Sister Imelda Laub, SNDdeN

Sister Imelda Laub, SNDdeN

December 10, 1917 - February 5, 2015

Josephine Laub grew up in Hammond, Indiana and Calumet City, Illinois. She would jokingly remark that, as a child, she could stand with one foot in Indiana and one in Illinois. The daughter of Hungarian-Austrian immigrants, Josephine learned early the value of family relationships, friendships and hard work. She first met the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur when she enrolled at St. Victor School, Calumet City at the beginning of third grade. She finished her elementary and secondary education at St. Victor’s and spent the summer of 1935 completing training at Standard Business College in Hammond, Indiana to use a Comptometer, which was the first commercially successful key-driven mechanical calculator.

Even though the Depression was in full-swing in 1935, Josephine found employment with a local attorney. She stayed life-long friends with her employer and his daughters. How did she go from secretary to Sister of Notre Dame? In 2002 she described her religious call:
“I started thinking about religious life when I was in the fifth grade… There was a statue of Jesus holding a book. On it was written, ‘If you love Me, follow Me.’ How could I say ‘no’?
“The desire to follow Him stayed and I wanted to enter the convent as soon as I graduated from high school. It was the Depression, though, so I worked for six years to help pay the mortgage on our family home. That was providential because my employer was an attorney and I gained valuable experience that I used later as a teacher.
“The experience also showed me again that I really was called to religious life, because I had a chance to move on with him when he became a judge. But the call to follow Jesus in Notre Dame was stronger, and I entered the convent in 1941.”

After entrance she became Sister Imelda and transitioned from secretary to teacher. Imelda spent her first two years of teaching with first and second graders. Imelda’s third assignment placed her at her beloved “St. X”, St. Xavier Commercial High School in downtown Cincinnati. There she combined her teaching skills with her business acumen. As she taught English, Typing and Accounting, she trained young women to be successful secretaries and bookkeepers in the business world. Imelda discovered she loved teaching. For her it was a gift to be able to pass on the knowledge and training she had received from her own teachers and her lived experiences in the business world. She wrote, “I’m so grateful I had a chance to help our students at St. Xavier reach their goals. Many of them were poor and they needed to be able to get jobs. The girls were in earnest, so we were glad to help them all that we could. I felt I was really helping the poor.”

Imelda did more than teach her students; she built relationships with them. She felt it was important to “have respect for each student, treating each one with dignity. Remember, actions can be good or bad, but people are only good.” Imelda served as the last principal of St. X and later worked with the St. Xavier Commercial High School Alumnae Association. She loved recalling fond memories, visiting with former students and renewing acquaintances. A regular attendee of their reunions, Imelda was very disappointed to have to refuse the invitation to the 2014 reunion.

When St. Xavier closed in 1960, Imelda continued teaching business courses at Notre Dame High School, Hamilton. While there, she also utilized her training in counseling as a Guidance Counselor and local superior.

In 1966 Imelda was named Assistant Treasurer to Sr. Gertrude Loyola. The world was rapidly changing and the Church and religious life were just at the beginning of a call to renewal that would lead to profound changes for the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. Imelda later said, “I’ve always seen change as a chance for a new beginning, and that perspective helped during my years as treasurer. There was a lot of change then, but the administration and the Sisters were so willing to do what was necessary! It was obvious to me God was inspiring us.” Sr. Carol Lichtenberg described one of the major changes through which Imelda guided the community: “The law was changed in 1972 allowing religious orders to enter the Social Security program. Because Imelda was active in networking with other religious order treasurers, she was up-to-date on this new possibility. It was a bit intimidating to think of suddenly starting to pay tax on these imagined “wages” for members of the province. But she worked through a decision with the Team and we applied in 1972 without delay. The files she left show detailed calculations and projections aimed at ascertaining the real benefit of this new approach.” Imelda succeeded Gertrude Loyola as Provincial Treasurer in 1973, a post she held until Carol’s appointment in 1990.

Early in her work as Provincial Treasurer, Imelda realized she was again called to teach. This time it was the Sisters who needed her expertise. Smaller communities were being formed, and each had a local treasurer, who needed to be trained. Sometimes, that even included helping them write their first checks. Procedures and policies needed to be developed and then taught. Perhaps most importantly, Imelda felt every Sister needed to be able to read a spreadsheet and to be aware of her personal responsibility for the stewardship of the resources of the Province. This included raising awareness about the connection between social justice and responsible investment as well as bookkeeping. Imelda learned to drive in 1976 so that she and Sr. Rose Agnes could tour the Province, meeting with community after community to educate the Sisters. Sisters were welcome in her office where her guidance skills came in handy as she helped them with so many issues. Imelda created excellent financial reports. She walked the Sisters through them at Province Assemblies, patiently answering every question and always reminding them, “The Sisters are our greatest resource!”

Aware of the importance of keeping her knowledge current, Imelda participated in workshops and conferences in Canon Law, legal issues, investments and corporate responsibility, retirement planning and the Spirituality and Ministry of Religious Treasurers. The professionalism of her stewardship extended beyond the boundaries of the Ohio Province as Imelda shared her knowledge with other Notre Dame Treasurers from around the world. Imelda was a member of the Religious Treasurers of Tennessee, Ohio and Kentucky from 1968-1990 and served as their president for several of those years. She was a founding member of the National Association of Treasurers of Religious Institutes (NATRI), a larger networking of the local treasurer groups from around the country, in May, 1981 and served on their board until 1985. She served on the Archdiocese of Cincinnati’s Finance Board for 17 years and on the Board of Trustees for the Summit Country Day School during critical years. At the end of her term of service, the Summit Board thanked her for her “sharp financial acumen and persistence in financial responsibility that both kept the doors open in the ‘70s and put us on firm financial footing in the ‘80s… we recognize that the exciting future of the Summit could not have been possible without her nine years of gentle yet firm direction and help.”

As computers began to make their way into schools and homes, Imelda quickly saw the possibilities of using computers in her work. Imelda’s was the first provincial office outfitted with a computer. She named the computer “Claudia”, learned how to use it and by 1984 the financial records were on computer printouts.

Imelda was looking forward to retirement in 1990 when she was called to help with the community finances at Mount Notre Dame. She spent four more years directly sharing her financial expertise. In 1994 she volunteered to help in the Archives. Among her many tasks in there was the creation of searchable spreadsheets from over 100 years worth of handwritten entrance registers and charge lists. She continued to send descriptions of events in the Marian and Cuvilly communities to the Archives well into 2014. About her work in the Archives, Imelda said, “I lived through so much of the history of our Institute. I find it fascinating. It’s not really work.”

In 1969 Imelda had the chance to experience two important events in the history of Notre Dame. She served as a secretary at the General Chapter, which produced the Interim Acts that guided the Sisters of Notre Dame through the renewal years; and she was invited to remain in Rome after the Chapter to participate in the canonization of Saint Julie, Foundress of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. In 2012 Imelda shared her remembrances of the canonization. One line from Pope Paul VI’s homily in particular stayed with her through the years: “Saintliness is a drama of love between God and a human person. We proclaim that love!”

In community Imelda developed friendships with many Sisters. She loved to participate in community celebrations and activities. Imelda often enclosed personal and caring notes with checks or finance documents she sent to the local communities. Imelda regularly gave encouragement to her sisters and had a gift for listening. She enjoyed playing cards, traveling, mystery stories, cross word puzzles and listed ping pong as a hobby. Imelda carried on extensive correspondence with family and friends. She collected frogs because they were “greenbacks”, never wore a red suit because she did not want to be “in the red” and preferred to drive a green car. During the building of the Mount Notre Dame Health Center it was necessary for Imelda to move into an apartment with Sr. Carol Marie Diemunsch. Imelda wanted Carol Marie to come home to a to a meal she didn’t have to cook once in a while, so Imelda learned how to use a can opener and cook simple dishes. She lived St. Julie’s maxim, “Better mistakes than paralysis!”

At the Health Center, Imelda appreciated the quiet atmosphere, the good care and those who saw to her care. In 2014 she said, “In my opinion it is perfect! The nurses are excellent! The aides do a very good job. The men keep everything in good shape and are there when needed! The living rooms are perfect. I love the big window. It is a pleasure to live here. Thank you for giving me the pleasure!”

Imelda loved her family. She stayed close to her maternal aunt and god-mother, Magdalena until Magdalena’s death. She appreciated opportunities to visit her brother and her nephews Robert and Paul. She felt the most important thing in life was one’s relationship with God. One of her favorite verses was Romans 8:35: “What shall separate us from the love of Christ?” Imelda lived her life responding to the call of Christ to “Look at Me and follow Me.” Generations of Sisters will be grateful for the dedication, expertise and foresight Imelda brought to her work as Provincial Treasurer, but even more so her Sisters, family and friends have all been graced with her loving presence and example of a life fully and joyfully lived making known God’s goodness as a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur.

Bio Data:
Born December 10, 1917 in Chicago, Illinois
Parents: Joseph Laub (b. Hungary) and Mary Schwabada (b. Austria)
Brother: Robert Laub

Baptized Josephine Magdalena Laub January 6, 1918 at St. Michael Church, Chicago, Illinois
Confirmed May 29, 1927 at St. Victor Church, Calumet City, Illinois

Entered Notre Dame February 2, 1941 at Mt. Notre Dame
First Profession: August 13, 1943
Final Vows: August 13, 1949

Bachelor of Science in Education, University of Dayton, Dayton, Ohio 1951
Master of Education in Counseling, Xavier University, Cincinnati, Ohio 1959

Assignments include:
1944-1945 St. James School, Wyoming, Ohio
1945-1946 St. James School, Dayton, Ohio
1946-1960 St. Xavier Commercial High School, Cincinnati, Ohio
1960-1966 Notre Dame High School, Hamilton, Ohio
1966-1973 Assistant Treasurer, Province Offices, Mount Notre Dame, Reading, Ohio
1973-1990 Provincial Treasurer, Province Offices, Mount Notre Dame, Reading, Ohio
1990-1994 Community Finance, Mount Notre Dame Convent, Reading, Ohio
1994-2009 Clerical assistant in the Archives, Province Offices, Mount Notre Dame, Reading, Ohio
2009- 2015: Ministry of prayer, Mount Notre Dame Health Center, Reading, Ohio

Died at Mount Notre Dame February 5, 2015

Sr. Kim Dalgarn SNDdeN
February 5, 2015