Sister Ruth Fecke SNDdeN
August 26, 1943 – August 10, 2020
“We exist only for the poor, only for the poor, absolutely only for the poor.”
(Letter 86, Saint Julie Billiart, Foundress of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur)
The middle child of five, Ruth Ann Fecke grew up in Immaculate Conception Parish, Dayton, Ohio. Her parents valued Catholic education and modeled active involvement in parish life for their children. Ruth first met the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur at Immaculate Conception Parish School. They would be her teachers for 12 years. It was through the Sisters that Ruth came to know and love Saint Julie. She was drawn to Julie’s simplicity, joy, and absolute commitment to helping people trapped in poverty. By the middle of her senior year of high school, Ruth felt strongly that God was calling her to live a life of service as a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur. She entered the community in September 1961.
Ruth received the name Sister Alice Julie as a novice and was known by that name until 1968 when she chose to return to her baptismal name. With the other novices, Ruth prepared for the ministry of teaching and would spend 26 years in formal education. Over the course of those years, she taught every grade except third. Math was her specialty. Ruth’s analytical mind made it easy for her to break complex concepts into smaller pieces. Her creativity helped her figure out how to help students take those smaller pieces and put them together successfully. Ruth kept good discipline in the classroom while mixing in a little fun and helping the students find joy in learning. She took a special interest in students who struggled to learn and did everything she could to help all of her students succeed.
Ongoing education was a regular part of Ruth’s life. She updated her own knowledge on a myriad of topics for professional growth and self-growth regularly. Ruth also took computer workshops and classes as early as 1980 – well before most of the community knew what computers were. She was always willing to explore how new innovations and technologies could help her students learn. If a machine happened to be involved, she loved figuring out how it worked. Ruth also saw the needs of children outside the classroom. During the years she served in Columbus, Ohio, she became involved in addressing the needs of families in the inner-city, and regularly traveled to a residential facility for children who were mentally challenged to teach religious education. In everything she did, her focus was on how she could help make the world a better place through serving others, especially people trapped in poverty.
After some time for herself when she finished teaching, Ruth helped in the Provinces Offices while she looked for other ways to be of service. She thought taking her knowledge for numbers into the business world would help by bringing in a good salary to further her community’s direct work with poor people, and so she took bookkeeping positions. Through her experience, Ruth realized her call was to be involved in doing direct ministry to people trapped in poverty.
Ruth accepted a position as the Administrative Assistant for the Community Land Co-op in downtown Cincinnati in 2003. She managed the office and coordinated the appliance donation program which matched co-op families in need of working appliances with people replacing usable appliances with newer models. In 2009, Ruth’s supervisor reported she had saved 1000 appliances from the landfill. That translated into over 50 tons of waste averted and over $200,000 worth of good appliances saved and placed in the hands of people in need. She also kept the office running smoothly: cutting costs in purchasing office supplies, lowering utility bills, and other expenses. Most valuable of all was her reliability. The quality of her work was without question and she could always be counted on to get a job done right. Ruth’s health made it impossible for her to continue as Administrative Assistant, but she continued helping with the appliance donation program through 2014.
Simplicity and a strong commitment to living poorly were hallmarks of Ruth’s community life. Her community members were very grateful for Ruth’s math skills as she served as treasurer of many communities where she lived, including the Julie Community for 13 years. She enjoyed the challenge of grocery shopping and in her younger years volunteered to cook for the large communities in Columbus and Hamilton during the summers. Ruth enjoyed community parties of all types. She was an avid card player, loved to read, enjoyed music and singing, liked the challenge of word puzzles, and at one point listed piano and debate as skills. Ruth took a sincere interest in her Sisters far and near. She would remember funny stories from community living and personal connections, retelling them years later. Ruth looked for ways to help Sisters in the global south, including selling magnets to raise money for their living and educational expenses. She kept up with the world and developments concerning social justice issues through the internet and reading. Ruth regularly brought current issues into conversation. She participated in ongoing formation opportunities, served on the Province Justice and Peace Committee, and represented the province on the board of the Intercommunity Justice and Peace Collaborative.
Ruth was devoted to her family. Throughout the year, she kept her eyes open for simple gifts that she spent hours wrapping and packaging to send to California and Michigan for Christmas celebrations. She enjoyed phone conversations until her hearing became an issue. Ruth visited with family when she could, and so appreciated it when they visited her. A highlight of her life was a cruise with Janet and Jody.
At the time of her Golden Jubilee, Ruth shared, “I’ve sensed a pattern in my life. When something happens that is difficult for me, I’ve found if I stay with what’s going on, I inevitably find the goodness of God. I can see how it has made me a better person, or brought good into my life.” As her Sisters, family and friends mourn her death, we give thanks for the many ways Ruth made God’s goodness known to us. We ask her prayers for us, that, as we journey through what feels like sorrow and loss, may we find God’s goodness and joy. Grateful that Ruth’s suffering has ended, we cry out: Oh! How good God is!
- Born August 26, 1943 in Dayton, Ohio
- Parents: Ralph M. Fecke (born in Dayton, Ohio) and Alice M. Hare (born in Dayton, Ohio)
- Siblings: Mary Lou Fecke Pax, Janet Fecke, Rita Fecke Manchester, Ralph Fecke
- Baptized September 12, 1943 at Immaculate Conception Church, Dayton, Ohio
- Confirmed June 15, 1952 at Immaculate Conception Church, Dayton, Ohio
- Entered September 8, 1961 at Mt. Notre Dame
- First Profession: August 13, 1964
- Final Profession: August 12, 1971
- Immaculate Conception Parish School, Dayton, Ohio, 1957
- Julienne High School, Dayton, Ohio, 1961
- Bachelor of Science in Education, University of Dayton, Dayton, Ohio, 1967
- Master of Education in Educational Administration, Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, 1977
- 1964-1965 Holy Family School, Dayton, Ohio
- 1965-1967 Student, University of Dayton, Dayton, Ohio
- 1967-1972 Our Lady of the Rosary School, Dayton, Ohio
- 1972-1977 St. Augustine School, Columbus, Ohio
- 1977-1979 Catholic Central Community School, Hamilton, Ohio
- 1979-1982 St. James School, Wyoming, Ohio
- 1982-1983 Active Spirituality Program, Mt. St. Joseph College, Mt. St. Joseph, Ohio
- 1983-1993 St. Dominic School, Cincinnati, Ohio
- 1993-1995 Sabbatical
- 1995-1997 Support Staff, Development Office, Mount Notre Dame, Reading, Ohio
- 1997-1999 Temporary Services, Accountemps, Sharonville, Ohio
- 1999-2002 Accounts Payable Clerk, Fechheimer Uniform Company, Cincinnati, Ohio
- 2003-2010 Administrative Assistant, Community Land Co-op, Cincinnati, Ohio
- 2011-2014 Appliance Matching Program, Cincinnati, Ohio
- 2014-2020 Ministry of Prayer & Presence, Mt. Notre Dame, Reading, Ohio
Died August 10, 2020, at Mt. Notre Dame, Reading, Ohio
Sr. Kim Dalgarn SNDdeN
August 10, 2020