Sister Luisa Bickett, OSU: “I’ve always felt drawn to the poor.”

Bob and Francil Higdon of Beaver Dam are longtime friends and supporters of Sister Luisa. Francil (Riney) Higdon is a graduate of Mount Saint Joseph Academy.

“We went to Santiago and worked in a Jesuit boys school,” recalls Sister Luisa. “We taught English and religion there for six years and developed our own Spanish speaking skills. I left Santiago for Chillán where I worked at a boys’ Jesuit school for two years and then at a Maryknoll Missionioners’ school for two more years. I then left to do pastoral work in the población (slum areas) of Chillán with the Maryknoll fathers while living with the Maryknoll sisters.”

The pastoral work in the slums of Chillán lasted for eight years, until 1983.

In 1979 Sister Mary Elizabeth Ballard, affectionately known as Sister Mimi, came to Chillán to begin her ministry in South America. Sister Luisa, who had been living with the Maryknoll sisters, found a house in the población, and she and Sister Mimi took up residence there.

Holy Redeemer parishoners Gail and Jerry Critchelow became friends with Sister Luisa shortly after they moved to Beaver Dam in 1986.

Before Sister Luisa left Chillan to return to the States, Sister Rosemary Keough came there to join Sister Mimi.

Leaving the Chillán mission in the hands of Sister Mimi and Sister Rosemary, Sister Luisa came home to Kentucky to spend time close to her parents. She also enrolled at Brescia College, taking courses that helped her in her work. “I thought I’d go back to South America after spending some time with my parents,” says Sister Luisa. But her life was to move into a different direction.

In 1984 she accepted an outreach ministry at Holy Redeemer Church in Beaver Dam, in her native Ohio County, working with pastor Father Joe O’Donnell, a Glenmary priest. Her work concentrated on the needs of the poor in the area. She devoted much of her time to working with the local HELP office.

Dee Black, longtime secretary for Holy Redeemer parish, has known Sister Luisa since her arrival in Ohio County in 1984. She says, “I still think anyone in this parish would do anything for Sister Luisa.”

In 1987 Sister Luisa, wanting to get closer to the poor and needy in the outer regions of Ohio County, moved into a small frame house at Horse Branch, 13 miles east of Beaver Dam. She moved into a poor area of Ohio County in which there were almost no Catholic families.

Dee Black, secretary-bookkeeper at Holy Redeemer in Beaver Dam since 1982, says, “Sister Luisa had dreams of moving to Horse Branch, and it’s amazing what happened out there. She went around and introduced herself to everyone in the area, visited every home, and that’s primarily a non-Catholic area. She attended revivals, went to funerals, worked in a little grocery store – she would fill in for workers so they could go to a doctor’s appointment or something. She just got to know everyone and everyone got to know her. She mailed them all cards at Christmas, Valentine’s, Easter and Thanksgiving. She sent letters to everyone out there, saying something very pleasant, that she was thinking of them, cared for them, and so on.”

Francil Riney Higdon, a 1960 graduate of the Mount Saint Joseph Academy, and now, along with her husband Bob, a Hartford resident and Holy Redeemer parishioner, says of her longtime friend, “When she moved to Horse Branch she moved to a rural, very non-Catholic area, but quickly realized that was where God wanted her to be and she made her presence known.”