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He was known as a son, when he came to visit his dad, a resident at Franciscan Terrace.  Then gradually he came to be known as a husband and father as he spoke lovingly of “his girls.”  He was known as a collaborator as he ministered as Vice President of Purchasing for the Sisters of the Poor Health System, with his early office being at St. Clare Convent.


When his “official” office was later finished and Jerry was ready to move from St. .Clare Convent, a “Pizza Party” with some of the Sisters was his send-off. The anniversary was celebrated for several years at St. Clare’s, but then was moved to Jerry’s home, where the name “Pizza Party” continued but the menu changed dramatically! The date also moved to the Christmas season with a full course dinner prepared and served by the Altenau family.  It didn’t take long for Jerry to also be known as “brother” and “friend!”

Jerry soon became a Co-Member with us. His first Covenant was November 8, 1986.  He was a man of super energy!  This was reflected in his first Covenant as being involved in his parish as a Eucharistic Minister, lector, para-liturgical member, and member of the Grieving Committee.  He also volunteered at St. John Social Service Center and was a Board member of Cancer Share.  His great desire was to grow in his spiritual life and to help the poor.

After two renewals of Covenant of five years each, Jerry requested and was accepted to make his Permanent Covenant. He said he saw the permanent Covenant as more accurately reflecting his intention of permanency.  This took place on November 1, 1998 at St. Clare Convent Chapel, Cincinnati, Ohio in the presence of Sister Marilyn Trowbridge, Regional Minister, Sister Mary Jacinta Doyle, Director of Associates as well as Jerry’s sponsor, his wife, Patty and two daughters, Kim and Kristin, and many Sisters and friends.

    “I, Jerry Altenau, rejoice, O Blessed One, that you have placed within my small heart not only your Divine Seed but the essence of all you have created.  I now express my joy in your Being, as I invest these words with love to you.  I unite with Blessed Frances and pray: ‘Let us strive to do everything out of purest love; for in our poor suffering brethren we truly find Christ Himself.’  I commit myself by a Permanent Covenant as an Associate, to share in the life and ministry of the Franciscan Sisters of the Poor. I will do this by continuing to serve God in the poor through the St. Vincent de Paul Society, Franciscan Home Development, and Franciscan Haircuts From the Heart Program, for the present, and in the ways God continues to call me; also, by continuing to grow in my spiritual life and in my faith, with the Gospels and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass as my instruments to achieve these goals.  I see that pain and suffering will add in my spirituality as Jesus said: ‘Anyone who does not take up the cross and follow Me, cannot be my disciple.’”
    (Permanent Covenant written by Jerry Altenau)

His Covenant reflected how he lived.  He became involved in many of the ministries of the Sisters.  He became “Guardian” for two women, Frances and Dorothy, who had been cared for at St. Mary Hospital in Cincinnati and then later moved to St. Clare Convent when the hospital closed. As their need increased, they were moved to the Terrace and soon Jerry became their “Guardian” and brother! He frequently got calls from them while he was at work, letting him know their needs.

In 1996 Jerry became a Prayer Partner for St. Clare Retirement Community.  When he heard of Sister Bonnie Steinlage’s endeavors in Franciscan Haircuts from the Heart, he made a few phone calls and help was secured.  He served on the Board, continuing to give assistance.  He used his past experience as Chief Financial Officer at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine to connect Sister Mary Jacinta with Dr. Evelyn Hess, who had begun the Greater Cincinnati AIDS Task Force. He continued his interest and involvement in AIDS Ministry, volunteering for a time at Caracole House, a home for persons with AIDS.

Jerry attended many of the Programs for Co-Members, (later, Associates) as well as Assemblies and celebrations of the Sisters, often accompanied by his wife, Patty.  He learned of more needs through these involvements, and many received assistance in many quiet ways from him.

The last few years of his life Jerry lived more explicitly the last part of his Covenant:  “I see that pain and suffering will add in my spirituality as Jesus said: ‘Anyone who does not take up the cross and follow Me, cannot be my disciple’.”  Jerry’s health declined, with several illnesses taking its toll on his energy.  His mobility issues grew increasingly more difficult and it was challenging for him to accept becoming more dependent on others. After several years of debilitating illness, Jerry was taken into God’s eternal embrace on March 10, 2012, where he surely heard the words: “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Sister Mary Jacinta Doyle, SFP