Next stop was Mount Saint Joseph Academy at Maple Mount, but not by choice. “My mother and dad made the sacrifice to send me to the academy, because they thought it would be good for me,” she explained. “My mother had visited several schools. But she came back from the Mount in ecstasy about the Ursulines and told me this was where I was going to go whether I wanted to or not. At that point I knew I was doomed!” She continued, “Now I see why all of this happened. God was working in my life, and He wanted me to be an Ursuline.”
It didn’t take long for the freshman to settle into her new home. “Within two weeks I was very happy,” she recalls. “Because I was again in a rural setting – I was still a country kid at heart. The sisters were wonderful – strict, but wonderful. I really learned how to study and became a serious student.”
Since she started piano lessons quite early, music had always been a part of Sister Ruth’s life. In elementary school, she played the piano and sang in the choir. She continued with her keyboard and choral work at the academy and began playing clarinet in the small school orchestra.
Sister Ruth says she was blessed to have had a really good Catholic education, but she is convinced that she got her teaching vocation in the first grade at Scott Township Public School. “I had a wonderful first grade teacher,” she recalls. “My mother had already prepared me for school, but I loved first grade because of my teacher, Miss Martha Bower. She was what you might call an ‘old maid’ school teacher – in the best sense. She loved her pupils and we loved her. She inspired us to learn.”
Many years later, when Sister Ruth was preparing to enter the convent, she went back to see Miss Martha and told her she was going to become a teacher. During this visit, Miss Martha pulled out a poem about rain that Janet had written in the first grade. Sister Ruth didn’t remember writing that poem, but she will never forget the teacher who held onto it for so many years, the teacher who inspired her teaching vocation that would later develop into her Ursuline vocation.
Sister Ruth received her teaching vocation early, but only when she came to the Mount did she realize that she was being called to a religious life. “At Christmas I went home and told Mom I was going to enter the convent.” And she did – following her graduation almost four years later. During her first (postulant) year, she began studying at Brescia College. Two years later, as a second-year novice, she was asked to substitute teach fifth-grade classes for three days at Saint Alphonsus Grade School. The novice teacher was thrilled. “My great desire to be a teacher was confirmed.”
After making her temporary vows, Sister Ruth finally had her own classroom. Her first assignment took her all the way to a two-room school in Paul, Nebraska, eight miles from Nebraska City. “I had ‘the little room’ – 25 children from kindergarten to fourth grade,” Sister Ruth recalls. “And I loved it, it was wonderful. I taught all subjects plus choir and piano and still found time to take some piano lessons myself. The school was across from Saint Joseph church, a big, beautiful, German church known as “the cathedral in the wilderness.’”
Three years later she moved to another two-room school – Our Lady of Mercy at Hodgenville, Kentucky – where she served one year as principal and teacher with about 15 children in the upper grades (5-8).
The next year Sister Ruth returned to Owensboro to teach and to complete work for her Brescia degree. For four years she and Sister Joseph Angela taught school at Saints Joseph and Paul School and went to Brescia “every afternoon, evening, weekend, and summer, and got our degrees.”