March 1, 2013

Sister Diane Ris was 16th general superior of Sisters of Providence

Criterion staff report

Providence Sister Diane RisProvidence Sister Diane Ris, who served as the 16th general superior of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, died on Feb. 20 in Mother Theodore Hall on the campus of the order’s motherhouse in St. Mary-of-the-Woods. She was 80.

The Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated on Feb. 26 at the Church of the Immaculate Conception at the motherhouse. Burial followed at the sisters’ cemetery.

Sister Diane was general superior when Blessed John Paul II beatified Mother Theodore Guérin, who founded the Sisters of Providence, in 1998. Beatification is the last major step before a person is declared a saint. Mother Theodore was canonized in 2006 by Pope Benedict XVI.

“Sister Diane will be remembered in many ways by different people. She was a wonderful teacher of primary children, and a wonderful teacher of future teachers. She served in elected leadership as both a provincial and as general superior,” said Providence Sister Denise Wilkinson, the order’s current general superior. “She also was appreciated as a spiritual director and retreat facilitator. Her love of St. Mother Theodore consistently informed her thoughts and actions. Sister Diane was an instrument of Providence for many.”

At the time of Mother Theodore’s beatification, Sister Diane expressed her admiration of her order’s founder.

“I have a deep love for Mother Theodore,” she said. “I have so much respect for what she was going through, all that she experienced from birth to death. What a holy woman she was. In the words of Pope John Paul II at her beatification, ‘not only was she holy, but she was fully human.’ Put those two things together and you have a saint.”

Sister Diane, whose religious name was previously Sister Martin Therese, was born on July 16, 1932, in Port Chester, N.Y. She entered the Sisters of Providence on July 21, 1951, and professed perpetual vows on Jan. 23, 1959.

She earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, a master’s degree in elementary education from Indiana University in Bloomington and a doctorate in the same field from Ball State University in Muncie, Ind.

Sister Diane served as an educator in several Catholic schools in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky and Maryland. In the archdiocese, she ministered at St. Susanna School in Plainfield and the former St. Patrick School in Indianapolis.

She also served for 20 years as a professor at Morehead State University in Morehead, Ky., and received the Distinguished Teacher Award, the school’s highest faculty honor, in 1989.

She was elected general superior of the Sisters of Providence in 1996, and served in that position until 2001.

Surviving are two sisters, Linda VanDenBerg of Jacksonville, Fla., and Peggy Joneas of Memphis, Tenn.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Sisters of Providence, 1 Sisters of Providence, St. Mary-of-the-Woods, IN 47876. †

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