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Sister Ruth Eileen Dwyer

Sister Ruth Eileen Dwyer

“A great pillar of the Woods has gone to sleep; her legacy lives in all those she embraced.” (a quote from a Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College alumna)

“It’s a pleasure for me to have an opportunity to say good things about Sister Ruth Eileen — “Ruthie” to most of us — because in many ways, Ruthie was an institution. She had a distinct personality and unique ways of getting things done,” said Sister Jeanne Knoerle in her commentary for Sister Ruth Eileen Dwyer, who died Oct. 7.

Eileen Dwyer entered this world Oct. 19, 1925, in Chicago to Russell and Ruth (Riddle) Dwyer. She was the oldest of three children. She attended St. Leo Grade School and the Academy of Our Lady, both in Chicago. Sister Ruth Eileen entered the Congregation Feb. 2, 1944, and professed first and perpetual vows Aug. 15, 1946, and 1951, respectively. She earned a business degree from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, a master’s degree in theology from St. Xavier, Chicago, and a doctor of ministry from St. Mary of the Lake University in Mundelein, Ill.

Sister Ruth Eileen commenced teaching in 1946 at St. Ann, Washington, D.C. In Illinois, she ministered at St. David, Chicago, and Mother Theodore Guerin High School, River Grove. Sister Ruth Eileen spent four years in California at St. Anthony, Gardena, and St. Therese, Alhambra. In Indiana, she ministered at Holy Spirit, Indianapolis, and St. Joseph, Hammond. She ministered in a variety of roles at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College including professor of theology to various administrative positions from 1967 to 2004. From 1981 to 1986, Sister Ruth Eileen also served in Congregation leadership.

“So, what do I want to say about Sister Ruth Eileen? First, that she was a trained, educated and enthusiastic teacher and theologian, who enjoyed her work and her students enormously. At a recent 50th eighth-grade reunion at Holy Spirit School in Indianapolis, a number of those who knew Sister Ruth Eileen spoke about her influence on them. ‘She was always larger than life,’ one said, ‘and such a strong and purposeful role model for us girls.’ And another: ‘I wish I could have gotten to see her again. She left a remarkable impression on me and I will always remember her.’ Four of the men in the class, commenting on what a great teacher she was, praised especially her unique ability to relate to the boys,” shared Sister Jeanne.

“Sister Ruth Eileen clearly had a contagious energy that engaged those who worked with her. Often they didn’t know how hard they were working or how much they were learning — they just knew they were enjoying working with Sister Ruth Eileen.

“Why was she a good teacher? I think there are a number of reasons, but probably the most important one was that she loved her students. She enjoyed engaging them in a good conversation or a good argument, she knew them personally and shared their good times and their hard times, laughing with them, crying with them, and pushing them always to learn more and more,” continued Sister Jeanne.

“And all those qualities made her a good person to live with as well as be taught by. I know that because I lived with her for many years. She joined in whatever work was going on. She cooked when it was her time — she was a very good cook, but I do somehow remember the unusual number of pots and pans she created in the process! She was always willing to join in whatever party or work or prayer was going on — nothing was ever too much work or too much fun for Sister Ruth Eileen. I remember often sitting with her in our living room at the Woodland Inn about 11 at night, sharing a drink and some good conversation before we each decided to find a bed and some rest. I wish I had that energy now! But somehow I think Sister Ruth Eileen has probably brought it into heaven with her — and things are beginning to move up there!” said Sister Jeanne.

“But when her strength began to weaken, she left Woodland Inn to be taken care of in Mother Theodore Hall. It was difficult for all who knew her to see her begin to lose her perennial enthusiasm for life. But one of the best moments for her during this last portion of her life was to see Claudette [her sister who resides in the Congregation’s Health Care] arrive and to have time to visit with her, to enjoy her company and to see her well taken care of. And as she begins her life in heaven I think we all know she will bring joy and enthusiasm and an amount of energy that even heaven may not have seen before,” concluded Sister Jeanne.

The Mass of Christian Burial for Sister Ruth Eileen was celebrated Oct. 14, with the Rev. Daniel Hopcus presiding. She is survived by her sister, Claudette, and her brother, David, of Verona, Wis.

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