While Loyola may have Sister Jean, we have Sister Lou!
In 1950, Sister Louisita Welsh heard her calling to a vocation with the Sisters of the Holy Cross. As a freshman nursing student at Saint Mary's, she and half of her classmates were informed that they had to stay in South Bend and work at the hospital on Christmas Day. This was upsetting news for her to miss Christmas with her tightknit family. Obedient to the assignment, she stayed. When she got up that morning and saw all the Sisters working with such joy, she thought, "if that's service, that's what I want to do." And that is exactly what she did! She took her vows with the Sisters of the Holy Cross and graduated from Saint Mary's College with her degree in nursing in 1958.
Always a sports fan, she was a loyal follower of the Irish. Wherever she was assigned, Saturday afternoons were a sacred time so that she and her fellow Sisters could either watch or listen to the Notre Dame Football games. In the late nineties, she returned to Saint Mary's to serve in the Office of Mission. She continued to support the Irish, but the day that she walked into Angela Athletic Facility and got her first dose of Belles Athletics, she was hooked!
She started out as the basketball and volleyball team chaplain in the early 2000s, but she quickly became part of the athletic staff and served as the departmental chaplain. Sister Lou attended our weekly staff meetings. She supported our Belles at nearly every home contest and even traveled with teams when she was available. She arranged a retreat for our staff at the Sisters' beach house in Lakeside, Michigan on the shores of Lake Michigan. Her presence kept us educated and grounded in the mission of the College.
As a team chaplain, she led our pre-game prayers with spirit and humor. As we formed a circle, hands held in prayer, Sister Lou would begin her prayer after the appropriate silent focus. She prayed for our athletes to play their best and countered that with the hope that our opponents did not. She would pray for a well called game by our officials, but asked that their heads be turned the other direction should our Belles commit a fault. Our coaches and student-athletes always left the prayer circle with light hearts and ready to face our foes.
Sister Lou made it a point to get involved and get to know our staff and our athletes. One of her fondest memories was her participation in the volleyball team's annual scavenger hunt around campus. As the volleyball players had to run around campus in search of the answers to their scavenger hunt clues, one of the rules was that they could not get wet. This made no sense to the athletes as the hunt was always conducted on a beautiful, dry day. What they did not know was that the coaches and Sister Lou would be driving around campus on golf carts armed with water balloons and squirt guns. One of the scavenger hunt questions was "how many 'Marys' are buried in row 4 of the cemetery?" The athletes would be focused on looking down and counting the graves, when to their surprise, Sister Lou would pop out from behind a tree with her super-soaker squirt gun, sending them scrambling! She certainly knows how to have fun!
Although her health has limited her, she continues to be involved in keeping the athletes in her prayers while also helping to arrange fellowship activities between the Sisters and the student-athletes at the Convent. She is central to our Christmas Caroling as well as to the Easter egg coloring event and the student-athlete talent shows. Her beautiful smile, laughing eyes, and her super-sized spirit have made a mark on our department in the most meaningful manner. She set the standard for team chaplains that will follow her; and, for this, her impact will continue for years to come.