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  • Writer's pictureJessica

Meet Louise- Women's History Month

During Women's History Month, I have invited several women who have been formative in my life to share about their journey and callings. As you learn about these women, I hope you are inspired and challenged.


Louise has been my Spiritual Director for just over a decade. When she came to one of our graduate classes to talk about Spiritual Direction I had never heard of it before, and when we met for the first time I didn't really understand what it was. Her Spiritual Direction over the last 10+ years has been incredibly formational for me, in considering the work of the Holy Spirit and honestly opened up whole new spaces of faith and relationship with God for me.


1. Would you share a bit about who you are: where you live, how you spend your days, your work, volunteering, your family makeup, your race, cultural background, faith context, and pets? (whatever you feel comfortable sharing) I live in an apartment in

Farmington Hills with my husband, a dog and cat – all who need much daily tending,

feeding and loving attention. I am also a mother to three grown children who live in far-

flung parts of the US, and three growing teen-age grandchildren. The main foci of my

work and ministry are in three streams – ministering to my neighbors and those within

my circle of friends, my spiritual direction practice and sewing quilts for refugee children

overseas.


2. Who is one or several women in your life who inspired you, and how did they

influence you?

a. I must first honor my mother - her witness of determination while dealing with

life’s difficulties continues to resonate with me, no matter what challenges I face.

She is the epitome of someone who overcame some of life’s greatest challenges

and remained true to herself and her faith all the way to the day she died of cancer

at age 82. Here are just few highlights of her life:

i. In her twenties, as a young nurse, she took a job in Hawaii. That

meant she was there when Pearl Harbor was bombed in 1941. Those who

survived clung together, which is how she met the young pilot she would

eventually marry, my father. They settled into married life and had four

children – I am the oldest (see the picture below).

ii. Their marriage lasted about 15 years until my father retired

from the Navy – by then we were settled in Memphis, TN. Left to fend

for herself and the four children, my mother, with the help of the parish

priest, the nuns from the Catholic school and her psychiatrist, managed to

become recertified as a registered nurse so she could go to work. She

worked until she retired – then moved to Florida.

iii. Sometime around her 70 th birthday, she was diagnosed with

cancer of the kidney – surgery left her with some weakness on her side, so

she had to move to Virginia to be near my sister and into an assisted living

facility there. Several years later, she developed stomach cancer. She

refused treatment, opting for hospice instead – she died at my sister’s

home a few weeks later.


b. When I was trying to figure out what to do next in my life, a friend suggested that

I go to Manresa Jesuit Retreat House in Bloomfield Hills, as the folks there know

something about finding God’s will. The first suggestion was to find a “spiritual

director,” something I’d never heard of – fortunately, the name given to me was

Barbara S. Not only did I work with her as my spiritual director for many years,

but with her help I made some important decisions. I entered a two-year program

offered by Manresa on discerning God’s will for my life. In the second year of the

program, we prayed about how God wanted us to use the material we were

studying – some were getting more involved in the community, some in their

congregations, while others were becoming spiritual directors themselves. With


Barbara’s help, I discerned a call to become a spiritual director … if anyone

would ask to meet with me. Right away two people signed up. Although I first

sought out her help to find God’s will for my life’s direction, almost 27 years ago,

the spiritual disciplines she taught me have served as the foundational principles

of my spiritual practice ever since!


3. Would you share about a time when your way/path was blocked or hampered

because of your gender, and how you navigated this? In addition to my work as a

spiritual director, I have worked on church staffs of various denominations since the early

90’s, sometimes in administrative and/or ministry positions. Eventually, the pastor of the

church where I was employed encouraged me to consider a seminary degree in order to

qualify for a credential that would gain me a “professional” position in my local church,

so I embarked on that degree through Ashland Theological Seminary’s Detroit campus –

a project that would take me many years to complete. When I was just one semester from

graduation, the church council announced that they would soon hire an ordained man to

fill the role I had been working toward! I was furious!

a. However, in the providence of God, three openings appeared:

i. First: A small church in Westland needed someone to walk with them as

they discerned the last months or years of their ministry. As a spiritual

director, I had been trained in just this kind of group discernment, so they

asked me to work with them as their interim pastor for whatever period of

time it would take – that ended up to be seven years!

ii. Second: The Detroit center of Ashland Seminary wanted to offer

courses in the area of spiritual formation without asking a professor to

drive up from the main campus in Ohio. At one point as I student I’d

made a presentation in a class taught by Dr. Ron Emptage, the dean, so he

knew I was a capable teacher. He also knew that the focus of my degree

had been spiritual formation, so he offered me the chance to teach after

graduation. Those few classes blossomed into several more, as well as a

position as small group leader in a cohort program in the Master of

Divinity program.

iii. Third: A former Ashland student, now planning to plant a church

in Southfield, contacted me to be part of a prayer team for the first few

months as they sought God’s direction for the who, where, and how of this

undertaking.


4. Was there an implicit or explicit message about being a woman that significantly

formed you that you would like to share?


Throughout my life there have been those who have tried to dismiss or thwart my attempts to achieve the goals I felt God was laying out for me, as if I was not just not who they had in mind for the position. It was as if I was invisible! Even when I was growing up, my mother tried to soften my personality – as a shy person, she was embarrassed when I would speak up – there is a picture of me in elementary school, speaking on a school program, all alone on a stage. My mother would say, “They put Louise up there because she had the loudest voice in the whole school!” There was pressure to “sit down and be quiet,” not only at home, but in many churches where I served. So, that’s why I’m thankful that I did not listen to

them! I’m thankful for my spiritual directors and others who encouraged me, welcomed

my gifts, and opened doors for me, taught me to keep a daily journal, and how to have a

rich prayer life.


5. Is there a business, project, book, passion, non-profit, or the like that you would like to highlight and share with others?


a. Please check out the website HelloCottons.com, the base for “Wrap the World

with Quilts.” At this moment we have sent over 24,000 hand made quilts to

refugees all over the world. Right now I have almost 20 made, ready to ship to

them.


b. Although I could give a whole syllabus of books on women’s spirituality and/or

women spiritual writers, one of my favorites is by Shawn Madigan, Mystics,

Visionaries & Prophets: A Historical Anthology of Women’s Spiritual Writings.


c. My other passion is helping men and women make peace with who God created

them to be so there is not that constant chasing after permission and acceptance


These are my siblings: My brother, Mickey, in light blue, Jim in dark blue, and my

sister, Cynthia.




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