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The indelible mark of Providence: Interview with Barbara Ringenberger

Barbara at her first communion during her 2nd grade year

“Sister Eleanor Therese taught us how to read using the phonics method and how to write a proper sentence. We didn’t have fancy labs or computers but I received a good, solid education from the sisters and it has served me well,” says Barbara Ringenberger, referring to her first grade teacher Sister of Providence Eleanor Therese Beckman (RIP).

Young Barbara began walking the path of Providence as a student at St. Catherine of Siena elementary school in Indianapolis, where the Sisters of Providence taught from 1922-1976. Even at that young age, Barbara feels she learned from the sisters the importance of reading and writing, prayer and having a deep faith in God.

Barbara’s St. Catherine’s school

Sister Francis Ellen (Sister Dorothy Hucksoll) (RIP) taught Barbara in 5th and 8th grades. Sister knew Barbara loved Indiana history. So one day sister gave her a little book to write down historical quotations that she liked. “When one of the sisters was out sick, the teachers would put me in charge of the class. I became their favorite substitute teacher,” Barbara chuckles.

Inspired to teach

Due to the influence of the sisters, Barbara went on to become a middle school geography and American history teacher in Florida. She later attained her Ph.D.

Barbara receiving her PH. D. diploma in June of 1981

Her experience with the Sisters of Providence helped her through life, Barbara said. When Barbara applied to the doctorate program at Florida State University, she said they gave her a reading and writing test. “They figured if we were going for our doctorate degree, we’d better be able to write a thesis,” said Barbara.

There were five children in Barbara’s family and her younger brother, Harry, became a priest. “We learned spiritual values as well as academics from the Sisters of Providence,” said Barbara. “And, the sisters taught us how you should treat people.”

An Easter card that Barbara made for her parents under the creative guidance of Sister Eleanor Therese in first grade.

Barbara’s belief in prayer has remained strong throughout her life. When her nephew, Danny, needed his fifth open heart surgery, she Googled online prayer resources and found the Sisters of Providence website. She filled out the prayer request and Sister Marie Kevin Tighe (RIP) returned her call. “She was very busy but she called me and took my prayer request. She then put me in touch with Kathy Fleming, a former Sister of Providence and long-time friend of the Congregation.” Barbara and Kathy began a strong friendship that continues today.

Barbara feels certain that Mother Theodore helped Danny through that surgery and with his ongoing health struggles. “He’s had so many complicated health issues and all the prayers from the sisters helped save him.”

Supporting the mission

Barbara supports the mission and ministries of the Sisters of Providence because they had such a wonderful impact on her life. “The sisters worked diligently to provide my brother and me with an education, both spiritual and academic, that throughout our lives has opened doors as we progressed through our lives,” said Barbara. “I do try to send at least a yearly donation. I know that whatever amount I give will be put to the best possible use.”

Barbara with her nephew Danny

Barbara retired from teaching in 2007. Before the Covid-19 pandemic hit, she was active at St. Pius the X Catholic Church in Ft. Lauderdale. She credits the pandemic for helping her finally learn to cook. Her nephew still calls her twice a day to check in on her.

(Originally published in the Fall 2020 issue of HOPE magazine.)

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Diane Weidenbenner

Diane Weidenbenner is director of marketing and communications for the Sisters of Providence Mission Advancement office. She's also a Providence Associate.

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