By Patrick Sedeño
Special to The Texas Catholic
Ruth Daniel’s early life was full of hardships and disappointments, but her determination, love of God, family and community can be seen in the gift given in her name to the St. Patrick Catholic community in Dallas.
On Jan. 13, Auxiliary Bishop Greg Kelly blessed a bronze bas-relief, or raised sculpture, that depicts the story of the life and ministry of St. Patrick, as well as that of the St. Patrick community.
St. Patrick was a Roman citizen who was kidnapped by pirates and taken to Ireland where he spent six years in hard labor before escaping and returning home. He later became a priest and returned to Ireland to help convert many of the pagans there and although known as the patron saint of Ireland, he is regarded worldwide.
The bas-relief at St. Patrick, designed by artists David and Lyle Novinski of Irving, is on a wall in front of the St. Patrick Catholic School building. Some of St. Patrick’s life include that of him as a youth; the ships that took him away and brought him back home; his life as a monk; and a bell in the hands of a child. St. Patrick was known to leave a bell in communities in order to call them together.
Another part of the sculpture includes images of the life of the St. Patrick community: a newly married couple; a mother and child; a family; and an elderly widow.
And that’s brings up Ruth Daniel. Although her image is not specifically in the bas-relief, the sculpture can be seen as a testament to her incredible life.
She was one of four children born to Ruth Lean and Phillip Thompson Nagle in Akron, Ohio on Jan. 23, 1921. Her mother died when Ruth was 6 years old and, unable to take care of his young children due to an industrial accident, Ruth’s father placed his children in the Summit County Children’s Home.
From there they entered into foster care with Bion and Minnie Clark, where they were scheduled to remain until they would age out of the system. Ruth, however, her son said, was determined to attend college, but during the Great Depression had little means. But with a $100 Latin scholarship, a $100 loan from the Women’s Club of Wadsworth, Ohio, and some help from her foster parents and her own father, she was able to get enough money to cover her $300 first semester at Heidelberg College in Tiffin, Ohio, in the fall of 1938.
It was there she met George E. Daniel, a product of a large Catholic family of 10.
“My mother never really had a family,” said her son, Christian Daniel. “She fell in love with the dynamics of his large family. It was she and my father’s desire to have a large family as well.”
While the two young college students were dating, Ruth began exploring Catholicism, fell in love with it and converted to her newly found faith. She worked diligently the following years to pay for her tuition and board and graduated in 1942 with a bachelor’s degree in education. Instead of teaching Latin, however, she got married later that fall and she and her husband spent the next 34 years farming and raising five boys and two girls, instilling in them, her son said, core values.
“My mother believed in charity, honesty, determination, hard work, and being Catholic,” Christian Ruth said.
In the 1980s, George and Ruth Daniel moved to Dallas to be closer to their children and grandchildren. They were very active at St. Patrick Parish and after George Daniel died in 1990, Ruth Daniel volunteered more in the community and with the Society of St. Vincent de Paul chapter at the parish.
Christian Daniel and his wife, Kathe, and his brother, Jeff, and his wife, Lynne and their family have been active parishioners at St. Patrick for many years, so much so that Christian and Kathe Daniel were recognized for having 30 consecutive years of having children enrolled at the school.
All her life and certainly before her death in 2016, Ruth Daniel, her son said, exhibited the true meaning of charity, working hard, and being Catholic, including praying the rosary before Mass.
Most of her estate was left to more than 20 organizations, most of them Catholic, including a gift for an annual dinner for the Society of St. Vincent de Paul chapter volunteers. Another gift was to the St. Patrick Catholic Church community to be used to commission the bas-relief of St. Patrick.
Father Josef Vollmer-KÖnig’s intent was to use the bas-relief as a memorial to Ruth Daniel.
Having been officially dedicated, the memorial stands and extends far beyond her name under the St. Patrick image—in many ways, her life and lasting memory mirroring that of whose image is depicted.
Separated from their families at an early age, Ruth Daniel and St. Patrick both found meaning in dedication and hard work. Their examples, teachings, and gifts of charity remain as testaments to their Catholic faith.