February 1, 2022 // Local

Indiana family’s bond with Catholic school extends for seven decades

INDIANAPOLIS (CNS) – As they worked together on their farm in southern Indiana, Ambrose and Mary Rose Kruer knew the power and wonder of seeds – how something so small could grow into something sustaining and life-giving.

And as the parents of 11 children, they also believed certain seeds needed to be planted in their children’s lives: the strength of family, the foundation of the Catholic faith and a Catholic education. So, when their oldest child, Evelyn, was ready to go to high school in 1951, the Kruers considered it a gift from God that Our Lady of Providence High School in Clarksville opened that same year.

Ambrose Kruer, seated right, and his 11 children pose together in this undated photo. When the photo was taken, Mary Rose Kruer, Ambrose’s wife and the children’s mother, had died. The couple made sure all their children attended Our Lady of Providence High School in Clarksville, Ind. (CNS photo/courtesy Kruer family via The Criterion)

What they never imagined is how that connection with the school would continue for generations. Ever since Evelyn attended Providence in the fall of 1951, at least one Kruer family member has been a student at the school.

“My parents had 11 children who all attended Providence,” said Norman Kruer, the sixth of the 11 children and a 1963 graduate of the school.

“They also had 34 grandchildren who all attended Providence. There have been 19 great-grandchildren who have gone or are now going to Providence through the 2023-24 school year,” he told The Criterion, archdiocesan newspaper of Indianapolis.

And there is more. “Two additional great-grandchildren will be starting at Providence for the 2022-23 school year, which currently will continue the legacy through the 2025-26 school year. Then, of course, there are great-great-grandchildren on the way.”

The start of that legacy came with a challenge. To get to Providence from the family’s
farm in the community of Starlight, Evelyn had to take two school buses. Then she took a cab, which was paid for by one of the pastors in the area, to complete the journey to school.

That’s how much it meant to their parents to have their children get a Catholic education.

“They were strong believers in the Catholic faith and the education that went with it,” Norman said. “They felt giving us a Catholic education was an obligation. They wanted us to stay in that culture. They believed in Catholic schools, and they passed that on to us, and we passed it on to our children. That’s how the legacy was built.”

Ambrose and Mary Rose Kruer of Clarksville, Ind., are seen in this undated photo. They planted the seeds of a bond between their family and Our Lady of Providence High School in Clarksville, Ind., that has grown every year for seven decades. (CNS photo/courtesy Kruer family via The Criterion)

When Noman went to Providence, he wasn’t involved in any sports or activities at the school because as soon as his classes ended, he had to return home to help with the chores on the farm. Still, he considers those four years as having a great influence on his life because of the faith-filled education he received, including a career-shaping class in bookkeeping.

“That got me interested in accounting, and that led me to go to college at Bellarmine, a Catholic college, where I majored in accounting,” said Norman, who retired in 2018 as the chief financial officer of a construction company.

The school also had an impact on his personal life since he married Kathy Howell, a 1965 graduate, and when their only child, Brad, was born, it was already determined where he would go to high school.

“If you talked to all my brothers and sisters, there wasn’t any doubt where our kids would go to high school,” Norman said. “Kathy and I look at high school as an investment for the future. We always thought Providence was a good investment because of the teaching, the culture and the faith.”

Brad, a 1993 graduate, and his wife, Kim, had the same belief in Providence for their three sons. Landon graduated in 2021 and now is at the U.S. Naval Academy. Luke is a sophomore at Providence. Lincoln will be a freshman there in the fall.

Currently, there are five descendants of Ambrose and Mary Rose at the high school. Luke and fellow sophomore Nina Kruer, plus three seniors, Peyton Kruer, Eli Krussow and Grant Williams.

“Providence means a lot to me,” Luke said. “Ever since I shadowed here when I was in the eighth grade, it felt like home. “

Peyton similarly embraces the family’s school connection. Her grandfather, Merle Kruer, is a 1959 graduate and her father, Merle John Jr., is a 1990 alum. Her sister Madison is a 2019 graduate.

“It honestly feels like an honor being part of a family that’s so passionate about this school,” Peyton said.

She said the school has made an impact on her faith with its weekly Masses and opportunities for eucharistic adoration.

“It brings me closer to God,” she said. “It also brings me closer to my classmates.”

Norman Kruer knows this praise from the great-grandchildren would touch his parents. He also thinks they would be surprised this school tradition has continued for so long. “It was never on their mind that they were starting a legacy,” he said. “Still, they’d be proud and appreciative of everything that’s been done. And they’d be proud and appreciative of Providence for all it’s done for us.

“Our whole family is proud of this legacy,” he added.

Shaughnessy is assistant editor at The Criterion, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

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