The Legacy of Sister Ruth Roland
The soul of Catholic Eldercare (CEC) is found deep in the memory of Sister Ruth Roland, OP., a Sinsinawa Dominican nun who was beloved by her co-founders, our staff, and the many residents whose lives she touched.
Sister Ruth was appointed by Archbishop John Roach to aid in the creation of CEC, and she surpassed expectations, bringing faith and hope to the process, in addition to expertise in long-term care. Board Member Mark Glodek once said, “Sister Ruth ran quarterback,” and it is most certainly true. She filed paperwork and met with state and city officials while her co-founders, Al Hofstede, Tom Glodek, and Bob Hannah worked their day jobs after attending early morning team meetings. “We wanted a 150-bed nursing home, and we needed permits and state approval. Sr Ruth was the liaison for that, and ran around doing it all,” says Tom Glodek, our last living founder.
Bob’s wife, Dae Hannah, recalls Sister Ruth’s patience and tenacity. “I asked her if she was sure she would be able to work with these guys,” she says. “She is in a high place in heaven because she spent the first couple years chasing them down!” Sister Ruth also knew how to chase down funding.
With a big heart and a strong faith, Sister Ruth was a guiding force beyond the paperwork. And when Al, Tom, and Bob felt it would be fiscally irresponsible to accept municipal bonds at a 15.25% interest rate, she said, “We’ve got to do it. God will take care of us.”
Tom Glodek says Sister Ruth knew how to get funding. “After Mass at Immaculate Conception one day, she asked Rose Totino to donate to the CEC project, and received $300,000. This was after Rose Totino agreed to a $1 million loan.
Sister Ruth was known for her tenacity, but also her providence. Her long-time friend and Dominican Sister Doris Rauenhorst describes Sister Ruth as a kind and loving person with an entrepreneurial spirit and a deep commitment to creating and supporting community. “She was energetic, creative, and busy,” she says. “She worked hard to build Catholic Eldercare and made sure the design included areas for people to gather — places for creating community.”
Deeply devoted to her Dominican Sisters, and missing their presence while working in Northeast, Sister Ruth found a way to bring them together in a nearby house, while making her mark as a founder of Catholic Eldercare. “Five sisters lived in that house, and once again, Ruth created community,” says Sister Doris.
Sister Doris references the vast experience that Sister Ruth brought to CEC. “She served as the director of Saint Dominic Villa, a nursing home for sisters in Dubuque Iowa. And her commitment to community led her to provide home care, housekeeping, and companionship with a few of our sisters in the early days.” Sister Doris says her friend took this experience to CEC. “It was patient-centered-care without calling it that,” Sister Doris explains. “Her dream was to provide this kind of care for people, along with interchange. The design for Wyndris was built as a testimony to that, with a pod of four apartments with a gathering space for people to interact with each other. Ruth would tell us this invites community.”
Looking back at Sister Ruth’s time at CEC, Sister Doris recalled, “Ruth was extremely proud of CEC. “She took our sisters on many tours and invited us to dinner at RiverVillage because she wanted us to be present and feel welcomed. We would often meet at CEC as a community, and she made us aware of the work she was doing at CEC, and that it was important to her.”
With a tireless commitment to doing her part and supporting her Dominican Sisters, as her esteemed career was winding down, Sister Ruth requested to do sacristan work, so she could continue to work in her elder years. “She never stopped being involved in the community,” Sister Doris says with admiration. “I have great affection for her. For me she has been a model for living well as a Sinsinawa Dominican Sister.”
Sr. Ruth Roland’s legacy lives on at CEC in care providers and other staff members who remain dedicated to her mission. At the time of her passing in 2013, Sr. Ruth had cared for the elderly for 37 years. Carla Frantz, Director of Nursing, says she had the privilege of working alongside her. “Sr. Ruth was incredibly compassionate and caring, and she instilled that in us,” says Carla. “I knew that if I was going work at Catholic Eldercare, I needed to care for people, body, mind, and spirit. And her spirit is still with us. I hear her voice and her great laugh in the halls all the time. She led by example and taught me that work can be fun.”
Sister Ruth ministered at Catholic Eldercare for 27-years. She died on October 12, 2013, at the Sinsinawa Dominican Motherhouse in Sinsinawa, Wisconsin. She was a gift to Catholic Eldercare and all who knew her. As we celebrate our 40th Anniversary, we are reminded of the role she played in getting us here, and we are grateful.
"In an interview conducted in 2004, Sister Ruth related a prayer that remained in her heart throughout her years of faithful service. “We Dominicans say a special prayer every day together: Providence can provide, Providence did provide, Providence will provide. Catholic Eldercare is clearly God’s creation, through God’s providence.”