Sister of Mercy realizes ‘God’s dream for her’
January 10. 2012
By Eileen Connelly, OSU
ARCHDIOCESE — Be open and listen to your heart. That’s Sister of Mercy Susan Ruedy’s advice for anyone wondering what God’s dreams for them may be and what ultimately led her to her religious community after pursuing a successful career, falling in love and almost getting married.
A native of Huntington, W. Va., Sister Susan is the youngest of five children. Thoughts of religious life began on a weekend retreat during her senior year of high school that brought her in contact with Sisters from two religious orders. She was also influenced by a prayer class at school.
“It was the first time I’d ever heard anyone talk about having a personal relationship with God,” Sister Susan recalled. “It was a defining moment in terms of my personal faith. The simple definition of prayer as lifting up one’s mind and heart to God spoke to me.”
With this in mind, Sister Susan left home for Cincinnati in 1977 to study education at the College of Mount St. Joseph. There, she came in contact with the Sisters of Charity, prompting her to reveal her interest in religious life to her parents, who expressed their support. In turn, her mother revealed to Sister Susan the name of the movie she been watching when she went into labor with her daughter — “The Nun’s Story” with Audrey Hepburn.
A sign? Perhaps, but the Sisters of Charity encouraged Sister Susan to continue her education before making any decisions. She heeded their advice and went on to graduate with a degree in elementary and special education. Thoughts of religious life were “put on the back burner” as she returned home, earned a master’s degree in special education from Marshall University and devoted time to her career. She taught for eight years before starting her own business doing diagnostic testing for children with learning disabilities. A business meeting with a local high school principal, a Sister of Mercy from North Carolina, and the chance to visit the congregation’s motherhouse and learn more about their ministries led to a renewed interested in religious life.
The time was not yet right, though, and Sister Susan returned to Cincinnati in 1995 to accept a position at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center conducting diagnostic testing for children with a variety of learning disabilities.
“I’ve always been drawn to the idea of helping kids, finding out what’s wrong with them and what can be done to help them,” she said.
A chance meeting with Sister of Mercy Aloyse Gerhardstein several years later led to a new chapter in Sister Susan’s life. Meals, prayers and other opportunities to get to know the Sisters followed. Sister Susan also began meeting with Sister Mary Ellen Matts, then vocations director for the community. She found herself drawn to the charism of Catherine McAuley. “She was deeply rooted in the Lord, but also had the capacity to meet the needs of the day,” Sister Susan said. “She was able to connect with people and had such a sense of humor.”
She experienced those same characteristics in the Sisters of Mercy of today and realized that this time she couldn’t walk away from what her heart was telling her. Sister Susan was warmly welcomed into the community as a candidate in September 2002. She made her final vows during a eucharistic celebration at Mercy Center Chapel in Cincinnati on June 18, 2009. Among those in attendance were many Sisters who supported Sister Susan on her journey, her siblings and her father, Albert, who passed away on Dec. 18, 2010.
Sister Susan recalls the profession of her final vows as “exciting, sacred and humbling. It was a milestone, a realization of God’s dream for my life.”
She currently serves as an intervention specialist at the International Adoption Center at Children’s Hospital and as a pre-school screening consultant for Faces without Places, which involves visiting area homeless shelters and spending time with the small children to identify developmental concerns and refer them to the appropriate resources.
Looking back on her journey to religious life, a journey that spanned more than 20 years, Sister Susan acknowledges there were times when her response to God’s call was a blunt “find somebody else.”
Once she accepted God’s dream for her, though, Sister Susan said, “It felt so natural and so right. I found the peace and contentment I’d been searching for.”