September 2007: SISTER HERMOGENE RUESKEN (entered eternal life on April 5, 2014)
In her 72 years in Religious Life, Sister Hermogene Ruesken has been a shoulder of support. Spanning from the young Sisters in the Novitiate and people who visited the Franciscan Apostolic Center, to the employees she supervised, she has been a person from whom people learned the skills of hospitality, sought advice and support, or were the recipients of her Franciscan hospitality.
Story begins in Effingham
Born on August 22, 1914 in Effingham, IL to Herman and Philomena (Braun) Ruesken, she recalls thinking about being a Sister, and years later she came to realize that it was what exactly what God wanted for her. “The world looked good to me as a teenager, I had lots of fun with my friends…I even had a boyfriend…but I wasn’t completely happy,” Sister Hermogene said. Her mother wanted her to be a telephone operator, but it was her aunt, a housekeeper at St. Anthony’s Hospital (Effingham) who got her a job as an assistant in the dressing room. “From that time that I worked with the Sisters to a previous hospitalization when I was a child, I experienced the Sisters’ kindness. So when I made the decision to become a Hospital Sister, my parents gave their permission, but they insisted that I not go to China.” (Sister Clementia Dasenbrock, a family relative from Effingham, was the regional superior of the Hospital Sisters in China since 1925.)
“When my parents drove me to Springfield on February 2, 1933 and I entered Religious Life, I felt such happiness. I had listened to God and knew that I wanted to be a Franciscan Sister.”
More than 30 years of service in the Novitiate
From 1935-1969, Sister Hermogene worked in the Novitiate where the women who were entering Religious Life lived, worked, and received their religious instruction. “I just loved those years because I was the housekeeper and taught the Sisters our housekeeping skills, supervised their recreation…I guess I was like their Mother Hen,” she admitted with a chuckle. “We had a good time…even got in trouble a couple times….God used me to help these young Sisters and listen to those who were homesick,” she explained.
Sister Sherrey Murphy, General Superior of the Hospital Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis, contributed the following reflection from her office in Germany: “Early on (in our Postulant years in the convent), we knew Sister Hermogene was the person who would listen to our stories, dry our tears, and give encouragement. When she saw someone looking a little down, she often sang, ‘Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen.’ It was perfect for our situation, and I think she saved a lot of vocations in the Novitiate laundry.”
Listening to God's voice and His plan
In May 1969, she was considered as the Superior of 45 Sisters in Green Bay, WI. “I couldn’t imagine that God wanted me to leave the work in the Novitiate. I prayed that ‘His will be done’ and reminded myself to have faith,” she said. When she was selected, she knew that this was what God wanted. “I served in Green Bay for five years and loved it…I had a great time,” she explained.
A new opportunity in sharing Franciscan hospitality
God called her next to an opportunity in Springfield. The Sisters had decided to convert some of the TB Sanatorium buildings devoted to physical healing into a place where people could come for a time of spiritual healing. They named the building the Franciscan Apostolic Center (FAC) and considered it “primarily as a place for spiritual ministry where healing and liberation of soul and body can be achieved in an atmosphere of serenity and simple beauty.” (From 1974-1991, Sister Hermogene served as a hostess and housekeeper at FAC where retreats, prayer groups, life enrichment workshops, ecumenical meetings, marriage encounter groups, youth groups, workshops, seminars – all concerned with human and spiritual development - were held.)
“Oh, my heavenly day! FAC was a beautiful place! I met such wonderful people who came to us for some sort of healing,” she explained. “For more than 20 years I could help people – maybe just through a smile or a listening ear….everyone came through our doors because of a need and left with a sense of peace and happiness,” she said.
It was during this time that she hired Sue Mount (September 14, 1976) and Jack Gallaher (December 31, 1984) who were taught the skill of housekeeping. Pictured above with Sister Hermogene, both continue to work at St. Francis Convent in the housekeeping department and carry on the tradition that was taught to them. “Sister Hermie’s personality is so great it always made me want to try and do any task she wanted done,” explained Sue Mount. “She truly was more than a boss because she is a friend,” Sue added. “Sister Hermogene showed me the way to do things and I appreciated it,” Jack Gallaher said. “If she ever asked me to go ‘bowling,’ I knew that I better roll up my sleeves,” he added with a grin. (This was her term for cleaning of the restrooms.)
Her message of love
“Throughout my life, I found that day by day I grew spiritually through the people I came in contact with. God used me as an instrument to bring His presence to people I met. I’ve been so blessed and have no regrets,” she said. As I grow older, I think back to my youth of being with friends and enjoying life. I also fondly recall my early years in the Convent when I played tennis, baseball, and volleyball,” she added.
“God always has been at my side, and I am grateful to Him. He has taught me to pray and to remember that He’s in charge….with Him, all things are possible.”