Sister Ruth Naegele, MM

Born: November 17, 1909
Entered: April 14, 1928
Died: July 9, 1978

In the second reading of today’s liturgy we read: “Praised be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, He who in his great mercy gave us new birth, a birth unto hope which draws its life from the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…”

We are gathered here this morning to celebrate God’s great mercy and love for Sister Ruth, born again to that new birth she so ardently desired during her life and now has found in the presence of our resurrected Lord Jesus Christ.

I think just about everyone in the Maryknoll Community has known Sister Ruth Naegele. Just about everyone is aware of how much she suffered throughout her life. She was outspoken at times, but she was equally quick to seek forgiveness. She never held a grudge and always went out of her way to effect a reconciliation if she had hurt or been hurt by anyone. “One cannot have love and bitterness in the heart at one time,” she said. Those who got to know her more intimately in these last years realize just how much God was a part of her life.

Ruth Elizabeth Naegele was born in Allentown, Pennsylvania, on November 17, 1909. She attended Sacred Heart Commercial School in that city for two years and then, at the age of 18, on April 14, 1928, fifty years ago this year, she entered Maryknoll. There were at that time only 193 Sisters in the total Community. Ruth was professed on January 6, 1931, and made her final vows six years later on January 6, 1937.

During her life, Ruth was assigned to several places within the United States. Her first assignment was to Monrovia, California, in 1938. She also served in Los Altos, Stockton, St. Louis, Chicago’s Chinatown, The Field Afar office, Bethany and the Center. At the age of 40, in 1950, Ruth decided to finish high school. She also obtained her degree in education from Maryknoll Teachers College. Her greatest joy came with her assignment to Africa in 1962. There, she taught typing and did library work, and worked with the blind. In December 1962, she wrote from Morogoro: “The girls are wonderful and one can see them growing day by day not only physically but spiritually, too…to me they are all lovely.” She loved her students and won their love.

Sister Ruth came home from Africa in 1968. In 1970 she requested to return to Tanzania, but both her community in Africa and her superiors here at home decided it would be better for her to remain in the United States.

It was at this time also that Sister Ruth became acquainted with the then emerging Charismatic Movement. Her involvement in it was to be for her a great source of God’s amazing grace. With her baptism in the Spirit and her long years of suffering, Sister came at last to a great interior peace, a certain sweetness and an enviable gentleness.

These last months when Sister was dying, she wanted to remain at the Center and make her way to the dining room for as long as her strength would permit. To those of us who saw her daily, her person became a symbol of fortitude that could not veil the certainty of impending death.

About two weeks ago Sister Ruth was persuaded that she needed care that only could be given her at Bethany. She finally agreed to go. She knew well that the evening of her life had come. “I am dying” she said. Her cup of suffering was overflowing. She was emptying it little by little before the Lord. She was full of faith knowing that He would fill it with his pardon and his amazing grace. On Sunday afternoon, July 9th, at 4:40 p.m., Sister was born again in his Spirit to rest forever in peace and in joy.

The Mass of the Resurrection was celebrated on July 12th, in the Center chapel with Bishop Edward A. McGurkin, M.M., the principal celebrant. Members of Sister’s family and many of her friends attended.