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In Memoriam Reflections

S. Joan Crocker
“I first met S. Joan in 1968, when she was working at Marjorie Reed Mayo Daycare Center in Denver. It was during the time I was volunteering for Catholic Charities, as an outreach worker in the project area, under the supervision of S. Michael Mary Eagan. After finishing my home visits, each day I would check in at Marjorie Reed and got to know the Sisters from St Joseph’s. Joan was always the highlight of my day, with her gentle, kind way. She would welcome me with such love and hospitality it kept me coming back. She gave me a book from the library on Elizabeth Seton, and that was when I first came to love Elizabeth. We didn’t come back in contact until after I became an Associate and started going to the Sisters meetings. Then I was invited to the meetings in Colorado Springs, where she was missioned. It was a marvelous and pleasurable reunion for me, and her gentle kindness had not changed. Joan was a gift to my life and I’m so grateful she crossed my path.” ~ Associate Lee Hemminger

“I will always remember dear S. Joan as wise, playful, loving, fun. She was one of the original members of our SC Centering Prayer group out in Colorado in the 1970s. In 1974, all our SCs were asked to create small groups around an ‘affinity.’ We choose Centering Prayer. Indeed, we took care of all the SC Community ‘business’ on the agenda, but only after we prayed first. And then we always built in a party. I can picture Joan in God’s loving embrace now with Sisters Mary Jean, Michele (Mitch), Mary Bauer, Marie Re, Margaret Donnelly. Wow! What a wonderful celebration.” ~ S. Cathy Cahur

“With so many I enjoyed and was blessed with S. Joan’s beautiful smile and that twinkle in her eyes. Joan was a wood carver and created some lovely pieces. She always asked me how I was doing with my current wood sculpture; she’ll see the final piece from Heaven, and may she guide me along the way with it! Peace is yours now, dear Joan.” ~ S. Patmarie Bernard 

“I ministered with S. Joan at Penrose-St. Francis Hospital in Colorado Springs for several years. She was an outstanding person and a very effective chaplain. I’m so happy to have known and loved her! May she enjoy peace and happiness with God, her family and her Sisters!” ~ Sr. Lou Krippel, OSF

“I was so sad to learn of S. Joan’s passing! What a special lady. I had the privilege of taking Joan’s oral history during my Novitiate. As many others have said, she had that gentle smile and those twinkling eyes, and she was so easy to be with. When I would come into her room, her face would light up, and she’d say, ‘My friend!’ She was such a humble woman, never thinking she had much of interest to share with me. Of course, that was so far from the truth! Once she got comfortable with me and got going, she had the best stories. I loved hearing about her life, especially her years ministering in Africa. I found out through our conversations that Joan loved shrimp. One of my favorite memories was S. Nancy Bramlage and I taking Joan out to Frisch’s so that she could get some shrimp! She had a ball that day, and so did we.” ~ S. Tracy Kemme

“S. Joan was a dear friend. I met Joan in 1990, when she and Mary Jean moved from Grand Junction, Colorado, to Colorado Springs, and ultimately St. Joseph Southgate. We had many meals together, and she and my husband became fast friends, when they realized a common bond – they didn’t do dishes. Skip made buttons for them that said, ‘We don’t do dishes,’ and they both appeared at our meals together with their buttons. I was introduced to Centering Prayer by Sisters Joan and Mary Jean, and practice it today. Joan was one of my mentors as I discerned to become an Associate in Mission with the Sisters of Charity, and for that I am forever grateful. Joan’s humor was infectious, and the twinkle in her eye ever present. When I went to Cincinnati for the Advisory Committee meetings, I could depend on Joan being at the door of the Halloran Room after the meeting so we could visit, walk, or have dinner together, sometimes all three. I love you Joan, rest in peace ‘my dear Sister.’” ~ Associate Pat Grubelnik

“Aunt Jay was hands down, no contest, my favorite aunt. She always had a smile and a playful laugh. One of my many fond memories was when she offered to run to the grocery store for my mom. My younger sister and me (both elementary school age at the time) went along. We ran out to the car and before she got in, we turned the radio full blast, the windshield wipers and turn signals all in the ON position. She started the car and all hell broke loose. She jumped, but immediately starting laughing. She was such a kick and we knew, of course, she had to forgive us. She made each of her nieces and nephews feel special. She was so easy to talk to, she listened and always gave sage advice. I loved her so much and will always keep her fun spirit in my heart.” ~ Eileen McDowell Lyle, niece

S. Louise Akers
“Heaven has gained and we have lost an important soul. She lived a life of witness to God’s love, peace and justice from deep within. I am sure that God is happy with her and I am happy that she is now home with no more pain or suffering. May her soul rest in God’s arms as God welcomes her home.” ~ S. Victoria Anyanwu 

“May S. Louise, in her new life in God, continue to bless and inspire us and all the people of God as we work for just, inclusive relationships and strive to live the Gospel.” ~ S. Noreen Ellison

“Remembering S. Louise for me is to remember the movie Pink Smoke. It was such a powerful eye opener regarding church and an introduction to me of a very brave and committed woman. My thanks to you Louise for opening my mind and heart to many things I have learned and still ponder today. My admiration for how you lived and how you suffered and died will impact me for a time to come.” ~ Associate Kathy Vogelpohl

“S. Louise was such an important part of my early community life. Through some very rocky years, she was always there to support and challenge me. Our paths have not crossed much in recent years but she remains a treasure in my life. I wonder if I would still be here, 42 years later, without her encouragement and vision.” ~ S. Joanne Burrows

“It was a gift knowing S. Louise. She was always so welcoming, when I saw her, infrequently, and when I called her. Louise was always happy to talk with anyone, always had a smile to share, as well as her deep faith. Her positive attitude during her illness was truly an inspiration, as was her work for justice and inclusiveness.” ~ Associate Lee Hemminger

“S. Louise was a woman of courage, seeking to speak the Gospel’s truth no matter the cost. Her strength in the face of pain and loss are an example for us. We rely now on her watching over each of us. Peace at last!” ~ S. Carol Bauer

“As much as I was inspired by S. Louise’s stances on justice and peace, as much as I admired her keen intellect, as much as I respected her love of community and valuing of friends, I loved Louise for her heart, for her laugh, for her ability to be so genuinely present to whomever she was with. I am grateful to have lived with her at Corpus Christi in Dayton. Louise was teaching at St. Joseph High School there. We had a lot of fun together and created good memories.  May all of us here on earth continue to work toward the goals of peace and justice you believed in so wholeheartedly.” ~ S. Delia Sizler

“S. Louise, we shall miss you and all you taught us by your life and by your work for peace and justice and the rights of women. Your heart, your works and your passion have enriched our community and the world. We miss your blog, your spirit, your smile and your love. You abide in our hearts!” ~ S. Marie Pauline Skalski

“When the community decided to open an Office of Peace and Justice, I was asked to be part of the Interview Committee for the director. When we interviewed S. Louise, I asked how she would handle it if she offered programs and nobody attended. She looked at me with a smile and said, ‘Mary Jo, I am relentless!’ And anyone who knew her knows that was true! For five years, Louise and I worked closely together imagining, planning and giving Immersion Experiences in Cincinnati. We spent a week with participants visiting ministries in Cincinnati where Sisters and Associates ministered to those in need and in advocacy for justice and peace. While I was prepared to do mostly the same program each year, Louise always found ways to make it better – new places, new people, new ideas. And each year it did get better! Her network of colleagues was infinite and everyone was always willing to work with her. During all of those immersions, I was so amazed at her willingness to share deeply, to confront those who challenged, and to teach more about justice and peace than anyone I have ever known. She was never stumped by a question or disconcerted by a derogatory comment. She handled it all with grace and respect for each person. I value all that I learned during those experiences.” ~ Associate Mary Jo Mersmann

“The paradigm has shifted, the universe has shifted, all the women for whom S. Louise Akers worked so hard have a new companion in the world beyond! When the Office of Peace, Justice and Integrity of Creation was here at EarthConnection the office hummed all the time. The conversations were amazing as were the people who wandered in and out. Louise didn’t just talk about peace and justice, she lived it! Now she lives it again in another space and no time. I will most miss her laugh and her determination.” ~ S. Winnie Brubach

“As I write this message, I am at the Motherhouse of the Sisters of St. Francis in Oldenburg, Indiana, preparing to serve as one of two secretaries for their Chapter which begins this evening. Word of S. Louise’s death has spread quickly through this house. Many of the Sisters here knew Louise. As they have come up to me to offer their condolences, I have heard their words of appreciation for Louise’s life: ‘faithful servant’; ‘woman of courage and wisdom’; ‘spirit-filled enthusiasm’; ‘passionate for what she believed.’ The sentiments were expressed numerous times. Their memories mingled with those of our SC family and of countless others, near and far, make a beautiful mosaic of ‘our’ Louise.” ~ S. Barbara Davis

“S. Louise brought many gifts, and for me was a dear friend. It has taken me a few days to sense what I want to say. One of Louise’s ongoing favorite songs was, ‘Holy Now’ by Peter Mayer. The refrain, ‘Everything is holy now!’ speaks of how Louise lived and understood life and God. God is not separate, but in everything, from justice concerns, particularly with women and racism, developing programs - and centers - to educate, to laughter, celebrating with friends, or whatever the moment presented. Louise and I were together in Nicaragua in February 1996 when John Paul II visited and created hardship for the people, apparently not understanding the situation. Most of the poor did not get to receive Eucharist at the Papal Mass, after the chaos that emerged. The next day we met with a group of women in a Barrio. Louise asked the one woman, ‘Will you leave the Church?’ The woman looked confused, and said, ‘How can I leave the Church, I AM the Church?’ She had her Vatican II documents with her! Louise often referred to this ‘lesson’ she received. Louise herself, of course, knew she is the Church. Yet, she understood her identity as Church in a new and deeper way from this woman’s comments. No matter what transpires, this identity is not changed.” ~ S. Donna Steffen

“It has taken me several days before I could even think of writing. S. Louise has been a dear friend for many years. She was always a strong voice challenging injustice. While in our peace and justice office she not only provided up-to-date and factual information about injustices in many areas, but also actively participated in actions to call out injustice and challenged us to do the same. She truly walked her talk. May we follow in her footsteps.” ~ S. Caroljean Willie

“S. Louise, was a great lady that lived her beliefs of helping others in spite of her own pain and was always smiling and happy doing the Lord’s work.” ~ S. Juanita Marie Gonzales

“I will remember Sister for all the smiles she gave through the pain. For the laughter we shared. For all the times she would try to encourage all of us around her when she was the one who needed it more. For her wisdom. For all the times she didn’t tell us how bad it was because she didn’t want to ruin our day too. For her lack of computer skills. For all the times she pushed her body to the limit so she could spend more time with her family and friends. For all the phone calls just to say hello. For the day that she hired me to work with her at OPJIC. For the privilege of being her friend. But now I feel the silence, her absence is everywhere, feeling the pain of missing someone so loved by many.” ~ Associate Sue DiTullio

“S. Louise Akers was a prayerful religious. She loved God and God’s people. She was a person of conscience. Her beautiful influence will be missed.” ~ S. Mary Dugan

“I lived with S. Louise for two years (1970-’72) while we both taught at St. Joseph Commercial High School in Dayton. I remember her smile, her funny stories, and her chocolate chip cookies! But underneath all that was her deep spirituality, which showed both in her work for social justice and, especially, in the beautiful way she has faced illness and death these past few years. She has truly been an inspiration!” ~ S. Pat Wittberg

“Though S. Louise entered the Community a few years behind me, I never really knew her well until serving on her OPJIC Board. At our quarterly Board meetings, her reports of the things she had done in just one quarter would fill an entire single-spaced, typewritten page! She was passionate about peace, justice, truth, and equality; she championed the marginalized, the under-appreciated, the poor, and the oppressed - living what she believed throughout her entire life. A deep and wonderful friendship developed over the years. When we drove up and roomed together during the Call to Action Convention in Milwaukee the year after she had done a brilliant job as the keynoter, it was like being with a rock star! We shared many meals together and spent hours planning, commiserating, sharing, and laughing ‘beyond our lips.’ When FutureChurch offered her the Louis Trivison Award, Louise was determined to go to Cleveland, despite her very advanced melanoma and other serious physical issues. Though the trip was not uneventful, she was an amazing trooper throughout it all. To wheel her into that gathering, to see people swarming around her, telling her how much she meant to them and how she had changed their lives was a deeply moving experience. One night, when I was sitting at her bedside as she was dying, an aide came into the dark room. I don’t think she saw me – but she quietly made the sign of the cross over Louise’s bed; she knew she was in the presence of holiness. St. Louise, advocate, mentor, beacon for justice, beloved of so many, pray for us.” ~ Associate Mary Ellen Williams   

“When S. Louise came to Cleveland for the FutureChurch Trivison Award, she exuded sheer joy. It was a confirmation of all she worked for over many years. As I think of her, I muse:
   L ouise ~longing for the Gospel of love
   O utspoken advocate for the unheard
   U ltimate believer in the possibilities of change
   I ntimately grounded in the Risen Christ
   S eeker of truth, despite the cost
   E xample of strength and courage to the end.”
~ S. Regina Kusnir

“As I shared at FutureChurch’s award ceremony for S. Louise this fall, I first got to know her a few years ago when she taught Tracy and I about Catholic Social Teachings and Vatican II documents as part of our canonical novitiate. You can imagine how amazing that was! During those intimate sessions of breaking open the foundational principles of our faith and exploring the movement of the Spirit leading us to become a more just, inclusive, and authentic Church, I fell deeply in love with it. Louise spoke with such passion and conviction - she simply set my heart on fire! After all the required studies were finished and we still had some weeks to go before our canonical year ended, we were asked if there was anything we hadn’t addressed that we wanted to know about. Having heard about Louise’s history with the bishop who silenced her, we asked if she would be willing to share that experience more fully, and offer us her advice should we ever find ourselves in a similar situation. She graciously agreed, and in doing so helped us understand what the vow of obedience is really all about. It is about listening intently to the voice of God within each of our hearts, being so deeply in communion with God that it is easily discerned, and so in love with God that we find it irresistible. That will not keep you out of trouble, as she painfully discovered. But, that never stopped Louise and it shouldn’t stop us. I was again very fortunate to get to have one last conversation with Louise the Friday before she died. I couldn’t help getting emotional thinking it was the last time I’d have such an opportunity. I apologized saying it is just so hard to be losing all the spunky nuns. She said, ‘Well, it’s a good thing you’re pretty spunky yourself then!’ She told me she wasn’t at all afraid and was just very ready to go. Her clear blues eyes seemed to be looking beyond what was visible to me and a smile spread across her face. She said that it was simply remarkable to know you are about to transition into a new way of being and to look at your life in its entirety. What a perfect description of Louise and the life she lived: simply remarkable. And I am just so grateful to have been a part of it.” ~ S. Andrea Koverman 

“[S. Louise Akers] was truly a Gospel woman! This is a brief historical note: one time Louise told me that her grandmother actively supported women’s issues, especially women’s right to vote! Louise’s passion for social justice was in her DNA! Louise, rest in peace knowing that your strong sense of social justice and your courage to personally lead the way, will encourage all of us to continue to follow. Rest in peace knowing that you have inspired many others.” ~ S. Julie Deiters

S. Edith Louise Merhar
“S. Edith Louise was the first mathematics supervisor and consultant for the Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Detroit. While she was there, she was instrumental in getting a grant for Shrine High School in Royal Oak to purchase a computer terminal. This was way back in 1970! A few math teachers were able to teach Basic Computer Language to some of the students who would store their data on long strips of punched paper. The school only had 1½ hours per week of computer connection time with Honeywell. During this time the students could run their paper tape to see if their computer program was correct. Thanks, Edith, for all that you did for the education of teachers and students in math and computers!” ~ S. Joyce Richter

“S. Edith Louise was very dear to our family. Our parents, Joe and Gloria Montoya, always spoke lovingly of her, remembering her in many stories – some of them very funny! We knew she had been an important and memorable figure in their high school years. She taught them high school English at St. Mary’s High School in Albuquerque in the early 1950s. As they told it: She was almost as young as they were and they were the first class she ever taught. She came to visit our family over the years, staying with us in our home, always maintaining their friendship. My favorite memory of her will always be visiting her at Mother Margaret Hall on a trip to the Motherhouse for S. Patmarie Bernard’s golden jubilee. She told me stories about my mother, remembering that she assigned mom the task of creating the May Altar for the classroom. Mom took the assignment very seriously and had designed the loveliest of May Altars. I treasure that conversation, especially now, as my mother passed in 2016. They are together again, with all the saints and angels. What a wonderful thought.” ~ Lynn Montoya Cheek

“I first met S. Edith Louise when I was a postulant in a physics class with all professed Sisters. Although we were not supposed to converse, Edith always had something to say. Her birthday occurred during the summer and she went around handing out birthday cards for us to send her. She loved life and lived it to the full.” ~ S. Dorothy William Englert

“The wife of Sister’s nephew was an administrative assistant for the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at John Carroll University in Cleveland. She had asked me to visit Sister whenever I came to Cincinnati. I did so fairly often. Every time I appeared, Sister would immediately start singing popular songs of the 1940s and 1950s, never missing a word through all the verses. She said it was the music she danced to as a young girl. The first couple years of my visits, she remembered her nephew but as time wore on, she did not remember him, nor did she remember my name – but she never missed a word singing her songs. I loved it.” ~ S. Mary Ann Flannery 

Associate Mary Ann Vennemeyer
“Mary Ann was a long-time volunteer in our Adult Education Program at North Fairmount and after she retired she gave even more time. She was truly interested in helping people, interested in making them more self-sufficient and more aware of their own ability. She was not only generous, but had a deep spiritual side, taking courses in theology and becoming an SC Associate.” ~ S. Julia Deiters

Associate Virginia Johnson
“What a wonderful woman Virginia Johnson was! I admired her frank discussions and total loyalty to all things charity! She loved her family so deeply, too. And they were devoted to her. The last time I got to spend time with her she was using a walker and although she didn’t enjoy it, she accepted it gracefully. She was such an advocate for justice and for the Associate movement. Rest in peace, Virginia.” ~ Associate Mary Jo Mersmann

Associate Theresa Benavidez
“I fondly remember Theresa and her ardent commitment to a life of charity and service. Theresa’s love for her family and others in her community was so evident. I enjoyed knowing Theresa and am so grateful for her love of the Charity Family.” ~ Associate Mary Jo Mersmann

“Theresa Benavidez was a member of the SC Band of 1958. She was a prayer-filled, fun, energetic person. Shortly after making vows, her mother died, and her father asked her to come home and help raise her siblings. She grieved having to leave, but responded to this new call. She later married, had several children, and became an Associate of the SCs. She joyously attended almost every meeting of this group.” ~ S. Patmarie Bernard