Sister Louise Noesen

Sister Louise NoesenChicago and its suburbs were Sister Louise’s home and places of ministry. She attended St. Matthias School in Chicago and then Alvernia High School. The School Sisters of St. Francis were her teachers and she loved them because they were so happy. 

Sister Louise had some relatives who were part of the Poor Handmaid Sisters community, and she laughed whenever she recalled their first meeting. Her mother had invited those sisters to come for a visit, but they had never visited before, and Louise had not met them. Louise’s mother told her to welcome them and make them feel at home because she was busy with the baby. When the sisters arrived, Louise opened the door, but when they asked to see the Noesen family, they pronounced the name in such a way that Louise said, “No one lives here by that name” and she sent them away! She said that once that confusion was resolved, the sisters gave her a box of chocolates. She remembers punching out the bottom of each piece to see which chocolates were jelly-filled!

Sister Louise was one of two girls and two boys in her family. Her mother died when she was a sophomore in high school. Louise’s father remarried shortly before she was received into the community. Through this marriage she gained a stepbrother who lived in New York, and later in life Louise enjoyed visiting him there.

When Sister Louise thought about becoming a sister, she thought the sisters prayed all day. When she became a sister, she did faithfully pray the Divine Office, which enriched her spiritual life. She said she very much welcomed the community’s changes after Vatican II including the changes in clothing, the chance to choose one’s own ministry, and more opportunities to visit family members.

Sister Louise was very close to her cousin Jim. He was a good artist, as was her sister Therese, and both of her brothers. But Louise hated art in eighth grade, especially when her teacher asked the students to draw the face of a person. She couldn’t have imagined that she would end up teaching five classes of art at that very same school, St. Matthias!

On one visit with Jim after she became a teacher, Sister Louise admitted that she was having trouble coming up with art projects for her youngest students. Jim suggested that she ask them to scribble on a piece of paper and then color in the empty spaces. Scribble art turned out to be a good project for them. She said the art fairs for grades one through eight gave her much pride and joy.

Sister Louise’s most life-giving mission was at St. Cyprian Parish in River Grove, Illinois. The priests were very kind and asked her to be the parish receptionist, helping after the secretary left for the day and on the weekends.

When St. Cyprian School closed, Sister Louise and Sister Rita Mae Rabitoy retired at the parish. The two of them baked thousands of cookies for the parish festivals and for our School Sister Fall Sale in Milwaukee. Sister Rita Mae taught her how to bake an angel food cake and run a knife through the batter to release the air bubbles. Sister Louise remembered one time when, instead of the usual knife method, she pounded the pan on the table. The cake turned out very flat. She decided to poke holes in the cake and pour Jello into the holes. A poke cake was born!

Sister Louise said her biggest challenge was being asked to teach a subject she didn’t know well, and that included math. But she had many pleasant memories, including one boy in junior high who came in early one morning and told her, “Get rid of all the girls!”  Sister Louise told him, “Someday you will want to get married. You will need a girl for that!” Sure enough, some years later, she was invited to this young man’s home for a Sunday dinner, at which time he announced his engagement!

Sister Louise, you said that the three words that people would use to describe you in your 70 years of religious life would be cheerful, creative, and helpful. Your family, students, and the School Sisters of St. Francis would agree! Happy Jubilee!