After 50 years, Sister Ruth Griesemer is leaving Whitley County to return to the motherhouse of the Milwaukee-based School Sisters of Saint Francis.
Sister Ruth, now 81-years-old, was one of six nuns that came to the area in June 1967.
Working out of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church in Williamsburg, the sisters spent three summers in 1967, 68 and 69, and one year establishing Bible classes, GED classes, Head Start, and other programs and working to help the poor people in the area.
A formal mission statement was prepared by Griesemer, and the other sisters in 1971. The four sisters, Noel LeClaire, Joanne Hardtke, Kathleen Zanio and Sister Ruth, prepared this statement from their rule of life, Response in Faith, presented it to the Community and received permission to move to the area on a more permanent basis.
“We all worked together,” said Griesemer. “We had so much going on here. Our presence and action in the Appalachian area during the summers and one year proved to be a great opportunity of growth for all involved,” The sisters stated this in their mission statement.
To support the mission, the sisters were expected to find gainful employment.
Griesemer worked for Kentucky Comp Care, teaching mentally challenged adults and also preschool.
After 36 years, she retired from Comp Care, but she remained in the area. She sought other employment.
The new job brought her to Corbin, working at Sacred Heart Catholic Church as the receptionist, and she continued to carry on her mission.
Along with helping the people of Appalachia, Griesemer has worked to help some of God’s other creatures. During her time, Griesemer said she has rescued animals and has taken in nine dogs and three cats.
Her current rescue is a 15-pound blonde and white Shih Tzu named Peter Joseph.
It remains to be seen whether Peter Joseph will remain with her, but Griesemer said she wanted to find a place to live in Milwaukee where she can keep him.
Griesemer said it was the decision of the convent’s leadership to bring her back home, noting other sisters on mission in Mississippi, Texas and Guatemala are returning to Milwaukee.
“I love my ministry,” Griesemer said of being part of Sacred Heart Catholic Church.
Griesemer said it remains to be seen what she will be doing when she returns to Milwaukee, but she said she will definitely miss the peace and quiet of her Kentucky home.
“My hobby is praying,” Griesemer said. “I love being outside on the porch. It is a good place for meditation.”