sister mary jane ruoff

August 31, 1926-February 23, 2014

Friendly, joyful and generous

William and Kathryn (O’Brien) Ruoff had a daughter and four sons. Their daughter Mary Jane was born in St. Louis, Mo., August 31, 1926. Jane’s brothers were William, John, Thomas and Philip.

S. Roberta Houlihan, a high school classmate says, “...what I remember most about ‘Janie’ is her love for acting and public speaking in our auditorium at AOL (Academy of Our Lady, Peoria) where we frequently had assemblies that allowed each class to ‘perform’….”

After earning a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Fontbonne, Jane entered the Sisters of St. Joseph September 15, 1948. She received the habit and the name S. Catherine Therese in 1949. Her career in education began in 1951 with teaching first grade for a few months at Nativity in Chicago, then at Little Flower in Mobile, Ala., and finally, in 1953, at Most Holy Rosary in St. Louis. While teaching second and third grade at Holy Name in St. Louis in 1957, S. Catherine completed her master’s in education from St. Louis University. The year 1958 found her teaching primary at Christ the King on Maui, Hawaii, then fifth grade at St. Anthony on Oahu from 1959-1963 when she moved to St. Theresa in Honolulu where she taught intermediate until 1965.

After two years teaching junior high at Cathedral in St. Louis, S. Jane became a religious education coordinator. She spent 1967 at St. Paul in Negaunee, Mich., 1968 at St. Thomas the Apostle in Florissant, Mo., and then served a multi-parish group in Ishpeming, Mich., from 1971 to 1974. She was campus minister at Michigan State University in East Lansing from 1974 to 1978. During that time she earned a C.P.E. from Veteran’s Hospital in Lansing. S. Jane returned to Oahu from 1978 to 1983 to be the assistant director in the Diocesan Religious Education Office.

 S. Jane spent 1983 as cottage/dorm/unit supervisor at St. Mary’s Special School, St. Louis. Next she went to L’Arche Syracuse, Syracuse, N.Y., (1984-1993) as non-handicapped assistant, a ministry she truly loved.

S. Mary Jo Logan writes,

Jane and I lived one of the L'Arche homes from 1987 until she left Syracuse... Officially she was Head of House/House Responsible (the L'Arche term for ‘mother superior’ in a local community of L'Arche)...What that meant was that she had to attend to everybody's needs—both the core people who had disabilities and the young college kids who came to share life with those folks.

She taught me so much about how to really ‘pray the Gospel’... she took the weekly Sunday readings that we used for our prayer groups and broke it down into language the folks with disabilities could relate to. She gave beautiful reflections on the meaning of the readings. She managed to invite feedback from everyone attending. She got the core members to act out the gospel scenes. She truly combined the L'Arche philosophy of ‘each person with a disability has a gift to share with the world if we will only let them’ and the CSJ charism of ‘love of the dear neighbor.’

S. Jane spent 1993-1996 at the Province House in St. Louis as a receptionist for a short time, then as hospitality coordinator. In 1996 she became a personal assistant for the severely disabled at the YMCA Rehabilitation Center in St. Louis and retired to Nazareth Convent in 1998.

 S. Mary Ann Hilgeman says,

Even when she suffered from dementia she still had the same friendly, joyful, generous attitude that had characterized her when she was in good health.                                     

S. Helen Oates

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