In Remembrance of Sister Ruth Mattingly, OSU
November 4, 2018
Sister Amelia Stenger, OSU
Early in the morning of All Saints Day on November 1, Sister Ruth died peacefully and joined all the Ursuline Saints who had gone before her. We are grateful for the nurses in the Villa who attended her during the last few weeks and the Sisters who sat with her during the last few hours of her life.
Sister Ruth was born on September 22, 1935 in Loretto, KY and was named Frances Ruth. Her father was Joseph George Mattingly and her mother was Annie Mae Hall Mattingly. She was baptized by Father Fitzgebbion on September 28, 1935 at St. Francis of Assisi in St. Francis, KY. She was Confirmed on May 11, 1942 at St. Francis of Assisi in St. Francis, KY by Archbishop Floersh.
Her early years of schooling were with the Sisters of Loretto. After several years the family moved to Fredericktown where she was taught by the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph. She liked school and she said that her teachers were good and supportive. Her teachers in Fredericktown were all Ursulines. Some of her teachers in grade school were Sister Mary Oda, Sister Carolyn, Sister Jean Catherine and Sister Janette. Those in High School were Sister Geneva, Sister Charles Marie, Sister Mary Ephrem, Sister Joseph Marian and Sister Mary Ivo.
Her best friend in high school was Ruella Grisby. She said that once they were going on a class trip and they had two cars. The girls stuck together and filled one car so she and Ruella had to get in the car with the boys. Her comment about that was, “It was OK because I was used to them by now.”
After graduation she worked for a year at different jobs but was never really satisfied. One afternoon her brother took her to see Sister Joseph Marian. In the midst of her talk Sister said to her, “Have you ever thought about being a sister?” She said that this talk started the wheels rolling in her mind. When she got home, she walked into the kitchen where her mother was making bread and said, “I know what I am going to do in September. I am going to the convent.” Her Mom looked up and said, “oh” and went on making her bread. When she told her dad, he said, “You don’t have to leave home unless you want to.” Her comment about this was, “He was proud of me being a nun.”
Sister Ruth had five brothers and two sisters—Joseph Thomas, Mary Kathleen, Joseph George, Joseph Eugene, James Walter, John Bruce and Esther Marie. Her Sister, Esther, and brothers, Walter and John, are here with us this evening along with nieces and nephews. We offer you our sympathy and prayers as you say goodbye to your sister.
Sister Ruth came to the Mount on September 7, 1955. She entered with Camilia Klipsch, Rita Hanewinkel, Mary Helen Kennedy, Shirley Hayden, Lucille Hagan (Sister George Mary) and in February, Sarah Bowling, Betty Reader and Edwena Mouser came to join them. She said that as a postulant, she began her friendship with a novice that has lasted all these years. Sister Catherine Marie, we pray with you as you say goodbye to your friend.
Sister Ruth received the habit on August 14, 1956 taking the name of Sister Walter Ann. She made first vows on August 15, 1958 and made final vows on August 15, 1968. Sister George Mary, we offer you our prayers as you say goodbye to your classmate.
She began her education at Brescia College (now University) in 1958. She got her bachelor’s degree from Brescia in 1969. She received her master’s Degree in Elementary Education in 1974 from Western Kentucky University. Over the years she attended many workshops in Math, Reading and Religious education.
As with most of our sisters, she was teaching before she had her degrees. Her first mission was at St. Bartholomew School in Buechel, KY in 1958. She lived there with eleven other sisters. She was there for eight years. She taught first grade there for one year. She said, “I was so afraid when I walked into the classroom until I noticed how scared the students looked, so I relaxed.”
While there on April 21, 1963, her mother was killed in a car accident after she had spent the day with Sister Ruth. Later that year, her oldest sister died from cancer leaving nine children. These were very difficult days for her and she said that the support of the community and family helped her make it through the sad times.
From Buechel, KY, she went to Glennonville, MO. She was proud that one of her students, Sister Rebecca White entered the community, but she said she was ready to leave the country life, so she moved back to Kentucky after two years.
During the next years, she taught at Immaculate Conception in Hawesville and at St. Denis school in Louisville. She said she liked St. Denis very much. Her principal was Sister Mary Matthias. Her sister lived very close to St. Denis, so she got to spend more time with her and her family. She said that sometimes she would babysit for her nephew, Troy, who was “a loveable little boy who always wanted me to tell him stories.” She enjoyed twelve years at St. Denis.
During the summers, the sisters who taught school came home to the Mount and got three weeks of relaxation and retreat, and the other three weeks they worked at the Motherhouse. Sister Ruth’s summer job was in pastoral care in the infirmary, and because she did such a good job there, she was asked to come to the Mount for that ministry full time in 1984. She said, “I felt like this was what the community wanted me to do.” Her tasks were similar to what nurse’s aides do now, giving the sisters baths and helping to dress and feed them.
She worked in the infirmary for seven years and then returned to the classroom. She made a big step and moved to St. Joseph School in San Fidel, N.M. She said, “I had heard so much about New Mexico and I’m glad I got to see what I did.” After two years, she knew it was time to leave there, and she came back to the Mount to be the coordinator of the Guest House.
In 1996, she began the ministry she called her “love and joy.” She moved to St. Joseph Parish in Leitchfield, KY to become the parish minister. She visited the sick in the hospital, nursing homes and homebound, and did some of the sacristan work. She said, “One of the best things I got to do was take the sacrament of Holy Eucharist to the sick. It was such a great privilege to do.” “The people of the parish were so friendly. I just love those people.” She often commented about how good Father Dave Johnson had been to her.
By 2005, Sister Ruth was having such trouble with her balance that she knew it was time to come home to the Mount. There were times when she was very sick and had much pain. She suffered through many different illnesses. Eventually, she decided it would be best to move to the Villa.
During her time in the Villa, she worked at the switchboard, did embroidery work, read many different kinds of books, quilted and enjoyed doing crafts. One of the things she really enjoyed was playing games on her computer and writing emails to her friends. She said it was the easy way to send messages to her friends and family.
The last few weeks of her life were not easy for her or for the Villa staff. They tried to comfort her, but she continued calling to them. It was difficult to know what she was saying. We would like to believe she was calling to Jesus, her mom and dad and her brothers and sisters to come for her.
Sister Ruth, we ask you to pray for us as you celebrate your new life.