Sister Ruth Gengler was born in Aurora, Illinois, in 1944. School Sisters of St. Francis were no strangers to her, as she had two aunts in our community, and she was taught by the School Sisters in grade school and high school. When Ruth was in third and fourth grade, she was intrigued by the sisters. She saw them as holy women, close to God, and thought she would like to be a sister. That idea slipped to the back of her mind until she was a senior in high school.
As a senior, she wrote letters to different communities asking about becoming a sister. Ruth’s desire was to work in an orphanage. The School Sisters of St. Francis did not have any orphanages in the United States, and Ruth was not drawn to being a missionary. When she received a letter from Mother Clemens, the letter was so welcoming that she considered the School Sisters of St. Francis. Mother Clemens told her that there would be many opportunities to work with young children, so in 1962, Ruth entered the community.
Ruth’s ministries took her to many different places. Her happiest days were those spent with young handicapped and mentally challenged children. She loved to see their eyes light up when they had an “a-ha” moment, and that joy continued as she taught kindergarten. Ruth related a story about a little boy. She was telling the mother that her son did not know the letters of the alphabet, but the little boy insisted that he did. He could sing it, but he had to admit, “I just don’t know their looks.”
Once a mother told Sister Ruth that she often was at their dinner table. Ruth was confused, as she hadn’t visited the family’s home. The mother explained that her two high school daughters often connected something they had learned in kindergarten with what they were currently learning in religion class.
Often her kindergarten children would say “You are the bestest teacher I ever had!” And Ruth would laugh to herself and say under breath, “Yes, I am the only teacher you have ever had.” But because she ministered at St. John’s in Johnsburg, Illinois, for 25 years, those words took on a very different meaning when young adults returned and said, “You were one of my best teachers.” It gave her great joy to see her students grow up and enter young adulthood.
As Sister reflected on her life in community, she spoke of how grateful she was for the many sisters who helped her grow. They inspired her with their passion and energy, and they helped her to become the best she could be. Many of these friendships continue today.
Sister Ruth is excited to celebrate her 60 years as a School Sister of St. Francis. She is grateful for the call, and the courage to answer the call. Ruth, may you continue to grow in your love of God and your service to God’s people, with friends always at your side.
<< Back to Jubilarian list