Sister Audrey Ruth Donnenfelser, MSC

In Memoriam

Sister Audrey Ruth Donnenfelser, MSC (AKA Sr. Maria Incarnata, MSC) was born February 19, 1933 in New Orleans, LA.  She died at Our Lady of Prompt Succor Nursing on November 25, 2023 at 10:41 AM.

Sister Audrey Ruth was preceded in death by her father, Anthony Edward Donnenfelser and her mother, Edna Duples Donnenfelser; her sister, Melba Deakle (husband, Frederick Deakle); her sister, Gladys Held Nunnery (husbands Woodrow Held and Elden Nunnery); her brother, Robert Warren Knight, Jr.; her nephew Eric Woodrow Held (Brother De Paul, OFM); and her nieces, Donna H. Carpenter and Patricia K. Lynch.

She is survived by her nieces, Kris Held and Gretchen Hegwood, Barbara Di George, Karen Knight and nephews, Byron Deakle and Rusty Deakle, and their families.  She is also survived by her Marianite Sisters, her former students, and her dear friends, Sisters of Mercy, Sr. Nicholas Schiro, RSM and Sr. Evelyn Fournet, RSM.

Sister Audrey Ruth entered the Congregation of the Marianites of Holy Cross on August 28, 1949 and pronounced her perpetual vows on August 13, 1954.  She received her college education from Our Lady of Holy Cross College (now University of Holy Cross) in New Orleans, a Masters of Education from Our Lady of the Lake College in San Antonio, Texas; and certification in Spiritual Direction. 

Sister Audrey’s ministries touched many forms of education including dance!  Growing up as an accomplished performer of ballet, tap, and jazz, she was often asked to assist in various schools with teaching the students to perform dances for pageants and other productions.  As teacher and administrator, she served at Immaculate Conception in Lake Charles as well as in the New Orleans area at St. Christopher, St. Mary of the Angels, Incarnate Word, St. Rita, St. Andrew, Resurrection, and was the founding principal at St. Cletus school in Gretna. 

At Our Lady of Holy Cross College (now University of Holy Cross), she served on the staff and also as director of Institutional Research.  She was active in spiritual direction, in retreat ministry and in religious formation.  In leadership for the Marianites, she served two terms as congregational assistant and following this service brought a ministry of presence in Hammond at Southeastern Louisiana University.  Due to declining health, she was admitted to Our Lady of Prompt Succor Nursing Home on May 19, 2014.

True to her German heritage, she was a woman of strength and integrity, of wit and wisdom.  She had a unique sense of humor that included a cutting edge to get her point across in a non-threatening way.  Her life experiences afforded her many opportunities for personal growth and enrichment which she generously shared with others.  As a Sister, she enjoyed all aspects of community living:  the spiritual life it nurtured, the challenges it offered, the celebrations it fostered.  As an educator, both as teacher and administrator, she was persistently dedicated to the advancement of Catholic education and to the growth of her students.  She journeyed with many of them and their families through their early years, into high school, and beyond.  As a spiritual director, she shared her gifts of prayer and discernment and, as a wise spiritual teacher, she learned from others in the process.  As an aunt, “she was the coolest nun the family ever knew!  Ever kind and gentle with each one, she was always ready for a new adventure and delightfully shared in many of the special moments of their lives.  To her family, she was filled with a joy that radiated her love of God and others.” 

Sister Audrey Ruth was happy until the end of her life, enjoying simple activities, never complaining, always grateful.  Thank you, Audrey Ruth, for touching hearts and changing lives by your faithful living of the Gospel in and through your religious life!  As you dance into eternal life, pray for us that we, too, will be faithful to the Lord of the dance!

Mass of the Resurrection was celebrated on November 30, 2023 at 10:30 AM in the chapel at Our Lady of Prompt Succor Nursing Home.  Burial followed in St. Landry Cemetery in Opelousas.  We want to express profound gratitude to the staff of Our Lady of Prompt Succor Nursing Home for their consistent caring and compassionate presence to Sr. Audrey.  We also want to thank the staff of Traditions Hospice for their expertise and support in the last days of her life.