sister ruth butler

(Sister Anna Paul)
March 12, 1923 - June 1, 2017

A kind, loving woman – spirit-filled and joyful

“Sister Ruth Butler was a very dear friend… a ‘true blue friend.’  I was privileged to live with her and have her as my principal and fellow teacher. She was an excellent educator, both as principal and teacher.  Those of us who had her as principal knew her to be fair and just, in all of her dealings … Sister Ruth would always tell you exactly what she thought, good or bad … always in a kind manner.”  Sister Pauline Oetgen

Wilber and Mary (Spearing) Butler of St. Louis, welcomed their daughter Ruth on March 12, 1923. Ruth’s memories include much laughter and many hours spent learning new dance steps with her three brothers and two sisters.  They lived in St. Rose of Lima Parish. She attended St. Mark’s High School for two years but disliked being compared to her older sisters. When she told her father she did not want to go back there, he allowed her to transfer to Rosati-Kain for her junior and senior years. “There I had the Sisters of St. Joseph and the Notre Dame Sisters. I was in a home room with a Notre Dame Sister, and I used to go every Saturday morning down to the inner city to teach catechism with her. But the Sisters of St. Joseph were more friendly and would stay after school … so naturally we got to know the Sisters of St. Joseph more.” 

During her senior-year retreat the priest asked her if she had ever thought of becoming a sister. She replied, “No.” At home, when relating the tale to her younger brother, Paul, with whom she was very close, he said, “Well, you know it’s not a bad idea.”

Ruth asked Sister Anna Rita Higgins how to go about entering the Sisters of St. Joseph, which she did, September 15, 1942. She was received as Sister Anna Paul, March 19, 1943.  She earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Fontbonne College (1955); a master’s in education from St. Louis University (1967) and later, a degree in mathematics from Southern Illinois at Carbondale. 

Sister Anna Paul began her many years in primary education in March 1945 at St. Teresa of Avila (St. Louis). Bishop Baraga, Marquette, Michigan (1945) was next, followed by St. Rose of Lima, Houston, Texas (1955). She went to St. Viator, Chicago, Illinois (1958) before returning to St. Louis to St. Rita’s (1962), first as a teacher, then as principal.  She continued as principal at Our Lady of Lourdes, St. Louis (1969) followed by teaching junior high at St. Mary’s, Bridgeton, Missouri (1977).

In 1978, S. Ruth found herself at St. Francis Xavier, Brunswick, Georgia, as the first non-Georgian principal. Some of the sisters were concerned about how a northerner would be in that positions. S. Ruth remembered that S. Pauline Oetgen was th3e first to say, “It’s going to be okay. It’s going to be okay.”

S. Ruth then became principal at St. Mary on the Hill, Augusta, Georgia (1984 - 1990). After a brief sabbatical at the University of San Diego, she served in West Palm Beach, Florida, as principal at Holy Name of Jesus (1991-1997). Remaining at Holy Name Parish, she became the director of parish stewardship. In 2004 she became the spiritual coordinator for senior adults there. She held weekly spirituality sessions with them and sent out almost a hundred letters a month to encourage seniors on their spiritual journeys.

In 2013, S. Ruth retired and came back home to live in the Village at Nazareth, St. Louis. While there, she found a caring friend in Sister Helene Gutchewsky who lived on the same hall. 

Since 2015, she resided at Nazareth Living Center, carrying out her ministry of prayer and presence until God called her home.

Helen Oates, CSJ

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