Sister Ruth Marie Kachelek, (AKA Sister Alcuin), the seventh Leader of the Sisters of St. Francis, died on November 20, 2018 at Rosary Care Center in Sylvania, Ohio. The daughter of Ray and Lottie Kachelek entered the convent in 1946 from Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Toledo, Ohio. She made her first vows in religious life in 1949 and her final vows in 1952.
Sister Ruth Marie spent her 69 years in religious life as a valiant woman whose sympathy and care, laughter and sense of humor made an impact on all she met. She began her ministry as an elementary school teacher in Michigan and Minnesota. She taught biology and chemistry at Central Catholic and Cardinal Stritch High Schools in Ohio, and was the principal at St. Ann’s in Cincinnati and Regina Coeli in Toledo, Ohio. She was Assistant Superintendent of Schools for the Toledo Diocese. Sister taught science at Lourdes Junior College and served as Academic Dean at the college. Sister Ruth Marie was Assistant Congregational Leader of the Sylvania Franciscans for four years and became the seventh General Superior of the Sisters where she served for eight years. After leaving office, she served the poor in Kentucky before returning to the Motherhouse where she was assigned as the Art Curator for the beautiful campus.
This multi-talented woman will be remembered for her many gifts and talents and especially her instinctive ability for artwork. She did not have extensive formal studies in art, but she felt her talent came from within and was nurtured by her own mother, Mother Adelaide, Mother Justinian and Sister Michaeline. During her years teaching at Central Catholic and Cardinal Stritch in the 1960s she produced some of her most impressive artwork. She painted the six-foot San Damiano Crucifix, using the ancient process of egg tempera on gessoed wood, which hangs above the altar and just below the Great Window in Our Lady Queen of Peace Chapel. When interviewed in 2015 about her work on the San Damiano Crucifix, Sister Ruth Marie said, “I completed the work and reflected on what had occurred over six months. I realized that the experience had a great impact on my spirituality. I was pleased with the effect the cross had on me and hoped it would have the same effect on all who would view it. I believe that I was an instrument used by God to portray that image for all persons for all time. I see it as a Franciscan sacramental.” During the same period, she and some of the other Sister artists produced the copper enamel Signs of the Zodiac that are displayed in the Lourdes University Planetarium Lobby. They also produced the copper enamel Canticle of Praise that adorns the outer wall on the Madonna Hall cloister walk.
This valiant Franciscan Woman and Leader will be greatly missed by her Sisters in Community and by her many friends and family members, brother David Kachelek and sister Gloria Mohr. She will also be missed by her caregivers at Rosary Care Center who took such loving care of her these last few months.