June 27, 1939 – July 13, 2022
“We must be strong in our trust in God, and keep our eyes fixed constantly on Him alone. He will take care of us all.” (St. Julie Billiart, Foundress, Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur)
Judith Alice Wessels grew up in the St. John the Evangelist and St. Vincent Ferrer parishes in Cincinnati. She was the only child of the “most wonderful parents in the universe” until her beloved sister, Sue, was born when Judith was eight. She attended Mt. Notre Dame Academy, Reading, Ohio, for both her primary and secondary education, and it was there she came to know the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur.
The Sisters nurtured Judith’s creativity, faith and love of all God’s creation. Gradually she began to feel called to religious life. Over 40 years later she described a vocation as a "…whisper, a certainty, a feeling that ‘this is my thing’. If the whisper is genuine, it will return – and sometimes when a person least suspects. God is the ‘caller’; God never gives up.” As the ‘whisper’ grew stronger for Judith, she thought about becoming a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur. She experienced her teachers working together like a family. They impressed her as being happy, peaceful and having the good of others in mind. It was in March of her junior year that, showing wisdom beyond her years, Judith began spiritual direction with a priest who was recommended to her to discern the depth of her call. Her parents were not thrilled with the idea of her entering religious life. But the whisper grew stronger. Judith filled out her application to enter in late January of her senior year and entered the community in September, 1956. Eventually her mother ‘tolerated’ her decision and her father was overjoyed. Over 40 years later Judith wrote, “The joys outweigh any hardship ever. A loving relationship with the Lord, with the Sisters and with many other people across the years is well worth difficulty which may be involved. No one has been promised a rose garden anyway!”
Judith received the name Sister Judith Anne as a novice, and prepared for the ministry of teaching. Over the years she would work with students of differing ages, but her special love was the very youngest students. While teaching the 1st grade in the mid-1960s she said, “The children at this age are delightful…The greatest happiness would be for me to be allowed to teach grade one for the rest of my teaching career.” Religion, Reading, Art were her teaching specialties. Judith wrote The Story of St Julie for Children to help the very young learn about a saint who had had tremendous influence on her own life.
Beginning in the late 1960s, Judith became aware of diverse ministerial needs that were developing within the Church and the Sisters of Notre Dame. Many of the Sisters were encouraged to consider going into religious education full-time as the needs for new programs grew in the wake of the renewal of the Second Vatican Council. Judith responded to the call and served as the Religious Education Coordinator in Groveport, Ohio, for two years before returning to full-time teaching. By 1979, her community was in need of nurses to care for aging members. Judith volunteered for a year as a Nurse’s Aide at Mt. Notre Dame Health Center to discern if she had skills to serve as a nurse. She enrolled in nursing school at the end of that year, earned her RN and returned to Mt. Notre Dame Health Center where she served for five years as a nurse. Judith then spent three years helping with research and writing in the Ohio Unit Archives. She shared her gift of words during this time by crafting many a memorial after the death of a Sister.
Judith accepted the position of Director of Religious Education at Sts. Peter and Paul Parish, Reading, Ohio, in 1991. She coordinated and helped teach the CCD classes, served on the Worship Committee and the Education Commission, and was an active member of the parish far beyond the four years she worked there. Judith served on Parish Council, the Mission Commission, as a volunteer with the Network of Care and on the Reading Church Council. She was an active member of the Altar and Rosary Society and the Adult Choir. Judith participated in the Cursillo movement, ongoing weekly scripture study groups, and continued to teach CCD and help with bingo when needed.
After one more year spent teaching little ones full time, Judith accepted a full-time position that utilized all of her skills. In 1990, while ministering in other places full-time, she started as a part-time receptionist at the Faber House Jesuit Residence in Cincinnati. In 1996 the position became full-time. What started out as answering the telephone and door for the community grew to include serving as receptionist for the Jesuit Development Office located in the same building, taking care of all the medical billing, secretarial work, listener, cajoler, and occasional nurse. Judith enjoyed working with the Jesuits and the variety of tasks involved. She continued at Faber House until asked to take responsibility for the Province Library at Mt. Notre Dame in 2009.
As Province Librarian Judith constantly acquired and accessioned new books for the library, while at the same time finding new homes for books no longer being borrowed. She started a much appreciated featured theme for each month. Books relating to that topic were displayed in the library to catch the interest of passers-by. Judith was also responsible for maintaining the periodicals and the tape library. She welcomed books that came to her by way of Sisters’ divestments and gifts from friends of the Sisters. Always Judith kept the library in good form and “user friendly.” She served as Province Librarian until June, 2022.
In community Judith was known for her willingness to be of help with anything from helping in the kitchen to serving at Mass. She served on the Province Finance Board for 10 years and on the Ohio Unit Assembly. Judith was also known for her gentle humor, creativity and great simplicity of life. She was a good listener who enjoyed learning the stories of individuals she met. One Sister described her as “one of the most creative persons I’ve ever met”. Her creativity took many forms. She could write appropriate verses to a tune everyone knew for any kind of community celebration. Her creative writing came in handy as she organized entertainment for Jubilee celebrations. Judith used up extra yarn to create little signs and nativity sets out of plastic canvas that were then sold in the Mt. Notre Dame Gift Shop to raise money for the Notre Dame missions and other causes. She also made hats for children and babies living in poverty. Judith was an active member of a local Poets’ Corner group that met twice a month. She published three small books of poetry, won 1st place in at least one poetry contest and kept binders of poetry and song lyrics she had written. Judith also loved music: both listening to classical music and playing the dulcimer. She actively participated in the Cincinnati Dulcimer Society for a number of years. Judith loved quiet places, quiet prayer, reading, crossword puzzles, card playing, good parties, good food and dogs!
A great joy of Judith’s life was her participation in a pilgrimage to Saint Julie sites in France and Belgium in 2004. Julie was a life-long inspiration to Judith. She took to heart Julie’s advice about simplicity. Judith said of herself, “I am organized and like to keep my life simple.” No one who ever saw her room doubted that statement. Judith also took to heart Julie’s advice to trust God’s goodness. At the time of her 60th Jubilee, Judith wrote, “A few years ago I decided to have a personal motto and I chose Psalm 37. ‘Trust in the Lord and do good.’ It’s been a powerful guiding force for me ever since. I’m comforted by the prayer – by being able to trust in the Lord. And, while I know I may not always have ‘done good,’ I know I’ve always done my best.”
Judith’s sudden illness took everyone by surprise. She faced it with great simplicity and trust in our good God. As her family, Sisters and friends gather to celebrate the many ways Judith made God’s goodness known to so many, we thank her for doing her best and for encouraging each of us to do the same. We thank God for the gift she has been to so many, and we ask Judith to keep us all in prayer as we reflect on a verse from Emily Dickinson she held close to her heart:
If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain:
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.
- Born June 27, 1939 in Cincinnati, Ohio
- Parents: J. Edward Wessels (born Cincinnati, Ohio) and Ursula Margaret Berning (born Cincinnati, Ohio)
- Sibling: Sue Wessels Packard
- Baptized on July 16, 1939 at St. John the Evangelist Church, Deer Park, Ohio
- Confirmed on May 28, 1946 at St. John the Evangelist Church, Deer Park, Ohio
- Entered September 8, 1956 at Mt. Notre Dame
- First Profession: March 12, 1959
- Final Profession: August 13, 1964
- Mt. Notre Dame Academy, Reading, Ohio, 1956
- BS in Education from Our Lady of Cincinnati College, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1966
- RN in Nursing, Mt. Carmel Hospital, Columbus Ohio, 1983
- MED Montessori, Xavier University, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1995
- 1959-1963 Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Parish School, Reading, Ohio
- 1963-1964 Summit Country Day School, Cincinnati, Ohio
- 1964-1967 St. Aloysius Parish School, Columbus, Ohio
- 1967-1971 St. Victor Parish School, Calumet City, Illinois
- 1971-1973 Religious Education Coordinator, Groveport, Ohio
- 1973-1979 Corpus Christi Parish School, Columbus, Ohio
- 1979-1980 Nurse's Aide, Mt. Notre Dame Health Center, Reading, Ohio
- 1980-1983 Student, Mt. Carmel Hospital, Columbus, Ohio
- 1983-1988 Nurse, Mt. Notre Dame Health Center, Reading, Ohio
- 1988-1990 Researcher, Archives, Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, Reading, Ohio
- 1990-1991 Assistant Archivist, Kitchen Assistant, Reading, Ohio
- 1991-1995 Director of Religious Education, Sts. Peter and Paul Parish Reading, Ohio
- 1995-1996 Terry's Montessori, Cincinnati, Ohio – teacher
- 1990-1996 Receptionist, Faber House Jesuit Residence, Cincinnati, Ohio
- 1996-2009 Faber House Jesuit Residence, Cincinnati, Ohio
- 2009-2022 Province Librarian, Mt. Notre Dame, Reading, Ohio
- Died July 13, 2022 at Mt. Notre Dame Health Center, Reading, Ohio
Sr. Kim Dalgarn SNDdeN
July 14, 2022