucky," she recalls. After five or six months, she was off to several stops in Northern Kentucky: St. Bernard in Dayton and Immaculate Heart of Mary in Hebron were a couple of her stations. Then she was off to Corbin, Kentucky (St. Camillus Academy), Wheeling, West Virginia (St. Michael Parish School), and Winchester, Kentucky (St. Agatha Academy).
Sister Ruth taught middle grades—fourth, fifth, and sixth. She taught everything: academic subjects as well as art, music, and gym. ("We had no special teachers in those days, and no computers"). Math was her favorite, though.
"I liked teaching math and reading. I wasn't so crazy about English—there were so many grammar rules. But math was fun. I would make up games with one aisle against the next. One student was having trouble with her multiplication tables and I had her practice while bouncing a ball. Within a month, she had it down. It had something to do with the coordination of the muscles and the brain. I'm not sure how, exactly, but it worked!"
"I loved teaching. I could have fun with the kids and still set the limits. I loved the kids," Sister Ruth says. "Every once in a while I'll hear from some of the kids I taught, especially through Facebook. I love to hear from them."
Now, as she celebrates her sixtieth jubilee year, Sister Ruth calls herself "semi-retired." "I help out at Our Lady, Star of the Sea, in [Solomons] Maryland. I work with the kindergartners on letters and counting and teach cursive writing to second- and third-graders. At lunch I help kids peel bananas and oranges, pass out napkins and utensil, and open a lot of yogurts!"
As much as she loves working with children (and they love her!), Sister Ruth's primary ministry is pastoral. She visits about thirteen people each week—some older folks, some who are ill, some who can't drive or make it to church. She provides that much-needed connection for them and lets them know that they are still remembered, still important, still loved.
What about that good friend, Midge? "She left the convent in the 90s," Ruth says. "It was sort of a shock, but I was OK with it. I knew she wasn't happy and I wanted her to be happy. Maybe her vocation took her in another direction."
But this time Ruth didn't follow. "Sure, I sometimes had doubts when I was in my 20s and 30s. But something always kept me in. Usually it was a good sister. And from my mother, I had learned to really appreciate the importance of service. And our mission is to go out to all nations and teach them, in the name of the Lord. What a wonderful thing—to go out and help people!"
"I saw so many examples of our Sisters helping others and I knew that's what I wanted to do," she says.
"I thank God each day for my vocation," Sister Ruth says, "I have no regrets at all." All those years ago, "I had no idea except adventure in my mind. And it has been an adventure!"
Created with an image by Julentto Photography - "untitled image"