Ursuline Sister Larraine Lauter accepted her honor as one of Brescia University’s Distinguished Alumni on Sept. 19 by saying, “There is no me, only we.”
“I acknowledged my table guests as representative of many who have joined me in collaboration over the years, and the truth that no one accomplishes anything on their own,” she told those gathered at Owensboro’s RiverPark Center.
Sister Larraine is a 1987 graduate of Brescia and serves as executive director of Water With Blessings, a nonprofit organization that trains mothers in impoverished countries how to filter drinking water for their small communities. She was honored along with 1970 graduate Michael C. Hagan and 1976 graduate Kevin J. Connelly.
“There is graced synchronicity in the fact that the work of fellow honoree Kevin Connelly, founding director of The Center for Non-Profit Excellence, played a major guiding role in the successful development of Water With Blessings,” she said. “I was thrilled to learn that Kevin, whom I have known for several years, would be honored.”
Sister Larraine became the seventh Ursuline Sister of Mount Saint Joseph to receive the prestigious award from Brescia, the highest honor the university bestows. Previous winners were Sister Vivian Bowles, Sister Ruth Gehres, Sister Michele Morek, Sister Joseph Angela Boone, Sister Rose Marita O’Bryan and Sister Dianna Ortiz. Sister Vivian, Sister Ruth and Sister Joseph Angela were present for the award ceremony with Sister Larraine.
The Distinguished Alumni Award honors those graduates who exemplify the elements that encompass The Brescia Difference: Respect for the Sacred, Devotion to Learning, Commitment to Growth in Virtue and Promotion of Servant Leadership. Because of the breadth and scope of their life’s work, the magnitude of their impact on the regional, national and often international scene and their examples of service and leadership, alumni who receive this esteemed honor have distinguished themselves among their peers and demonstrated that they are true stars of Brescia.
Sister Larraine graduated from Brescia with a double major in fine arts and education, but she was already teaching while she worked on completing her degree.
“I enjoyed an extended run of studies at Brescia, thanks to the practice at that time of putting us into the teaching field before we completed our degrees … and actually, that was very helpful to me,” she said. “I had wonderful professors in both art and elementary ed.”
She also gave a plug for the liberal arts education offered at Brescia, contrasting the doubts that some have for such an education.
“I did teach art for 10-plus years, with happy success — but I came to a deep appreciation for the value of both my arts focus and liberal arts in general when it comes to tackling virtually any opportunity for ministry and career,” Sister Larraine said. “My studies at Brescia prepared me for whatever door God would open next, as I learned the values and skills of persistent creativity, the critical perspective of others, historical context, a basic working knowledge of a wide variety of subjects (for example, I never expected to put to good use my classes in biology and South American history), and most importantly, a solid spiritual foundation for all.”
Following her teaching career, Sister Larraine earned a master’s degree in theology from St. Meinrad School of Theology and became a pastoral associate, liturgist and musician. In 2002 she started Migrant Immigrant Shelter & Support, offering housing and support to migrant farm workers in Owensboro. She led that until 2006, when she moved to Louisville to care for her dying mother, and got involved in Hispanic ministry at the Church of the Epiphany. She was minister for social responsibility at the church until 2012, when she became fully involved in Water With Blessings, which is headquartered in Louisville.
She had been traveling to Honduras twice a year with a medical mission team and she and her companions were frustrated by the number of children who were ill due to contaminated drinking water. Their efforts led to the creation of Water With Blessings, which raises money to purchase the Sawyer PointONE filtration system, an affordable, reliable method of cleaning water with only a filter and a bucket. The filter removes 99.9999 percent of the bacteria, and results show the children where it’s used are no longer getting dysentery or parasites.
The organization prayerfully selects “Water Women” to be trained with the filters and to promise to clean water for more than just their family. There are now 8,500 Water Women in 30 countries in Africa, South America, Central America and Asia.