Sister Mary Ludmilla Benda, Age 94
Wednesday, January 27, 2021
Sister Ludmilla grew up on a farm in Toledo, Iowa, and acquired her nursing degree before entering the Mercy Community in 1947. Later, she received her B.S. and then her M.B.A. in healthcare administration.
Sister Ludmilla worked her way up to Mercy Hospital Davenport’s administrator, where she served for six years. She then went to Mercy Hospital and Medical Center in Chicago, Illinois, to serve as the administrator for six more years.
After that, Sister Ludmilla returned to Davenport, where she was a pastoral associate, worked in in-home healthcare, was director of the diocesan volunteer program, held several professional leadership roles, did fundraising for Marquette Academy and more.
Sister Ludmilla’s heart was always focused on those most in need, which led her to St. Anthony Parish’s food window. From there, when her dear friend and co-worker, Father Jim Conroy, died, Sister Ludmilla used the funds he left her to begin Fr. Conroy’s Vineyard of Hope.
This long-standing ministry grew and fed 80 to 150 mostly homeless people every Sunday for 13 years while providing clothing, laundering and shower facilities to the clients. Locals attributed it to their “Mother Theresa of Davenport”—their nickname for Sister Ludmilla.
The Sunday meal was, of course, shopped for and cooked by Sister Ludmilla. Local police officers and firemen looked forward to “Luddy’s fruitcakes,” a sideline of hers.
“Sister Ludmilla would have preferred dying with her boots on, but medical needs in 2018 required her to move from Davenport to Mercy Circle,” said Sister Mary Sheehan, her good friend. “Sister’s motto, ‘My Jesus, I love you’ found its expression as she knew Jesus in those she served.”