September 27, 2013

Celebration will honor retiring religious sister who gives from the heart

Benedictine Sister Louise Hoeing will be honored for her 60 years as a Catholic educator during a celebration on Sept. 29 at Bishop Chatard High School in Indianapolis, where she served for 38 years. To her right is Kevin Sowinski, the father of two Bishop Chatard students. (Submitted photo)

Benedictine Sister Louise Hoeing will be honored for her 60 years as a Catholic educator during a celebration on Sept. 29 at Bishop Chatard High School in Indianapolis, where she served for 38 years. To her right is Kevin Sowinski, the father of two Bishop Chatard students. (Submitted photo)

By John Shaughnessy

As she talks about her 60 years as a Catholic educator, it’s fitting that Benedictine Sister Louise Hoeing mentions two quotes dealing with the heart.

After all, she has given her heart in six decades of trying to help Catholic students grow closer to God and use their gifts to make the world a better place.

The first quote she mentions is from Pope Francis: “Swim against the tide. It’s good for the heart, but it takes courage.”

“I feel like I’ve been swimming against the tide my whole life,” says Sister Louise, who joined the Benedictine Sisters when she was 16 because she was searching for “something more” in her life. “With God’s help, I’ve lead a very full life.”

The second quote that the 79-year-old religious sister mentions is from St. Benedict.

“One of Benedict’s sayings is, ‘Listen with the ear of your heart.’ Everyone has a story. I try to listen to others with caring and compassion.”

Sister Louise’s heart, dedication and influence will be celebrated on Sept. 29 at Bishop Chatard High School in Indianapolis—the place where she served for the past 38 years before retiring earlier this year.

The celebration will begin with a Mass at noon at Christ the King Church in Indianapolis, followed by an “open house reception” from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the high school.

As part of the celebration, school administrators have invited people to share their thoughts about Sister Louise, an invitation that has already led to numerous tributes.

“For nine years, as principal of Bishop Chatard, I had the comfort of knowing that Sister Louise was there to advise and assist in her calm and friendly manner,” noted Lawrence Bowman. “In the spirit of St. Benedict, Sister Louise lived a key Benedictine belief that one must listen and attend with the ear of the heart. Thanks for that listening, Sister, and for your dedicated service to the thousands of students who attended Chatard over the years.”

One of those students recalled the influence that Sister Louise had on her and later her daughter.

“My four years as well as my daughter’s four years were all marked with your constant smile and love,” wrote Paula Feist Smith, a 1989 graduate whose daughter, Melissa Smith, graduated in 2010.

“Beyond your hours at the school, your unconditional love to all who roamed those halls has been shown by your steadfast support as loved ones left us. Your presence at the calling for both my parents as they left this earthly world is something I will never forget. You take time out of your personal time to continue to show what a special person you are, and that even after graduation you care about all who passed through Bishop Chatard.”

Sister Louise and the late Richard Powell, her longtime friend and Bishop Chatard teacher, had a tradition of attending the wakes and/or funerals of anyone associated with the school.

“I don’t want people to think they’re only important to us for four years,” she says. “Our relationship is more far-reaching. We don’t stop thinking and praying about them after they are gone.”

In her longtime role as a guidance counselor at the school, Sister Louise strived to have the students think about the long-term impact that they could have with their lives.

“I wanted to help people see their gifts and use them for the greater good. In guidance, I felt there was a ministry—to get them in the right place so they could give to others what they have been given.”

That goal has marked her own life. At 19, she began her career in Catholic education, teaching at St. Ambrose School in Seymour where she once guided a class of 55 first-grade students.

She later became a teacher and principal at St. Anthony of Padua School in Clarksville in the early 1960s, followed by 10 years as principal of the former Our Lady of Grace Academy in Beech Grove.

And even though she has officially retired from Bishop Chatard, she still volunteers at the school, helping with alumni relations.

“The alums are where my knowledge is right now, and it gives me something to get up for. And it’s fun,” she says with a smile.

That smile has marked her 60 years in Catholic education—60 years in which she has made an impact on others, 60 years in which the students and her fellow staff members have made an impact on her.

“People have always been my passion. And I can’t think of being any place else but in Catholic education. I wanted to give back. I believe in caring for the individual and offering my support. And I believe in Bishop Chatard and Catholic education.”

She smiles again and says, “I think about how blessed I’ve been.” †

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