Caritas Corner | Lent and Sister Lou Krippel

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Sister Lou Krippel


As a convert, Lent is a time of year for which I have great fondness.  What makes the season so special for me, personally, is not only the refocus on prayer, fasting, and almsgiving but the memory of that Lent that led up to the Easter Vigil when I was confirmed.  It was a joyful time at the end of my journey to Catholicism, which was long and winding.  There were many events and people who played a part in my conversion, but I was most profoundly impacted by women religious, both as individuals and by what they represent.

One of the women who had some of the greatest influence on me was Sister Lou Krippel, OSF.  Whether or not you have had the privilege to know Sister Lou during her time in Colorado Springs, chances are that she has touched your life in some way.  This March, she will be stepping down from her longtime work with Penrose-St. Francis Health Services, where she has been the heart and soul of the John Zay Guest House since it was first conceptualized in the early 2000s.  Sister Lou’s leadership in providing a loving place for families of patients in their most vulnerable hours is, in itself, worthy of acclaim.  It also happens that she was the first director of Catholic Charities when it was incorporated into the Diocese of Colorado Springs in 1986.

Catholic Charities has been enhanced by many great women and men over its 51-year history, but Sister Lou stands out for laying important foundations, especially around family services, that remain integral parts of the agency to this day.

Because of the way that I came to the faith, Sister Lou and women religious are very much connected to the Lenten season. For me, they set an example by following Christ’s teachings. They choose to live their faith in ways that I find as amazing as it is beautiful, making real some of the most challenging parts of scripture.  “If you wish to be perfect, go sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.  Then come follow me.” (Mt 20:21) Or Luke 14:26-27: “If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.  Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.”  In the process of dedicating themselves to Christ, these women have built hospitals and schools across the United States. They have cared for the poorest of our brothers and sisters around the world. They have founded guest houses and Catholic Charities agencies.

The Compendium of Catechism of the Catholic Church describes Lent as “particularly appropriate for spiritual exercises, penitential liturgies, pilgrimages as signs of penance, voluntary self-denial such as fasting and almsgiving, and fraternal sharing (charitable and missionary works).”  This year, I will find a way to fast.  I will add more prayer into my routine (I need it) and I will increase my almsgiving, especially in preference for our poor (they need it).  In short, I will strive to be more like the Sister Lou and others who have been my models in the faith.

Later this spring or early summer, Sister Lou will be returning to Joliet Franciscans in her hometown of Joliet, Illinois. I am happy that she will be closer to family and friends, but I miss her already.  Sister Lou: Colorado Springs is a better place because of your time and work here. Thank you.

Andy Barton is the President and CEO of Catholic Charities of Central Colorado.  This article first appeared in the Colorado Catholic Herald.

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