Monday, December 5, 2022
Mass of the Resurrection, 10:30 a.m.
Church of Our Lady of Loretto
Saint Mary’s, Notre Dame, Indiana
Visitors are welcome; please adhere to mask and social distance guidelines while in the church.
You may view the livestreamed Mass on YouTube.
Read the memories shared at Sister Ruth Barbara's funeral.
Sister M. Ruth Barbara, CSC
(Barbara Ann Holtshouser)
December 5, 1944 — November 28, 2022
We share news of the death of Sister M. Ruth Barbara (Holtshouser), CSC, who died at 9:45 a.m. on November 28, 2022, in Saint Mary’s Convent, Notre Dame, Indiana. Sister Ruth Barbara entered the Congregation from Salt Lake City, Utah, on September 10, 1963. Her initial profession of vows took place on August 15, 1966.
Please join us in prayer for Sister as we renew our faith in the resurrected Jesus and strengthen our hope that all the departed will be raised to eternal life.
Sister M. Ruth Barbara (Holtshouser) found great joy in learning about different ways of life. Even in her final days, she never forgot the wonderful memories of living amongst the people of Bangladesh and the Apache tribes of San Carlos, Arizona. While it might have been daunting to experience cultures and languages she did not know, it fascinated her all the same. This interest in differing cultures was fostered at a young age. Barbara Ann Holtshouser was born on December 5, 1944, to Herbert Holtshouser, a Roman Catholic, and Florence (Christensen) Holtshouser, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Along with her five younger siblings, she was taught to recognize and respect both religions, but was raised Roman Catholic.
An intelligent and studious teenager, Barbara was “a bit shy on first acquaintance, but full of life and merriment when among her close friends,” notes Sister M. Giovanni (Donnelly), CSC. The teacher at Judge Memorial High School, Salt Lake City, Utah, shared this assessment in a recommendation letter for Barbara, who began discerning her religious vocation during her junior year. The priest who taught her religion class once remarked that while priests and sisters gave up a lot when entering religious life, they were some of the happiest people he knew. Barbara believed that this statement “kind of gave me a nudge to say let’s see.” Barbara entered the Sisters of the Holy Cross, Notre Dame, Indiana, on September 10, 1963, the year of her graduation from high school. Upon reception of the holy habit, she became Sister Mary Ruth Barbara. Prior to beginning her education ministry, she graduated with a bachelor's degree in English literature from Saint Mary’s College, Notre Dame, in 1968.
The first 11 years of Sister Ruth Barbara’s life in Holy Cross were spent teaching in parochial elementary schools throughout the western United States. She taught third through sixth grades at St. Anne School, Las Vegas, Nevada; St. Paul the Apostle School, Los Angeles, California; St. Philip Neri School, Lynwood, California; and Holy Rosary School, Idaho Falls, Idaho. She was also the principal of Bishop Glass School, Salt Lake City, from 1972 to 1973.
After volunteering to serve in a mission abroad in the late 1970s, Sister Ruth Barbara traveled to Dhaka, Bangladesh, to teach grades seven through nine at Holy Cross College in 1979. After two years of teaching, she began working with co-ops that involved men and women weaving jute products, such as baskets, through Corpus Christi parish in Jalchatra, Bangladesh. She assisted these groups in securing loans, developing new items they could sell, and facilitating a relationship with Oxfam, a charitable organization that bought the co-ops’ crafts to sell across the world. “Exploration” was how she described the predominant theme of her years in Bangladesh. Sister Ruth Barbara learned about another culture, a new form of ministry, and “the breadth and boundaries of my endurance.” After spending five years in Bangladesh, she returned to the United States in 1984.
It was clear that Sister Ruth Barbara’s time in Bangladesh had imparted a lasting impact, as she began ministering in parishes upon her return to the United States. Between 1984 and 1989, her parish ministry led her to Saint Paul Parish, Seattle, Washington, and other worshipping communities in the Diocese of Salt Lake City, Utah. Following her three-year appointment as the director of the alliance of pastors in the Diocese of Steubenville, Ohio, she earned her master’s degree in applied theology from the School of Applied Theology, Berkeley, California, in 1993. Sister Ruth Barbara then traveled to San Carlos, Arizona, where she served on the San Carlos Apache Reservation for 28 years. Her ministry was primarily focused on leadership development and outreach to those in need. Of her time in San Carlos, she said, “When I see the deep faith of the Apache people and the ways God has spoken to their ancestors, I begin to realize that every culture is special to God, and that God has spoken to every one of them the way God has spoken to Christians.”
In 2021, Sister Ruth Barbara transitioned to a ministry of prayer and presence at the motherhouse, after a diagnosis of a grave illness. She maintained a positive spirit and donated her long hair to a charitable foundation. Still, her death came as a shock. She died under hospice care at Saint Mary’s Convent on the morning of November 28, 2022, a week before her birthday. She would have been 78 years old. The sisters and her caregivers mourn the loss of Sister Ruth Barbara, recalling her lively and kind personality. As one Native American prayer states, “Do not think of me as gone. I am with you still, in each new dawn.” Sister Ruth Barbara now joins her ancestors and all those in the communion of saints. She lived as a consecrated religious, a Sister of the Holy Cross, for 56 years, and now enjoys the daybreak of resurrection in Jesus Christ.
We invite you to donate to the Ministry With the Poor Fund in Sister’s name.
—Written by Madisen Toth, Archivist
Sisters of the Holy Cross, Congregational Archives and Records