While looking for a job after graduating from high school, Ursuline Sister Ruth Mattingly felt something lacking.
“I had this feeling that ‘I don’t care if I get this job or not.’ I knew this wasn’t it,” she said. A year after she graduated, in May 1955, she was working in a department store in Springfield, Ky., when her brother came home and told her that Ursuline Sister Joseph Marian Logsdon, Sister Ruth’s favorite teacher in high school, was visiting nearby Fredericktown, and volunteered to drive her over to visit.
“Out of the blue she said, ‘Have you thought anymore about entering the convent?’ We hadn’t talked about it,” Sister Ruth said. “I went home that day and told my mom that I was entering the convent that September.”
Sister Ruth has now been an Ursuline Sister for 57 years, a decision she feels blessed to have made. “I’m happy I became a sister. It worked out right.”
She was born in Marion County, Ky., but grew up in neighboring Fredericktown, better known by its nickname, “the Burg.” “When I was in the second grade, we bought the farm my mom grew up on in Fredericktown,” she said. It was in the second grade that she met the Ursuline Sisters, who taught at the public Fredericktown School, first grade through high school.
All her teachers were Ursulines, but the ones who made the biggest impression were Sister Janette Bowling, who taught her seventh and eighth grades, and Sister Joseph Marian, who taught her in high school.
“They stood out as remarkable people,” she said. “They treated everybody in their class the same. You were just as important as the next person.” Sister Janette had a lot of fun with people and was a very good teacher, Sister Ruth said.
“Sister Janette was the first sister to cause me to think about becoming an Ursuline in the seventh grade,” she said. “I wrote to her to ask what it was like for her.”
Sister Joseph Marian also enjoyed having fun with the students. “She chose me to be the Blessed Mother in the Christmas play,” Sister Ruth said. “That was very special.”
As a postulant, Sister Ruth began her friendship with a novice that has lasted 58 years, Sister Catherine Marie Lauterwasser.
“We worked together in the dining room,” Sister Catherine Marie said. “I had just taken the veil and the director of novices told me she would get me some help. She gave me Sister Ruth, she was the good help.”
The two became good friends in the two years they worked together on various assignments. They went to separate missions, but Sister Ruth made a point to always write and keep the friendship going.
“She’s very loyal,” Sister Catherine Marie said. “When we’re together, it’s like we’ve never been apart.” Sister Catherine Marie is now the treasurer at the Motherhouse, so the two can see each other often. “She’s prayerful and works hard,” Sister Catherine Marie said. “She’s community minded and always thinks of others.”
When Sister Ruth became a novice, she took the name Sister Walter Ann, after her mother and one of her brothers. She wanted to be George for her father, but it was taken. She returned to her baptismal name following Vatican II.
“When I first entered, I wanted to teach religion,” she said. Her first mission was at St. Bartholomew in the Louisville suburbs, where she began with first grade and eventually moved to third.
“I was scared to death,” she said. “I saw the faces of the first-graders and I thought, ‘Oh my, you’re scared too. I better not be scared.’”