Sister Laurene Toeppe, a Sister of St. Francis of Tiffin, Ohio, grew up close to Sisters all her life. She would often ride along with her dad as he chauffeured the Sisters when they needed to go to the Tiffin Motherhouse convent, and she remembers seeing where the orphans lived at the Sisters’ St. Francis Home.
Sister Laurene’s grade school teachers all were Sisters, and she often stayed after class to be teacher’s helper. When she grew up, she wanted to a teacher too. She would play “teacher” thinking that all teachers were Sisters.
When she decided to attend the aspirant high school at St. Francis, it just felt “natural.”
Now 90 year old, Sister Laurene has some advice: “Do what you can for all whom you can as long as you can.”
Sister Laurene changed careers six times in her ministerial life — retrained each time to meet a new need. She served as teacher, pastoral worker, and social worker. After earning her MBA at Notre Dame University, she went to work for the Toledo Diocese’s low-income housing. She did everything from playing Santa Claus for the kids to meeting qualifications for government housing inspections. In later years she worked in the Sisters’ business office.
One of her favorite times in ministry was when she was serving as novice directress, and the diocese asked the Sisters to visit those in hospitals and senior care housing. That’s when she met an elder, Asa Martin Smith, with whom they enjoyed a “mutual adoption.” She regularly visited Mr. Smith, took him shopping and to medical appointments. One time on a shopping trip Mr. Smith surprised Sr. Laurene by gifting her with an afghan kit that she had eyed in a department store.
Mr. Smith eventually moved to a nursing home, and during that time, supported by Sr. Laurene, he converted to the Catholic faith.
Still, she says that her fondest memories are from the 19 years she spent teaching.
Former students still remember her with birthday cards. When she turned 80, her eighth grade class from Reed, Ohio threw a birthday party for her. They shared how much fun they had in her classroom, from learning to square dance to holding mock political debates and elections.
In her retirement, she now enjoys living with seniors, walking with them on their journey and leading Communion services.
Thanks to you, Sister Laurene literally has a roof over her head. The Sisters of St. Francis in Tiffin, Ohio wanted to use a building on the grounds of their Motherhouse to create additional assisted-living housing. They received a $25,000 grants from SOAR! in 2017 to replace the roof so the Sister could safely move in.