Dear Sisters, Associates, Co-workers, Family, and Friends,
On Tuesday evening, July 23, Sister Justin Louise Stiker peacefully passed from this life into eternal life. She is remembered as loving Jesus’s words, “Let the little ones come to me.” (Mt 19:14). On this evening, it seems that it was she, a lover of the little ones, who was invited to enter God’s presence in a deeper way.
Justin Louise was born Jeanette Elizabeth on April 29, 1925 in Indianapolis, the second child of Louise Mann Stiker and Justin Stiker. With three brothers, she was the only girl in the family. Jeannette attended Holy Name School in Beech Grove, where she met the Oldenburg Franciscans. She particularly admired her first grade teacher, S. Donald Fischesser, and felt early on that she wanted to become a Sister and teach the little ones, too. After attending high school at the Academy in Oldenburg, she entered the Community in September, 1942.
Her first opportunity to teach came when, as a novice, she was sent to Princeton to teach first and second grade. She gratefully credited S. Angeline with helping her learn how to prepare lessons and become an excellent primary teacher. She wrote of one memorable teaching experience: “When at Shelbyville teaching first grade, I took in a little girl who was spastic. I told the children about her problem, and she was our special student. After she became good friends with all the children, she really began to succeed. It was such a pleasure to see her progress so well.”
Justine Louise later used the same gentleness and attention to each child when she taught kindergarten and Sunday school. Still later she volunteered for Head Start and at a school for children with physical handicaps. She also enjoyed tutoring. On her 60th Jubilee, she wrote, “Now, retired at Oldenburg, I tutor Hunter, a five year old kindergartner. If he sees me walking he hollers, ‘Hi Sister Justin,’ and he wants to walk me home.” She had a real heart for the little ones, and they knew it.
Like everyone, S. Justine Louise knew ups and downs, heartaches and joys. She had a deep gratitude for those who helped her, and who accepted her for who she was. She was especially thankful for the doctor who recognized that she had a panic disorder. This condition had temporarily kept her from a classroom and the children she loved. Through his support and encouragement, S. Justin Louise began to regain her strength and self-confidence. She also developed new compassion for others. At one point, realizing that others might be dealing with similar things, she put a notice in the Bedford paper and began a small support group there.
She took great pleasure in meeting people on the buses in Bedford, and she made an impression on them as well. On one occasion she realized one woman had not been on the bus for a while. When someone told her that this woman was suffering from depression, she went to her apartment to visit and shared some of her own experience with her. S. Joan Laughlin told me that when some of the Sisters went to Bedford for a Jubilee celebration for S. Justin Louise, the local bus drivers were also there. No wonder she once said, when people worried about her being alone, that she had friends, “especially the people who ride the bus and my neighbors.”
When she retired to Oldenburg in 1999, she continued to tutor. She also turned her love of cooking in a new direction and baked cakes for the Sisters’ birthdays. In an article she wrote in 2002, she summarized her intention for her retirement years: “I try to live in the present moment and not worry about the future. I know that God will take care of me.”
We extend our sympathy to S. Justine Louise’s family, her Sisters and Associates in Community, her friends, and the nurses who lovingly cared for her.
In gratitude for this woman of courage,
S. Barb Leonhard
for the Council