Sister Isabel Rudge Is ‘Like a Piazza’

Sister Isabel Rudge’s warm smile illuminates her face when she discusses her ministry. It’s clear she takes St. Angela Merici’s counsel to “be like a piazza” to heart.

Our founder’s instruction to be hospitable and engaged in our communities, just as people are in the inviting Italian spaces called piazzas, has been central to several of Sister Isabel’s ministries. Especially recently.

For the last four years, Sister Isabel has ministered as part of our hospitality team, welcoming visitors to both the Ursuline Education & Wellness Center and Motherhouse.

 “I enjoy what I’m doing. It’s wonderful!” she comments. “I’m meeting new people, and they are meeting somebody they know is a Sister. I like them to feel welcome to whatever program they’re attending, whether it’s something that we sponsor, somebody’s music recital or a birthday party.”

Sister Isabel’s ministries have taken her down different paths, but the need to share St. Angela’s charism of compassion has remained a constant.

CCD class at St. Columba 2016

Sister Isabel has ministered as a teacher at St. Nicholas School in Struthers, St. Patrick School in Youngstown, and Ursuline High School, where she also served as an administrative assistant. She left teaching to serve with the Marriage Tribunal for the Diocese of Youngstown, where she ministered for several years. She then served on the Ursuline Sisters of Youngstown Leadership Team for several years before becoming both Pastoral Minister and Director of Religious Education at St. Columba Cathedral Parish, Youngstown. 

In 2016, Sister Isabel “retired” from ministry outside of the Motherhouse for health reasons. That’s in quotes because the change hasn’t slowed Sister Isabel much.

In addition to serving on our hospitality team, Sister Isabel is also the Motherhouse Coordinator.

“I direct things when we’re [the Sisters] going to have a something special. I fill in at the reception desk and check all the doors at the center and in the back of the house every night to make sure that everything is locked.”

While she’s very busy, the change in ministry has its merits, Sister Isabel observes.  

“Several months ago when the impeachment trials were on, I was able to watch. I enjoy following politics, but I’ve always been too busy to do something like watch the entire proceedings. I was able to this time,” she says with a chuckle.

Sister Isabel’s interest in politics was influenced by her mother. Her desire to find her life’s vocation as an Ursuline Sister was influenced by the Holy Spirit and the many Sisters she had as teachers.

“I remember thinking, ‘Someday, I want to be one of those Sisters,’ and my mother had been a teacher, so I was interested in teaching, too,” she says. Sister Isabel first entered the convent while a senior in high school and made her final profession of vows in 1953 – almost 70 years ago!

She received her Bachelor of Science in Education from Youngstown State University. During summers and a sabbatical year, Sister Isabel furthered her studies through St. John College in Cleveland, Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., and Marquette University, Milwaukee.

Spend time with any Ursuline Sister and you find a common theme that’s echoed by Sister Isabel as well – how being an Ursuline Sister has led to a lifetime of joy.

“I really enjoyed every single one of my ministries,”  she states.