Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Sister Katherine Louise, founder of programs to help the poor, dies



Sister Katherine Louise, founder of programs to help the poor, dies

By Andrea K. Walker, The Baltimore Sun

7:15 PM EDT, October 17, 2010

Fixture in Southwest Baltimore started programs to help the poor, disabled and drug and alcohol addicted

Sister Katherine Louise Nueslein, who started programs to help the poor, disabled and those addicted to drugs and alcohol, died of cancer Oct. 14 at Stella Maris Hospice in Timonium

She was 77.

The daughter of a newspaper typesetter and a homemaker, Sister Katherine Louise was born in Savannah, Ga., where she grew up and graduated from St. Vincent's Academy high school in 1951. She began studies at Sisters of Mercy in Baltimore in 1951 and professed her vows to become a nun in 1954.

After earning a bachelor's degree in elementary education from Mount St. Agnes College in Baltimore in 1956, she continued her studies, earning a master's degree in special education from what is now Loyola University Maryland in 1975. She went on to teach primary school in Rockville, Bethesda and Baltimore.

Sister Katherine Louise, known by most as "Kitty," became a fixture in neighborhoods in Southwest Baltimore after returning to St. Peter the Apostle Church and the Sisters of Mercy in 1978. It was then that she began her lifelong effort to improve the lives of the urban poor, developing several neighborhood services over the next three decades.

Using a grant from Catholic Charities, she opened St. Peter's Adult Learning Center in 1982 to provide job training for developmentally disabled adults. The program began with six students and today has 75.

She also started Southwest Visions, a program that renovated houses in the area, and Hezekiah Movement, a drug and alcohol addiction treatment program.

The idea for Hezekiah blossomed after Sister Katherine Louise met the Rev. John McDonough, who ran a program for addicts in Towson where she took a woman for treatment. He mentioned that he had wanted to start a program in Baltimore but couldn't really find the support. She vowed that day to make it happen.

"She said there were a lot of addicts in her neighborhood and we should do it," Father McDonough said. "When she saw something that needed to be done, she did it."

As part of its program, Hezekiah takes participants to West Virginia for a retreat. Sister Katherine Louise, who friends say never lost her Southern drawl, was prepared to go to the latest one even though she was sick with cancer, Father McDonough said. She died before the day of the trip.

Even after a hip replacement, Sister Katherine Louise could be seen walking around the neighborhoods helping people, those who knew her said. She was always encouraging the other nuns to help the neighborhoods, they said..

Sister Ruth Marie Johnson remembers when a day care center owned by the Sisters of Mercy on Poppleton Street shut down because of lack of funding. The sisters wanted to sell the building, but Sister Katherine Louise insisted on finding another use. It was eventually used for a drug treatment program.

"She was the type of person you couldn't say no to," said Sister Ruth Marie. "Not because she was pushy, but because you knew her interests were in the people and problems of the area. She had their needs in her heart."

Sister Katherine Louise reached across international borders. After visiting El Salvador in 1989, she became touched by the poverty and faith of the people there. She helped start a partnership with a Salvadoran church, Our Lady of Lourdes parish in Calle Real, and begin making annual trips to the region.

She also organized a trip to a small fishing town to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Friends say Sister Katherine Louise was modest about her accomplishments, often giving credit to others. Sister Ruth Marie remembers that Sister Katherine Louise had a quote from Desmond Tutu written on a page of her address book: "It's amazing how much you can accomplish when it doesn't matter who gets the credit."

Nephew James T. Van Horn of Baltimore said it could be trying for his aunt to work with the poor, even though she loved it. To cope, she would begin each day by reading the Bible. Her sharp sense of humor also kept her grounded. She knew how to make fun of herself, Mr. Van Horn said.

There will be a viewing at St. Peter the Apostle Church at 9:30 a.m. Monday followed by a Mass of Christian burial at 11 a.m.

Also surviving are two nephews, Thomas J. Van Horn of Westminster and John B. Van Horn of Baltimore; as well as numerous great-nieces and great-nephews.



Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net


"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs


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