Sister Lelia Lee Kirchner, OSU

1948-70 years
Current Ministry: United Crescent Hill Ministries, Louisville and Centro Latino, Shelbyville, Kentucky

Previous Ministries: Teacher, St. George and St. Raphael schools (Louisville), Saints Peter and Paul school, Cumberland, MD, St. Raphael and St. Helen schools (Louisville) Co-founder of St. Angela Merici school in Carmen de la Legua, Peru, Pastoral ministry at San Miguel in Cajamarca, Peru

Sister Lelia Marie Kirchner (Sister Mary Placidus) celebrates her 70th Jubilee this year. She was born on June 13, 1929, the eighth of thirteen children born to Mary and John Kirchner, who raised the family on a farm in Lyndon, Kentucky. After the Great Depression and 1937 flood, the family had to give up the farm and move into the city, where they joined St. Joseph Parish.

Sister Lee (as she is called), recalls, “I missed the green, open countryside and spacious home on the farm, but I really loved being able to participate in school and church activities, which were not possible before, due to the distance.”

Sister Lee entered the Ursuline Community joyously after high school graduation from Ursuline Academy (UA) in Louisville and received the name Sister Mary Placidus on July 4, 1948. She taught at St. George and St. Raphael schools in Louisville while attending Ursuline College. Immediately following her final profession, she took a train to Cumberland, Maryland and taught second grade for five years at Saints Peter and Paul Parish School. She loved the community there. Always a sports lover, she tells the story that she and another Sister hung back after evening Mass to watch the Harlem Globetrotters from an upper window in the school gym, for which they did not have permission from their superior. She had to kneel on the carpet in front of the superior as punishment, but she said it was worth it to see the Globetrotters!

From Cumberland, Sister Lee then returned to Louisville to teach at St. Raphael and St. Helen parish schools for a total of thirteen years. While she enjoyed teaching and loved her students, she always carried in her heart a love for ministry with the poor and marginalized.

In 1963, Pope John XXIII asked religious communities to send 10% of their members to serve in Latin America. For several years, the Ursulines had sent out a questionnaire to the members asking if they would be interested in missionary work. Every year, Sister Lee would mark “yes”.
Sister Lee says that in 1964 she was “surprised, overjoyed and at the same time almost in a daze as I received by phone my obedience to go to Lima, Peru, with three other sisters to begin a mission there.” Sister Lee and Sister (Joseph Marie) Mary Martha Staarman were told that they were starting a school from scratch in what was a slum area, Carmen de la Legua. The other two Sisters would teach English at a Navy school. Neither Sister knew Spanish or the culture. She had some concerns, but deep in her heart she was very excited—this is what she had wanted all along! Sister Lee felt she was living like a queen in the U.S., and what she truly wanted was to be with the people that were living as “the other.” So, off she went on July 8, 1964, for the biggest adventure of her life.

After a three month crash course in Spanish (over time they became fluent in Spanish), Sister Lee and Sister Mary Martha set about their monumental task. Sister Lee recalls, “I felt so zealous until I saw our mission, Carmen de la Legua, which was a slum area of 30,000 poor families that lived along a dried-up bed of the Rimac River in straw huts and spoke another language. Oh, my Jesus, guide and keep me.” They had no electricity, running water, sewers, basic medical care or transportation. The area had a lot of mosquitos, scorpions and vermin, and disease was rampant.

In 1965, after a lot of red tape, they were able to open St. Angela Merici School. They started it with 75 children in two first grade rooms, one box of chalk and two erasers! Enrollment quickly grew as it was the only Catholic school in the area.

Sister Lee was with St. Angela Merici School from 1964 to 1988, including ten years as principal. Through her pastoral ministry she empowered Peruvians to take over leadership positions in the school, in women’s family programs and in youth/young adult groups. Sister cherishes the support they had from other missionaries, and especially from Sisters Joanna Krupa and Martin de Porres who became her soul mates.

Sister Lee embraced Vatican II’s views on Gospel values, particularly the preferential option for the poor, all while witnessing first-hand the struggles of her Peruvian friends. These experiences helped lead Sister Lee to a deeper trust in Jesus, and the courage to face all of the isolation and difficulties she faced while ministering in South America, including twelve years of revolution.

In 1988, Sister Lee moved to the rural mission of San Miguel in the Andes Mountains of Cajamarca, Peru, where she worked in pastoral ministry until 2005. Sister Lee says, “What a blessing it was to return to my country roots, and to be among humble, gifted, faithful people who lived contemplatively. Our sisters were the first religious group to ever share our lives with them and acknowledge their many gifts as leaders in the church and villages.

Sister Lee says that from 1964-2005, “I spent the most unbelievable, difficult, happy and rewarding years of my life. Forty-one years of every kind of experience enriched my spiritual journey of serving and sharing God among some of the poorest, unattended, struggling, faith-filled, happy people I know and love. In Peru I began to realize what my call as a religious really was.”

In 2005, Sister Lee returned to the states, where she continues in ministry. She and Sister Annunciata Muth serve at United Crescent Hill Ministries in Louisville, preparing meals on wheels and serving senior citizens who eat lunch there. Sister Lee also volunteers with Centro Latino in Shelbyville, Kentucky. Centro Latino is a non-profit organization that serves Latinos in five counties with legal assistance, donations of food, clothing and educational services. She helps coordinate their free clothes closet and leads 30 Latina women each month in prayers, reflections, sharing, and exercises that help to relieve stress and concerns of daily living.

Sister Lee’s personal symbol is a yellow butterfly, Sofia, for the wisdom of the Holy Spirit. What an appropriate symbol for a young girl who missed the outdoor life of her family farm, and then as an Ursuline missionary no doubt saw many yellow butterflies in the mountains of Peru, when riding on horseback to carry the Blessed Sacrament to a village or minister to a sick child. The butterflies must have seemed to her to be messengers from Heaven.

In closing, Sister Lee says, “My final thoughts are so full of love, gratitude, pardon and promises. I thank God for His faithfulness to me in my times of light and darkness. My family, friends, benefactors, Associates, and especially my Ursuline Sisters are the most precious gift I can appreciate, share and enjoy.”

Sister Jean Anne Zappa, OSU

1968-50 years
Current Ministry: Mission Advancement Coordinator at Shively Area Ministries, Louisville

Previous Ministries: Religion Teacher, Angela Merici High School, Sacred Heart Academy (both in Louisville), religion department chair at SHA, Director of Mission Effectiveness of the newly incorporated Ursuline Campus Schools, Pastoral Associate at St. Athanasius Parish in Louisville Councilor for Ursuline Sisters, President of Ursuline Sisters, intern at Network in Washington D.C .

Much like a team that has just won the Super Bowl, when asked what she wants to do if she ever retires, Sister Jean Anne Zappa answers, “Go to Disney World!” In fact, when she turned 65 in 2015, she participated in the Disney Princess 10k at the Magic Kingdom. “Some folks get depressed about age; I want to celebrate it,” says Sister Jean Anne. She appreciates the Disney mindset. “I went there for a leadership workshop about six years ago,” she recalled. “Their mission is simple—keep people happy and safe.”

When you spend a little time with Sister Jean Anne, you begin to understand why this makes perfect sense for this Ursuline Sister who is celebrating her 50th Jubilee this year. She is a self-described “Italian extrovert” who freely gives hugs and has a warm smile for everyone she meets, bestowing on each person the gift of feeling loved and appreciated.

A native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Sister Jean Anne grew up in a large Catholic Italian family with five children. She lived only eight blocks from Ursuline Academy, from which she graduated in 1967. She credits the Ursuline Sisters there with her decision to join the Ursuline Sisters of Louisville. She said they inspired her not so much by what they did, but how they did it. She also gives a lot of credit to her family who nurtured her call to religious life. She says her family lived hospitality, generosity and service through their actions. Her first call came from God, through them, from their example of love.

When asked what she is passionate about, Sister Jean Anne answers, “Life! Relationships and people.” Her ministry through the years has been evidence of this, as well as her enthusiasm, joy and energy. She entered the Ursuline community in 1967, during a period of great change in the Catholic Church and in the Ursuline community as a result of Vatican II. Religious communities were told to renew themselves, to go deep into their charism.

Sister Jean Anne recalls, “It was an exciting time—there was a buzz around the community.” As a novice, she was asked to step in to be the chair of the vow committee when the chairperson got sick, and that was so exciting to her. Sister said that is a perfect example of how her ministry changed over the years; always by invitation from others. The Ursuline Sisters did this by drawing out her gifts, and she states that, “I have been blessed and have received many graces as an Ursuline Sister. I have experienced God’s fidelity, wonderful relationships, and have had spiritual opportunities that have touched and shaped my life tremendously.”

With a bachelor’s from Bellarmine and a master’s from St. Meinrad School of Theology, Sister Jean Anne taught for twenty years, and then served in pastoral work, and terms in Leadership, as well as an internship with Network in Washington, D.C., Sister Jean Anne has been with Shively Area Ministries (SAM) as Mission Advancement Coordinator since 2009. SAM responds to persons in poverty and crisis in the 40216 zip code in Louisville. It provides food, financial assistance, education and counseling to over 20,000 persons each year. In fact, it is the second largest food pantry in Kentucky.

During her tenure, Sister Jean Anne has played a key role in the success of SAM. She proposed, oversaw and completed a successful three-year capital campaign for SAM, exceeding the $600,000 goal, as well as raising an additional $23,000 to build a Habitat for Humanity house.

She also started a Partner in Ministry program, which began with 40 donors who contribute monthly, but is now up to 200 donors. Sister Jean Anne says, “I love the people we work with, and I love working with the donors, staff and volunteers.” Gary Copeland, the Executive Director of Shively Area Ministries, says, “Sister Jean Anne is well known to be an effective fundraiser because it comes from the heart. She has a passion and a commitment to our clients—what it takes to serve is what she does.”

Sister Jean Anne has also been a successful fundraiser for her own community, having most recently served as Chapel Preservation Coordinator for a 3.5 million dollar capital campaign that ensures the 100 year-old Motherhouse Chapel will be preserved into perpetuity.

Sister Jean Anne believes that Angela’s charism is a very strong charism— to have survived since 1535. She sees the future of the Ursuline Sisters of Louisville as evolving into something closer to the way Saint Angela and her original companions lived: freely among the people they serve, to be leaven to all.

Sister believes that the point of religious life is to share the charism with others, spread the gospel and serve the marginalized. Through her many and varied ministries over the years, Sister Jean Anne has definitely done just that.

Sister Shirley Ann Simmons

75 years — 1942
Current Ministry: Prayer and presence at Sacred Heart Home

Previous Ministries: Principal at St. Patrick (Sidney, NE), St. Luke (Ogallala, NE). Teacher at McDaid Elementary (North Platte, NE), St. Luke (Ogallala, NE). Teacher at St. Boniface, Our Lady of Lourdes and St. Elizabeth (Louisville, KY); SS. Peter and Paul and St. Mary (Cumberland, MD); Blessed Sacrament (Omaha, NE); Pastoral Minister at St. Luke Parish (Ogallala, NE).

It was 1942. A first class stamp cost three cents. “Casablanca” hit movie theaters. Bing Crosby released his version of “White Christmas” and Sister Shirley Ann Simmons joined the Ursuline Community. Seventy-five years later, Sister Shirley Ann says she doesn’t recall seeing “Casablanca”, but she sure knows “White Christmas,” and she still loves listening to music.

Born in Hartwell, Nebraska, Sister Shirley Ann was the oldest of four; she had two brothers and a sister. Her father was a farmer and her mother taught school. Education was important in their household, so the oldest daughter was sent to board with a Catholic family in North Platte in order to attend a Catholic high school. Sister Shirley Ann helped with the host family’s two children, getting them to and from school.

Sister was 17 when she decided to join the convent. Then she received a four-year scholarship to attend Ursuline College in Louisville, Kentucky. Sister Shirley Ann said she never would have ventured so far from home without that scholarship. She missed her parents and siblings, but soon gained a new family in the Ursuline community. “I guess God just put the wish there,” she said. “I admired all the nuns; all the ones I had as teachers.” When Shirley Ann entered the Novitiate, she was given the name, Sister Joanella; she returned to her baptismal name when this was a choice in the 1960s.

Over the years, Sister Shirley Ann has travelled through many classrooms and served as principal at two Nebraska schools: St. Patrick in Sidney, and St. Luke in Ogallala. In 1999, she left teaching behind and began work as pastoral minister at St. Luke Parish in Ogallala, Nebraska, serving the Catholic community there until 2005.

Her own education included a Bachelor of Arts degree from Ursuline College in 1957; Master of Arts, Creighton University, 1962; and summer classes at University of Notre Dame, College of St. Mary (Leavenworth, KS), and University of Montana (Missoula). “I liked every place I was,” she said. “I taught most of the grades. I really preferred teaching middle grades, but I taught whatever they gave me! I really enjoyed my classes and I had some big classes. I enjoyed my teaching career.”

Today Sister Shirley Ann lives at Sacred Heart Home in Louisville. Her tidy room contains a book shelf with her favorite books, many of them Ursuline prayer books. “I read and I pray,” she said. “I like the Ursuline prayers. I like music, too. I just don’t like the wild stuff!” she said with a laugh. When asked about being an Ursuline for 75 years, she paused. “It sounds like a long time, but when I stop and think of it, it doesn’t seem like it’s that long,” she said. “I’ve basically had good years all along.”

Sister Antonine Biven

70 years — 1947
Current Ministry: Apostolate of Prayer

Previous Ministries: Music Teacher at St. Francis of Assisi, St. Helen, Our Lady of Lourdes, St. Therese, Sacred Heart Model School, St. Raphael (all of Louisville, KY), Ursuline Academy (Columbia, SC), St. Mary (Jackson, MS). Music Director/Organist at St. Raphael, Our Lady of Lourdes, St. Helen, Ursuline Motherhouse ( all of Louisville). Director of Religious Education at St. Mary Parish (Maryville, KY). Councilor for Ursuline Sisters, Volunteer at Project Women and Marian Home (both of Louisville).

There is no calculating hours at the keyboard or how often she struck up the band, Sister Antonine Biven has spent her life making music. She chuckled about almost joining a jazz band before she went to the convent and how she learned to play everything from violin to saxophone. The time she wore a full habit while practicing trombone – whose slide knocked off her bonnet – made her laugh aloud.

“I always wanted to be a nun,” she said, smiling. “I used to go to early mass with my mother and we would pass the convent, and I wondered what those people did up there. I thought they took off that habit and stacked it in the corner. I didn’t know they were in parts! I think my time with my mother and our going to mass every morning kept that vocation alive in me.”

Childhood memories include the 1937 flood, when her family lost everything. “We moved in with my oldest brother who had been married only 12 days. He said his marriage was never the same!” she laughed. “My sister and I slept in a broom closet.”

They recovered from the flood, and she started piano lessons. “Lessons cost a quarter each. Eventually, mom saved enough for me to take lessons from the sisters for fifty cents!”
When was her music career truly born?

  • When her father bought a $15 piano on payments.
  • When high school classmates pooled money to rent the Memorial Auditorium so she could have a senior recital there.
  • When the Ursulines provided an education that led her to teach.

”It was very difficult for my dad when I went to the convent. I remember his picking me up off the ground when I was put into the habit, to tell me goodbye. He hugged me SO tight.”

After her undergraduate degree in music from Ursuline College came a Master’s Degree from Notre Dame. She put her education to work in Kentucky, South Carolina and Mississippi for 24 years as a private instructor, band leader, parish music director, and church organist.

She hit a couple of sour notes along the way: a period when she was not permitted to teach secular music, and the day a priest who did not want a school band at his parish told her to “keep the noise down.” She can laugh about it now.

When she heard another calling, she earned a Master’s from Loyola University in New Orleans and spent 11 years as Director of Religious Education, Pastoral Associate and Music Minister at St. Mary’s parish in Bullitt County, Kentucky. “St. Mary’s was wonderful. They taught me more than I taught them. In addition to religious education, we visited the sick, and people came to us for advice on all sorts of things.”

She served in Leadership three times and twice accepted music ministries at parishes that underwent church renovation. “It was very difficult because we had to fix up the gym at St. Helen’s for weekend mass. Then I was honored to be invited to Our Lady of Lourdes and was very involved in that renovation.”

Sister Antonine sat at the keyboard for mass until health issues slowed her down. She began volunteer ministry at Marian Home. Today, friends call her a prayer warrior.

“I would like to thank the Ursuline Community for giving me an excellent education.” She is delighted to know her music plays on. “I met a former student on the street and he hummed the warm-up exercise we used to do in class.”

Sister Lorraine Maginot

70 years — 1947
Current Ministry: Prayer and presence at the Ursuline Motherhouse

Previous Ministries: Teacher at St. Joseph, St. Rita, Our Lady of Lourdes, Sacred Heart Model School, St. Clement, Most Blessed Sacrament (all of Louisville, KY), St. Patrick (Sydney, NE), St. Mary (Cumberland, MD), Sacred Heart (Camden, MS), St. Agatha (Columbus, OH). Principal at St. Mary (Cumberland). Secretary at Office of Communication. Volunteer ministry at Ursuline Motherhouse and craft shop (Louisville) and Ursuline Convent (Iowa City, IA). Sacristan for Sacred Heart Model School. Ministry to family member. Tutor.

Born on Christmas, many pitied her for not having her “own” day, but Sister Lorraine Maginot has considered it a privilege to celebrate Christ’s birth on her special day each year. Her reverent outlook and happy disposition seem innate. Born in Calumet City, Illinois, Sister Lorraine had plenty of playmates with six brothers and three sisters. There was love, joy, and heartache. The household was quarantined with diphtheria, forcing her father to stay with neighbors so he could continue to work. Her younger sister did not recover, and died at age 20 months. “Little Alma lay in a coffin in the sun room,” she recalled. “My father could not even come in.”

A deep-seated spiritual life carried the family through those dark days. Sister Lorraine explained being first inspired to religious life. “My older sister took me to school when I was real little to meet the Sisters. That was it! I always enjoyed the Sisters.”

“We went to St. Victor’s School. It was a mile away and we had to walk,” she said. “In the winter, there was a lot of snow. Dad would lead us by making a path, and then he went off to work. Sometimes, when the weather was good, we’d come home for lunch and I would stop by the church to make a little visit.”

Taught by Sisters of Notre Dame in grade school, then Sisters of the Holy Cross in high school, Sister Lorraine’s family connection brought her to the Ursulines.

“I was in sixth grade when we got a car,” she recalled. “Mom had two sisters in the Ursuline Community, so we visited. We were sitting in the yard outside the Motherhouse and mom told them that I was thinking of going to the convent. Sister Josephine said, ‘She should come to us!’ God was guiding me. My aunts were happy that I came!” She was given the name, Sr. Juanita when she entered the Novitiate, then returned to her baptismal name in the 1960s.

Her happiest years were spent teaching, even if her first assignment came as a shock. “I got my obedience for St. Joseph’s and it said fifth grade and I almost died!” she laughed. “I was scared that first year because I did all my student teaching with the little ones. I made it through okay; the kids were nice.”

She believes she was born to be a teacher. “Even when I was growing up with three younger brothers, we would play school and I was the teacher,” she said. “I loved teaching, especially the little ones.”

Her teacher career zig-zagged cross-country: Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, Ohio, Iowa, and by slow-moving train to a boarding school in Nebraska. Her least-favorite obedience: one year as a principal. Through it all, she kept her sense of humor and a deep well of compassion, even volunteering to take on seventh grade from a Sister who was in tears over that assignment. “I just felt so sorry for her!”

Sr. Lorraine was excused from teaching temporarily in the 1990s to care for her older sister who was ill. She felt blessed to help. Her ministries also have included sacristan, tutor, housekeeper, secretary, craft shop contributor, and assistant with chapel renovation at Sacred Heart Academy.

“Religious life was my life. From first grade on, I always wanted to be a Sister. You know life; you have your ups and downs,” she said with a smile. “It’s not going to be perfect, but that’s anybody. My community helped me through and I am very grateful and thankful for each day and each Mass at the Motherhouse.”

Sister Bernadine Nash

70 years — 1947
Current Ministry: Prayer and presence at Sacred Heart Home

Previous Ministries: Principal at St. George, St Vincent de Paul, Our Mother of Sorrows (Louisville, KY), Blessed Sacrament (Omaha, NE), St. Philip (Mt. Vernon, IN). Teacher at St. George, Holy Spirit, St. Peter, St. Boniface, St. Raphael, St. Clement, Sacred Heart Model School (Louisville), St Patrick (North Platte, NE). Coordinator at Ursuline Motherhouse, Volunteer ministry at Jewish Hospital, Marian Home, Suburban Medical Center, Red Cross, Pine Tree Villa, Elderserve (Louisville).

Sister Bernadine Nash has a quick smile, a sparkle in her eye, and a penchant for storytelling. Perhaps it is her Irish roots, as her parents were born in Ireland. “I had a priest ask me why I joined this German community of Ursulines,” she laughed. “They were the ones who taught me, so I never considered joining any order BUT the Ursulines!” When she made her vows, she took her father’s name, Emmett. Today, she uses her baptismal name, Bernadine.

Born in 1925 in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, Sister Bernadine was the oldest of 11 children, including eight brothers. Her parents valued Catholic education. Her own education was once interrupted by the birth of a sibling. She returned home to help and eventually earned her degree, combining credits from Creighton University with those from Ursuline College. Let us back up a bit! Sister Bernadine’s first calling was not to the convent. She worked as a nurse’s aide at St. Joseph Infirmary in Louisville starting in 1942. Later, she was a long distance operator and supervisor for American Telephone & Telegraph in Louisville. While working for the phone company, she heard the “real” call – came to join the Ursulines.

“I was older when I entered. I went to my parish priest with a check to have a Mass said for me because I was going to the convent. He told me he would take the money for a Mass and that he would offer a second Mass for my perseverance. Well, here I am, at 92!”

Sister Bernadine’s roles as teacher and principal spanned more than thirty years and touched countless lives. She traversed schools in Kentucky, Indiana and Nebraska. Those seven years in Nebraska are dear to her, as seen in photos on display in her room at Sacred Heart Home. One black and white image shows four young boys she trained to be altar servers at St. Patrick’s. Alongside is Sister Bernadine, wearing a small smile and her traditional habit. “That serge was 100% wool and sometimes I would roast,” she laughed. “Of course, the kids obeyed us because we had all that gear on!”

“When I got in the convent and was with the children all the time, they kept me young. I really loved the children. I also liked math. One time another nun and I traded so that I took her math classes and she took my English classes.”

“Recently, I was at a funeral for a priest and a gentleman came up to me and asked, ‘Are you Sister Emmett?’” she recalled. After she explained her name change, he continued, “Oh, Sister,” he said, “You were the best teacher I ever had. May I hug you?” “Sure, go ahead!” she replied with a laugh. This student was from her very first year in the classroom at Holy Spirit, 67 years earlier. Sister Bernadine continued her education with graduate courses and workshops on a wide range of topics, from psychology and pastoral ministry to social ethics and data processing. When she closed the books on teaching, it was the birth of a new string of ministries, including coordinator at the Motherhouse, volunteer chaplain at Jewish Hospital, volunteer work at the Marian Home, and Elderserve, where she made welfare calls to shut-ins.

Today Sister Bernadine enjoys the daily newspaper, puzzles, and time for prayer. Asked what she thinks Saint Angela would tell her on this 70th Jubilee, she replied, “She’ll be waiting there for us. She will say, ‘Come on, girl!’”

Sister Raymunda Orth

70 years — 1947
Current Ministry: Prayer and presence at Sacred Heart Home

Previous Ministries: Teacher at St. George, St. Ann, St. Raphael, St. Elizabeth, St. Leo, St. Peter Claver, Ursuline Special Education Center (all of Louisville, KY), St. Mary (Madison, IN), West Side Catholic Consolidated Schools (Evansville, IN), St. Clement School and Ursuline-Pitt School (both of Louisville). Principal at St. Boniface Junior High School (Evansville, IN). Assistant Director of Finance for Ursuline Sisters, Assistant Principal/Dean of Students at Pitt Academy. Substitute Teacher at UCDC/Montessori, Administrative Assistant at Angela Merici Center for Spirituality, Ursuline Campus Mail Room. Organist at Ursuline Motherhouse Chapel and Sacred Heart Home (all of Louisville)

“Music is praying TWICE,” Sister Raymunda Orth exclaimed. “I like to pray and I like to play!” One look at the thick binder of organ music atop her desk and you take note.

Sister Raymunda started at the keyboard in third grade, after she raised her hand when asked if she would like to take music lessons. A moment later she regretted that move, as there was no piano at home and no money for lessons.“ We were poor, but we had what we needed and we were loved,” she said. “Daddy was a milkman for 45 years. They had six children and loved every one.” Her mother went to meet the nun who taught piano to explain there would be no lessons. God had other plans. Lessons soon began and the youngster was invited to practice at the Sisters’ home. Clarinet was added in fifth grade; organ in seventh. Organ stuck for good.

Sister Raymunda remembers fondly growing up in Evansville, Indiana, where she attended Catholic school. She and her older sister had perfect attendance through grade school and high school. She credits drinking milk for her good health and for fueling the mile-long walk to school. “I didn’t drink coffee until I got here, to Sacred Heart Home!” she laughed.

She said her call to religious life came through her music teacher, whose lessons included long chats afterwards. “It was through those talks. I was a junior in high school when I asked my mother what I would have to do to be a Sister. She told me that she didn’t know but that we could find out.” Two months shy of her eighteenth birthday, she moved exactly 100 miles from her childhood home to the Ursuline Motherhouse in Louisville.

She earned her undergraduate degree from Ursuline College, Louisville; a Master of Arts in special education from Cardinal Stritch College, Milwaukee; and took graduate courses at Catherine Spalding College (now Spalding University).

“I loved all kinds of teaching. I shook with nerves while awaiting each assignment, not knowing where I would be next, but I accepted with joy every one of them.” Her teaching career began at St. George in Louisville. Over the course of 30 years, she found herself in music rooms across Louisville as well as in Madison and Evansville, Indiana. Special education still holds a dear spot in her heart. “With special education, you can be freer. We had almost as many groups as we had children because it was very individualized.”

“This one girl was so cute. Patricia could make you laugh and smile for nothing. She was never absent. One day she came in late, stood in the doorway of the classroom with arms outstretched, and called out, ‘I’m here!’ I will never forget it,” she sat back and laughed.

After retirement came substitute teaching, plus work in the Angela Merici Center for Spirituality and the campus mail room. Her organ music prevailed at the Motherhouse Chapel and continued after her move to Sacred Heart Home. There, spread across her bed, is a quilt covered with signatures of people who love her.

“My older sister, Clara, made that quilt to celebrate my 60th Jubilee. I can hardly believe that it is 70 years now. I have been happy all these years.” Life has slowed down. Sister Raymunda still plays music, cards and likes to read, but prayer is front and center. “I have tried to be a good religious person. My prayers are mostly for the poor souls because that’s my birthday. I can’t say a prayer without saying it for the poor souls. I love my vocation.”

Sister Mary Lee Hansen

60 years — 1957
Current Ministry: Prayer and presence at Sacred Heart Home

Previous Ministries: Teacher at Our Mother of Sorrows, St. Raphael, Our Lady of Lourdes, Sacred Heart Model School (Louisville, KY), Blessed Sacrament (Omaha, NE), Cardinal Newman High School (Columbia, SC), Ursuline Academy (Pittsburgh, PA). Director of Communication and secretary for Ursuline Montessori School and Ursuline Administration Offices. Mail Room, Marian Home, Ursuline Motherhouse, Sacred Heart Village (Louisville). Artwork for various causes.

Sister Mary Lee Hansen is an artist who admires God’s handiwork in nature. In her room at Sacred Heart Home an electric candle flickers at the foot of the Blessed Virgin, watercolor brushes stand at attention on her desk, and violets sun themselves on the windowsill.

Sister Mary Lee grew up with one brother outside the Omaha, Nebraska, city limits. Too far from the Catholic elementary school, she began her education in public schools, including a one-room schoolhouse. In fifth grade she took the bus to Holy Cross; then, she was off to a public high school.

“I’m glad for the experience of both parochial and public schools,” she said. “It helped me understand the systems that our children are in.”

Her close-knit family lost her father when she was young. Then just after graduating from high school, she was diagnosed with polio. “I don’t see any of these things that have happened to me as something to mourn or to ask why God did that to me. That was not part of the way I thought. You look at God and look at what HE had to go through, and the Blessed Mother what SHE had to go through.” “Polio put me back a little bit,” she said. But it did not stop her.

“Sociology was a new field at the time and Creighton University was offering it. When I got well enough, I went to Creighton and the Jesuits were WONDERFUL.” They offered her a modified class schedule as she continued to recover, and she worked to pay her way through college. During her junior year, a priest told her it was time to enter the convent. She was 23.

“Being older and having worked was definitely an advantage for me. Those were good maturing years and I could look back and say I hadn’t MISSED anything because I had dated, I had gone to college,” she smiled. Sister Mary Lee travelled to Louisville to join the Ursulines. “The Ursulines were a combination of contemplative love and service of neighbor, which I see as extremely important in answering the call.”

“Having had polio actually helped my ministry, because you know the struggle that others are going through. It makes you slow down and take a look at the people who seemingly just can’t keep up.”Post-polio issues eventually forced her to give up something she loved. “I was only able to teach for a short while. After my second knee surgery, the doctor told me I could not teach anymore. That was difficult.”

“A friend told me that when the Lord closes one door, He opens another. I looked at the door and all I could see was darkness. But it worked out,” she smiled. The door opened to a new ministry: working for the Ursuline Leadership for more than 30 years. She found support to pursue things she enjoyed, like calligraphy, drawing, watercolor, and photography. She still pens calligraphy by request, takes photographs, and paints.

“When I get finished, I look at it and say: ‘That must be how God feels. It may not be perfect, but it’s mine’. God wouldn’t do this but, once in a while, I do pitch something,” she laughed. “I am grateful to the Ursuline Community for these 60 years. Sometimes it was easy. Sometimes it was hard. But that is actually life,” said the artist. “I see all the sisters, and we’re like a mosaic. We all fit together. And when you look at the mosaic, you see the hand of God.”

Sister Dolores Hudson

60 years — 1957
Current Ministry: Prayer and presence at the Ursuline Motherhouse

Previous Ministries: Teacher at St. Elizabeth, St. Helen (both of Louisville, KY), St. Peter (Columbia, SC), SS Peter & Paul (Cumberland, MD). Principal at St. Francis de Sales (Morgantown, WV), St. Vincent de Paul (Louisville, KY), St. John Neumann (Cumberland, MD). Coordinator of Retirement Success for Ursuline Sisters. Coordinator at Marian Home and Ursuline Motherhouse.

“We don’t retire. We are recycled!” Sister Dolores Hudson said with a laugh. Sister Dolores was born in Cumberland, Maryland, the middle child with six brothers and two sisters. She was taught by Ursulines at St. Mary’s School. “I came from an average family. My father was a railroader and my mother never worked outside the home with nine of us kids. We had a good education and we always had good food on our table.”

“In high school I worked in the hospital in the dietary kitchen. I was there with the nuns and I had a lot of dealings with nurses. I really thought I would like to be a nurse but, in discerning, I thought I would rather be a nun. I thought God was calling me, so here I am.”

Sister Dolores majored in elementary education at Ursuline College. Her teaching career began in Louisville and eventually led her back home. “I was sent to Maryland, which I felt was lucky. While there, I earned my Master’s Degree.”

She taught first grade for 17 years and has funny stories to prove it. “One day little Danny said, ‘Hey, S’ter.’ He didn’t call me Sister, he called me S’ter. He said, ‘Do you think you’re training an army?’ I asked why. He said, ‘You say do this, do that. Get in line. Just like they do in the army!’ I said, ‘Well, I guess an army for Christ.’ He asked, ‘You can’t use guns, so what’s your ammunition?’ I said, ‘Prayers.’ He paused, then said, ‘Hmm. Pretty good.’ And that was the end of it.”

When assigned to be a principal, “I told Sister Assumpta that I couldn’t do it because I didn’t have the background.” Ever-obedient, she accepted, learned on-the-job, and earned another Master’s Degree. “Being a principal is not easy. One of the best things you have to do is give a lot of credit to your teachers and let them do their job without interfering. I had a great faculty and staff in all three schools.”

While in Morgantown, Sister Dolores marked her 25th Jubilee. Parents there gifted her with a trip to Rome. Her eight siblings pooled their money and bought a ticket for their mother to go along. “It was a trip of a lifetime,” she smiled.

Eventually she requested a move to the inner city of Louisville. “Those students at St. Vincent de Paul were so loving and I felt very close to them.” Sister arranged field trips for the children: a picnic at Hogan’s Fountain, a tour of a horse farm, and a visit to the state capitol.

Sister believes it was divine intervention that sent her back to Cumberland. “The first nine years I was there, my father died,” she explained. “When I returned, my mother died. I think it was part of God’s plan.”

Sister also had a plan: boost enrollment. Parents were quick to donate. “It was only a K-5 school but we added three bell choirs. It really sold the school. We went from 233 to 333 children.” A similar success story followed her idea to add a computer lab.

Eventually she left the principal’s office but she never retired. “I really enjoyed going to Open Hand Kitchen (in Louisville) because that’s a meditation in itself, the homeless people coming in to eat. How blessed we have been, both in my home and in my community.”

“My parents would be very happy about this Jubilee,” she smiled. “If they were here, I would thank them for the religious education they gave me and for their example of living a good, Catholic life.”

Sister Jo Ann Jansing

60 years — 1957
Current Ministry: Ursuline Leadership

Previous Ministries: Teacher at St. Ann and Angela Merici High School (both Louisville, KY). Professor at Mount St. Agnes College (Baltimore, MD). Professor at Indiana University Southeast (New Albany, IN). Ursuline Leadership. Volunteer at Nativity Academy and at Shively Area Ministries (Louisville).

Her Ursuline Leadership office is at Brescia Hall, where she is called Sister Jo Ann. Former students still address her as Dr. Jansing. She answers to both. Born the only girl of four children, she grew up as ‘Daddy’s girl.’ “When I was a kid, they had a holy hour every Thursday at St. George Church,” Sister Jo Ann smiled. “I just wanted to go to that holy hour with my dad.”

Taught by Ursulines, she had two cousins who were priests and three aunts who were nuns. She felt an expectation to follow suit. “In high school I started resisting it, wanting to do what everybody else was doing. Then I went to a Catholic Student Mission Crusade. I can’t even tell you what the man said but one of the speakers really hit my heart. I knew that I would never forgive myself if I didn’t try.”

Her decision thrilled her father but made her mother cry. “She asked if I was joining the convent because she was not Catholic. I said, ‘NO, Mom.’ From then on, she never said anything to discourage me. She wanted me to be happy.” Soon after Jo Ann entered the convent her mother became a Catholic.

Earning her undergraduate degree took nine years, as it was done through classes on Saturday while she taught through the week. Her focus was chemistry, inspired by a young nun at Ursuline Academy in Louisville. “I loved it because Sister Assumpta taught it!”

After several years of teaching, Sister Jo Ann was asked to pursue a doctorate to teach physical chemistry at Ursuline College. When cooperative talks between Ursuline College and Bellarmine meant the merged college needed analytical chemistry, she switched her major at Fordham University.

“Living in New York City made me look upon people differently. I would come home and my dad would see a kid with long hair and call him a hippie. I didn’t see that anymore because I saw LOADS of different kinds of people that didn’t look like me. It was a broadening experience to be there in the midst of that diversity.”

As graduation approached, Bellarmine had no job opening. The community told her to find one.

She spent one year at Mount St. Agnes College in Baltimore before moving to a rather new Indiana University Southeast campus just across the river from Louisville. “Indiana University Southeast (IUS) was hard for me at first, as I never thought I would not teach at a Catholic institution. It was two to three years before it dawned on me that ministry didn’t have to be in the Church, that my relationship with my students was a ministry. When (students) came into my office in the fall, they would say, ‘Can I ask you a question? Are you really a nun?’” She laughed. “I can’t tell you how many heart-to-heart conversations we shared in my office. It was clear to me that I was where I was supposed to be.”

Still, doubt crept in. “There was a time when I wondered whether I was going to leave the community. So I made a retreat by myself for a week. I went to St. Michael’s Cemetery and I started out at Sister Salesia’s [foundress of the Ursulines of Louisville] grave. I walked from one grave to the next and I said their name and ‘pray for me.’ Every single grave of our community! When I finished, I stood in the middle of that cemetery and I sobbed because I knew that this was where I belonged, this was for real, this was for life.”

She taught for 36 years, 31 of them at Indiana University Southeast where she was head of the chemistry department and later chair of the natural sciences. Now, she marks 60 years of religious life. “The biggest part of it is community and sisterhood. God has shown me where I belong.”

Sister Barbara Bir

50 years — 1967
Current Ministry: Tutor for Doors to Hope. Spiritual Director. Retreat Director. Board Member at Pitt Academy.

Previous Ministries: Teacher at St. Elizabeth and St. Jerome (Louisville). Teacher/Assistant Principal at St. Francis de Sales (Morgantown, WV). Principal at Our Mother of Sorrows and St. Martha, Personnel Services for Schools of the Archdiocese, Assistant Director & Education Director at Community Catholic Center and Formation Director for Ursuline Sisters (all in Louisville).

The Bir Family – There were six girls, each had a boy nickname. Not until she started school did the second-born recognize her name in writing. It was there on her desk: Barbara. She was quiet and shy, and took refuge in reading. She acted as caretaker of her older sister who was deaf. When her mother got sick, she cared for the younger girls, too. “We walked to story hour at the library, me with my four younger sisters in tow. Sometimes we stopped to get penny candy on the way home.”

There were happy summers spent in the park, and painful days in overcrowded classrooms.
“My first grade teacher shamed me in front of the class,” she said. “I resolved then to never shame my sisters or my cousins that I babysat.”

In seventh grade, Barbara was invited to help in the sacristy at St. James Church. “We went to Latin mass daily. We didn’t understand anything, so I read my missal which had prayers and stories about the saints. I would feel really close to God there. I think that was the beginning of my vocation.”

“I came to the Motherhouse, all of 17, just out of high school. I graduated cum laude from Bellarmine-Ursuline College. My way of discerning where I was going to teach was to accept the first invitation extended by a Sister,” she laughed. Sister Alberta called and asked her to teach fourth grade at St. Elizabeth. “I just LOVED it. It was so much work but I loved teaching.” One year, she had five students who could not read a word come into fourth grade. She devised differentiated lessons. No one would be shamed in her classroom.

The shy girl of her childhood gave way to a teacher known over the years as Sister Barbara Anne, Sister Barbara, Sister B, and Sister Mom. “Some sisters were really encouraging me to be a principal. I decided to go to Morgantown to be assistant principal. I had this rapport with the kids and I learned a lot about myself.”

Before she felt ready, she was named principal at Our Mother of Sorrows in Louisville and was told to close the school. “I’m not closing it,” I said, “I kept it open and, little by little, it grew. My years there were sometimes tough and a blessing.”

Then she made a change. She worked as personnel director for the Archdiocese of Louisville Schools. She studied to be a spiritual director. Later she was Formation Director for the Ursuline Sisters and a spiritual director before spending ten years at Community Catholic Center in West Louisville.

“My goal was to educate the parents and get a Catholic education for the children because the culture (there) was drop out of school, girls get pregnant, boys join a gang. I learned about poverty and the hopelessness it brings.”

She started family meetings and worked with donors to help fund students’ Catholic education.

“We’ve had children graduate from Catholic and public high schools,” she said with a smile. “Not long ago, one of the boys I had there came up to me and said, ‘Sister Barbara, I haven’t seen you in ages’ and gave me a bear hug. I just loved those kids and they knew it. The ultimate is seeing these young people have a new lease on life.”

Multiple spinal surgeries now limit Sr. Barbara’s activities, but not her appreciation for those around her. “I am so blessed to have been in community. I’ve grown closer to God in this community. Sharing the love of Jesus is what it is all about.”

Sister Lynn Jarrell

50 years — 1967
Current Ministry: Canonical Consultant

Previous Ministries: Teacher at Sacred Heart Academy (Louisville, KY), Gymnasium der Ursulinen (Straubing, Germany), SS. Peter and Paul, Bishop Walsh High School (both of Cumberland, MD). Diocesan Tribunal (Evansville, IN). Kendrick Seminary/Aquinas Institute of Theology (St. Louis, MO).Vice-President, Ursuline Sisters of Louisville. President, Canon Law Society of America. San Francisco Tribunal/Consultant and Teacher in Canon Law. St. Patrick Seminary, Menlo Park/Jesuit School of Theology (Berkley, CA). Resource Center for Religious Institute (Washington, D.C.). President, Ursuline Sisters of Louisville. Working with Religious Congregations.

“Consecrated Life is a BEAUTIFUL way of life. In one sense it doesn’t make any sense at all. You can’t explain it, but it’s a beautiful way of life if you are called to it.”

Sister Lynn Jarrell said her call came in the fourth grade. She entered the convent two months after graduating from high school and could hardly wait to stand at the front of the classroom. “It’s always what I wanted to do, teach,” she said with a smile. “I went to Ursuline and Bellarmine. It was great from the moment go.”

She was named “Star Teacher” at Sacred Heart Academy, where she was also speech and debate coach and even swim coach. “I knew high school was my calling. I loved the students. Speech and debate developed self-confidence, teamwork, critical thinking. Mostly, teaching was just supporting them in their life journey. That’s why it is such a privilege to teach.”

After teaching five years at Sacred Heart, she eagerly accepted an invitation extended by the Ursuline Sisters in Straubing, Germany. “I had to leave Sacred Heart, which was hard, but I am grateful that I was able to live there [in Straubing] with our founding community for a year. I taught English as a foreign language, and I worked with the basketball team. I lived their life totally, even speaking German. I am still very connected with those Sisters and have great respect for them.”

Upon her return home, she was sent to teach in Cumberland, Maryland. “That was a real gift. I got immersed in that experience, especially the parish life and the local community, and I treasure that greatly. I enjoyed being in and out of Washington, D.C., too.”

Then, Sister Lynn was asked by the community to further her own studies beyond her Masters Degree in Communications with pursuing a Doctorate in Canon Law at the Catholic University of America.

“It meant I left the classroom, which was a bit sad, and that I would most likely live some distance from Louisville for much of my professional life because of the nature of a canon law degree. Those were big decisions, especially at my age at that time.”

Since completing her doctorate in 1984, Sister Lynn has continued to serve religious institutes and other individuals as a canonical consultant on a wide-range of topics and concerns. “I have about 10 to 12 active cases right now with a few of them involving issues at the Vatican, waiting for answers. I have done work with religious in parts of Europe, Africa, South America, Canada and the USA. Plus I have worked in the national office of the Resource Center for Religious. All of it has given me a broad perspective for the various conversations which arise. I have friends in different parts of the world.”

She is increasingly immersed in helping religious institutes plan for their future in light of some difficult realities. She sees the impending decline in the number of religious institutes as part of the cycle of creation and of the human condition in which nothing is permanent.

“The great news, this is absolutely positive to me, is that the decline in the number of religious institutes will open the door for some other movement of grace and gifts in the Church or in the world. I believe this is the way God’s grace works.”

It is with grace that she summed up her 50 years of consecrated life. “Deep gratitude is what I most feel as I celebrate this year. How richly blessed I have been all these years, with companions in our common faith journey and in my development as a person, living community in a simple lifestyle and available in service in whatever way I can.”

Sister Shannon Maguire

50 years — 1967
Current Ministry: Assistant to Finance Director, Ursuline Sisters of Louisville

Previous Ministries: Teacher Ursuline Academy (Pittsburgh), Angela Merici High School (Louisville), and St. Francis de Sales High School (Morgantown, WV); teacher, assistant principal /dean of students at Sacred Heart Academy (Louisville). Ministry to elderly parents. House Councilor and Co-Coordinator at the Ursuline Motherhouse.

The gold wedding band she wears on her left hand was her grandmother’s. It symbolizes a 130-year connection to the Ursuline Sisters. “My grandparents met at an Ursuline boarding school (a different branch of Ursulines) in the early 1890s,” explained Sister Shannon Maguire.

“My grandmother was the daughter of Quakers. Because they valued education, they sent her from Wyoming to York, Nebraska, to be educated by the Ursulines beginning in fourth grade. She remained there until she graduated from high school.” Later, Sister Shannon’s mother and aunt briefly attended the same Ursuline boarding school.

In the late 40s, the Maguire family moved to Blessed Sacrament Parish in Omaha and met the Ursulines from Louisville. All five Maguire children attended Blessed Sacrament Grade School. “My grade school teachers influenced me greatly. As I celebrate my 50th, it’s amazing that four of those teachers are still alive—Sisters Isabel, Bernadine, Shirley Ann, and Georgine. Sister Andrea Callahan, who passed away two years ago, was my eighth grade teacher and was most influential in my life.”

Sister Shannon thought a bit about the convent in high school. After spending two years in college, she decided it was time to take a closer look. “There it was, August of 1966; I entered the community having never been to Louisville. There wasn’t a need to come and check it out. I had seen the dedication and kindness of the Ursuline Sisters.” A treasured photograph shows Sister Shannon in her white veil on investment day. Sister Andrea is at her side, wearing a broad smile.

“Years later, when my mother needed a nursing home – I had been caring for my parents and my father had already passed away – I was fortunate to bring my mother to Marian Home. She joined Sister Pat Lowman’s Marian bridge group. Sister Pat had taught my older sibs at Blessed Sacrament. That is full circle!”

Sister Shannon recalled with fondness her varied ministries, especially as a teacher who sometimes also wore the hat of Dean of Students. “I had one student request that I give her a wake-up each morning because she had so many tardies and didn’t like reporting to detention. I called her regularly at 6:45 a.m.”

“I remember the first Earth Day in April of 1970. A group of Ursulines and SHA students joined the march through the city. We stopped at our different convents for water breaks.”

“I have seen former students in many places, from Colorado to Florida. It is evident that they are living the Ursuline core values.”

There were many years when she was co-coordinator at the Motherhouse. “I remember the renovation of the west and middle wings at the motherhouse, done in phases. Every three months a group of 15 sisters had to be re-located. Janet Sauer and I got so adept at helping sisters move that we were later dubbed ‘Two Ladies and a Van’ as we were asked to move sisters to or from different convents.”

“You never knew what to expect at birthday parties at the Motherhouse. We once had Wheel of Fortune with Sister Isabel as Vanna.”

Today, Sister Shannon ministers in the Finance Office of the Ursuline Sisters. The Charism of Angela Merici – a contemplative love of God resulting in an eagerness to serve others — has been a constant. “I have been blessed to have made two pilgrimages to Italy, where Angela Merici had been. We know she was a woman of compassion, inner strength, peace, a pilgrim woman, a reconciler. Just to walk in her footsteps there, it was quite an experience.”

Sister Katherine Corbett

10 years-2007
Current Ministry: Healthcare director of the Ursuline Sisters, residing at the Motherhouse and at off-site locations, assessing and overseeing the healthcare needs of the sisters.

Previous Ministries: Registered nurse in the following capacities: hospital nursing; working with fragile children with the Department of Social Services; home health care nursing; and long-term care at the former Marian Home, a nursing facility run by the Ursuline Sisters.

Sister Katherine states, “Ten years since I first started on this journey of religious life, and of fully living the charism of St. Angela, it now amazes me when I look back at all the challenges and blessings involved in it. Going on daily with the experiences and responsibilities of that journey, I hardly had time to reflect on what was happening. Now, as I look back, I feel very blessed and honored to be walking with my older Sisters as they face health challenges, and to be in a calling in which I am there to help them with those challenges. The challenge is also mine in the need always to be learning more: professionally as a nurse, personally with the other Sisters, and spiritually with God, knowing that all three of these are woven together in my calling.”

Today, Sr. Katherine plays the vital role of nurse and healthcare director at the Ursuline Motherhouse and is also available for emergencies that might arise with sisters who reside elsewhere.

Sister Mary Teresa Burns

25 years —1990
Current Ministry: Chaplain

Previous Ministries: Caregiver, prayer and presence at the Carmelite Monastery of Mary Immaculate and St. Joseph (Louisville, KY).

Sister draws inspiration from the life of Saint Theresa of Lisieux, as well as from the Ursuline sisters and all of their contributions to the community.

“I know a lot of Catholic girls go through a phase where they want to be a nun but mine never wore off,” laughs Sr. Mary Teresa Burns. One of five girls, Sr. Mary Teresa was born in Germany. Her father, a convert, was a career army sergeant. Her mother faithfully followed him from one military base to the next, and eventually they landed back in her hometown of Louisville where Sr. Mary Teresa completed grade school at St. Francis of Assisi, before attending Assumption High School and enrolling at Bellarmine University.

“When I was 29, I had a conversion experience during Holy Week at St. Martin of Tours Church. It clarified for me that I actually wanted to devote my life to serving God.” Because her parents lived near the Ursuline Campus, her mother had hoped she would join the Ursuline Sisters and be able to walk home occasionally. Instead a book about Saint Theresa of Lisieux, gifted to her during childhood, led her to the Carmelite tradition. She joined the Monastery of Mary Immaculate and St. Joseph, for the first time, in October 1990.

“I left after four months because I couldn’t handle how unhappy it made my mother,” she recalled. “As soon as I went home, I thought it was a mistake. It took me about a year to go back. I returned in 1992 and after that, I was happier than I had ever been in my entire life. I could not explain that to others because they didn’t have my vocation.”

For 24 years, she lived a cloistered life on Newburg Road in Louisville. “People talk about religious life being a sacrifice: How much we give up. I was happy. I was doing what I wanted to do. The sacrifices were all being made by my family who could only see me once a month, who didn’t have me at home for Christmas and Thanksgiving, who didn’t have me at home for baptisms, weddings and funerals. So, as far as I could see, THEY were the ones making the sacrifice. For me, it was easy.”

For Sr. Mary Teresa, the painful loss of cloistered life has unveiled an unexpected journey to become a chaplain. “I NEVER would have thought of being a chaplain until I was introduced to it through the Ursulines,” she explained with a smile. “I am seeing the contribution these fabulous women have made to the Archdiocese. It has made me feel more enriched as a woman, more involved, and more appreciative of what women can offer, what ministries we can undertake. I was just so charmed by the way the Ursuline Sisters welcomed us, included us in everything and how good they have been to us. If I had had expectations, they would have been exceeded.”

As she anticipates her 25th year of religious life in October, Sr. Mary Teresa has a message for the Ursuline Sisters of Louisville: “Thank you! Thank you!”

Sister Carol Curtis

25 years —1990
Current Ministry: Outreach; Shively Area Ministries, St. John’s Center

Previous Ministries: Prioress; care-giving, gardening at the Carmelite Monastery of Mary Immaculate and St. Joseph (Louisville).

Born in Illinois and raised in a faith-filled Protestant family, Sr. Carol entered the Catholic Church at age 20 while in Taiwan as a Dartmouth University student. After serving in the Peace Corps in Africa, she worked to pay off student loans then entered the monastery on her 26th birthday.

“It is a life where you pray together; a very close life because it’s cloistered,” she explained. “For 25 years it was my life: working in the garden, working in the house, and a great deal of care-giving which is a beautiful experience.”

With a dwindling and aging population, the Carmelite Monastery in Louisville closed its doors in August 2015. As prioress, Sr. Carol led the way for each of the eight Carmelites to find a new home. Three of them, including Sr. Carol and Sr. Mary Teresa, settled into the Ursuline Motherhouse on Lexington Road. Now, both Sr. Carol and Sr. Mary Teresa are in the midst of a three-year transition to become Ursuline Sisters.

“Because of the coincidence of my 25th anniversary coming right at the time of the move, there was a sense of this being a special time from God of reconsecrating in a different way,” Sr. Carol explained. Exposure to the Angela Merici Center for Spirituality and the shared contemplative ministries of the Ursulines prompted Sr. Carol to consider her vocation as evolving—not as repudiating of what was there before, but as a new ministry unfolding.

“There is a lot of common ground,” said Sr. Carol. “It’s not just common ground between religious Sisters, but basically we are all in this together and God is with us all. Participating in the Angela Merici Center was the first part of it. And exploring the active social justice ministries has been important to me in reaching out to the poor.” She has worked with Shively Area Ministries and at the St. John’s Center for Homeless Men.

Sister Dorothy Frankrone

75 Years – 1941
Current Ministry: Prayer and presence, Sacred Heart Home

Previous Ministries: Teacher at St. Boniface, St. George, Holy Trinity, St. Therese, St. Vincent de Paul, St. Rita, St. Joseph (all of Louisville, KY), St. Mary (Jackson, MS), Sacred Heart School (Camden, MS). Superior at St. Boniface (Evansville, IN). Coordinator, Ursuline Motherhouse. Speech therapist/pathologist/director at Ursuline Speech and Hearing Clinic (Louisville, KY). Volunteer at Marian Home and cafeteria cashier at Sacred Heart Model School (Louisville, KY).

As a Speech Pathologist, Sister Dorothy’s Patient Instruction Led to Joy-Filled Results

In 1987, Sister Dorothy Frankrone delighted many by sharing reflections from her life. Her reflection begins by recalling the day in 1940 when she left her parents and seven sisters and brothers to “Come follow Jesus.”

These days, Sister Dorothy resides at Sacred Heart Home in a ministry of prayer and presence following a long history of service, particularly as a speech pathologist at the Ursuline Speech and Hearing Clinic that once stood on the Ursuline Campus in Louisville, KY.

Sister Dorothy was baptized in the same Louisville parish, St. Martin of Tours, where the first Ursulines and many of their followers served. For her first three years of school she “timidly marched” to St. Martin to be taught by Ursuline Sisters Julia Schuler, Pacifica Nicklas and Mary Magdalen Schmidt. Having outgrown the house they shared with grandparents, Sister Dorothy’s family moved to a new house and attended St. Elizabeth Church.

In fourth grade she had her first lay teacher, Miss Dorothy Hillenbrand, because Father John Knue, the pastor, could not get enough Ursuline Sisters, she explained. The following four years, she had the “prayerful, self-sacrificing womanly Ursuline Sisters.”

During her eighth grade year, Father Knue gave special instructions to her class, occasionally talking about religious life. “I would think it over in my mind and heart that I really would become a ‘sister’ someday. However, I gave some thought to having a family and home of my own, also.”

She confided that her aunt, Ursuline Sister Mary Eunice, “must have prayed hard for me but never said much to me about being a nun.”

Sister Dorothy entered Ursuline Academy (Louisville) and took academic classes, including Latin and French. She spent a lot of time thinking about her future but did not want to enter the Ursuline Congregation after her high school graduation. She was 17 and cleaned houses and took care of children in order to earn and save the money needed to buy the proper clothes for entering the Ursuline Congregation. One of her schoolmates, Mary Catherine Dues, was also planning to enter the Ursulines, and so the twosome shared knowledge and helped each other.

She was 19 when her aunt Gertrude took her to the Ursuline Motherhouse on September 8, 1940. While her mother was happy with the decision, Sister Dorothy’s father found it difficult and attended an event outside of Louisville on the day she departed to join six other novices. “We were kept very busy with tasks so that we had little time to get homesick. I felt very much at home and loved my newly chosen life.”

She attended Ursuline College during her religious formation. During her second year of studies, she also began student teaching. On July 4, 1943, Sister Dorothy professed temporary vows. “That was a very happy, grace-filled day. I tried to make the vows as if I were making them for life and I meant it. This was what I really wanted to be—an Ursuline Sister.”

She was assigned to teach third and fourth grades at St. Boniface School (Louisville), intent on teaching and forming them. Sister Norberta Rickert guided her and soon she learned to love being in the classroom. She professed her final vows in 1946. Over the next eight years she taught at schools in Louisville and then for four years taught at St. Mary in Jackson, MS. During the summer she also instructed black children at Sacred Heart School in Camden, MS, 50 miles from Jackson.

She returned to Louisville in 1956, and outside of a teaching assignment for two years in Evansville, IN, (“sometimes called ‘Heavens-ville’ because it was so lovely”), she remained in Louisville to teach at St. Vincent de Paul and St. Rita. Meanwhile, she had been asked if she would be interested in becoming a speech clinician. She agreed and began summer studies at Marquette University, an endeavor that would take six summers.

Meanwhile, she served as superior at St. Joseph School in 1967. The summer of that year marked the first delegated chapter meeting. “As a Chapter delegate, I spent long hours for many weeks deliberating with the other Chapter members on how our Ursuline Community would respond to Vatican II.”

At the request of the new leadership, Sister Dorothy became the local coordinator for the Ursuline Motherhouse until 1970. That same year, she completed her master’s degree in speech pathology. She began working full-time at the Ursuline Speech and Hearing Clinic.

She had this to say about her ministry serving stroke patients, people with voice problems and stutterers, among others: “I dare say I love it even more than I ever did before. Yes, it is confining work with long hours of teaching and preparing. It demands much patience and can become monotonous. But the joy of a parent whose child has made progress in speech and language and the happiness of the child who can communicate his/her needs better are more than enough reward.”

Sister Dorothy became director of the Speech Clinic in 1981 until 1995. Afterward, she volunteered at Marian Home and served as the cashier for Sacred Heart Model School until 2002. She continued other volunteer work and became a resident in Marian Home in 2009. She now lives at Sacred Heart Home.

Sister Dorothy has never doubted her vocation. She wrote in 1987, “My decision to become an Ursuline, back in 1940, has been a very happy and fulfilling decision. … I thank God for calling me to this Ursuline Community and for the desire to teach and the great joy I have in fulfilling this desire.”

Sister Dorothy’s ministry has testified to the message behind three letters typed at the top of her reflection: “S.D.G.” –standing for “Glory to God Alone.”

Sister Mary Brendan Conlon

70 Years – 1946
Current Ministries: Volunteer at St. John’s Center, Kentucky Correctional Institute for Women, Doors to Hope, Open Hand Kitchen

Previous Ministries: Teacher at Sacred Heart Model School, St. Elizabeth, Ursuline Academy, Sacred Heart Academy (all of Louisville), Blessed Sacrament School and Creighton University (Omaha, NE), St. Francis de Sales High School and St. Francis de Sales Grade School (Morgantown, WV), Bishop Walsh High School and SS. Peter and Paul Grade School (Cumberland, MD), Russell Junior High School (Louisville). Campus minister at West Virginia University for St. John University Parish (Morgantown, WV). Director of Christian Help, Inc. (Morgantown, WV). Witness for Peace (Nicaragua, CA). Founder and director of Christian Help, Inc., of Mingo County (Kermit, WV).

Sister Brendan Loves Mountains and Helps Others Climb Theirs

Sister Mary Brendan Conlon has always enjoyed climbing mountains. Whether they were those of her youth surrounding her hometown of Cumberland, MD, or the mountainous region of the West Virginia landscape where she ministered for 33 years, mountains are something of a lodestar.

She was a happy child, raised by loving parents and sandwiched between two brothers. “I owe a lot of my faith life to those years.” Her mother was prayerful and shy and her father was an Irishman who loved people. “They complemented each other,” she said. Politics played an important role in the fabric of the family. Her father served as a city councilman and then as mayor of Cumberland, MD, during Sister Brendan’s high school years. “I learned a lot from him,” she said. “He was very compassionate, very concerned about people and about justice.”

While she stocked shelves at Montgomery Ward in high school, she realized that working only to buy things seemed like “an endless cycle.” A different aspiration grew. “The desire to give my life to God developed in my early years. It started in the mountains.”

Growing up, she and her brother loved hiking on Haystack Mountain. But often she would walk alone to nearby Rose Hill Cemetery nestled in the hills. “It was one of my favorite walks. I really think it is where I learned to pray.” Her whole four years of high school were war years, and she believes that influenced her thinking about life and her future.

Church was important, but she preferred quiet time to “church teen things.” Mass was always important. For years she weighed thoughts of a vocation to religious life. As a high school sophomore, she shared this desire with her mother but didn’t tell her father until graduation. He supported her decision immediately. “He was wonderful,” said Sister Brendan. (For years, her father carried in his pocket the poem, “I’m the Daddy of a Nun.”)

Her father’s love for justice and concern for others influenced her ministry. She considered joining the Maryknoll Sisters but decided on the Ursulines. “I loved to study and hoped that I would love teaching, and I did. I loved the Ursulines, too–the teachers I had.” Sister Jerome Boyle, a teacher her junior year, was a mentor. At the end of her walks she often stopped for a visit with Sr. Jerome in her classroom and then a visit to “St. Pete’s,” her parish church. She also recalled her inquiry about entering the congregation. “I had Mother take me to St. Mary’s to speak with Mother Roberta when I was a junior. I didn’t tell my classmates until the summer after graduation.”

She remembered the night before Christmas before entering the convent, thinking it would be her last Christmas at home. “God, only for you,” she thought. But through the years, as after that night, one thing she has learned: “It’s the giving and then He gives back everything.”

After her investment (1946) and first profession (1948), Sister Brendan began her teaching career at Sacred Heart Model School and St. Elizabeth grade school in Louisville. After final profession in 1951, she was sent to Blessed Sacrament in Omaha, where she studied at Creighton University. In 1954 she completed a bachelor’s degree in English, with minors in French and philosophy, and was assigned to Ursuline Academy in Louisville. After a “happy year” of teaching there, she was sent back to Creighton as a teaching fellow and earned her master’s degree in English in 1956. Then she was assigned to Sacred Heart Academy in Louisville, where she spent the next 11 years imparting her passion for literature. “I loved the girls, and teaching them was a pleasure.”

As much as she enjoyed being at Sacred Heart, she eventually became restless for “a different kind of school.” “I always felt called to work with the poor. At Sacred Heart I wasn’t doing that, but I always tried to teach the girls about justice and concern for the poor.”

In 1967 she was assigned to St. Francis de Sales High School in Morgantown, WV, but after one year there, she was called to a leadership role and served for two years as a councilor and the congregation’s director of communication, followed by a year of teaching in an experimental program at Russell Junior High in Louisville. In 1971 she took a position at Bishop Walsh High School in Cumberland, MD, to be close to her failing mother, who was alone since her husband’s death in 1963. She lived with and cared for her mother the last six years of her mother’s life, while teaching at Bishop Walsh. “After my mother died, the congregation offered me a sabbatical, and I went to Gonzaga University in Spokane. There I did some discerning and decided it was time to really do something about working with the poor.”

She returned to Morgantown to take over the directorship of Christian Help, an emergency assistance agency begun by Sister Thecla Shiel during her time as principal at St. Francis Grade School. Until Christian Help became so busy that it demanded full -time presence, she also taught a class at the grade school and worked at St. John University Parish with social concerns and the Newman Club. Over the years she became involved in “peace work,” which included several protests in Washington and a year with Witness for Peace in Nicaragua, visiting the sites of contra attacks with other Witness team members and documenting them for reports sent to Congress. In 1992 she completed a master’s degree in Applied Theology from Wheeling Jesuit University in Wheeling, WV, which gave a “solid foundation” to her work in social justice causes.

After 12 busy years at Christian Help she and another Ursuline, Sister Janet Marie Peterworth, began to plan “something we’d dreamed about for years, doing something for God’s people in some rural, needy place.” They found that place in Mingo County in southern West Virginia. In 1994 Sister Brendan opened another Christian Help center in the little town of Kermit, and Sister Janet Marie became director of ABLE Families, which worked to combat the systemic causes of poverty. Their work provided emergency assistance for those in crisis and also organized very real ways for area residents to carve out better, fuller lives.

Sister Brendan has been inspired by those she has met in southern West Virginia, where she and Sister Janet Marie were the only Catholics in the town of Kermit. “They live beautiful, faith-filled lives. Many have to live very simply, but they have great trust in God. That’s what matters to them.”

After 20 years in Mingo, the two returned to the Ursuline Motherhouse in 2014. Sister Brendan now volunteers at St. John Center (a drop-in shelter for homeless men), works with several adults learning English as a second language, and visits with incarcerated women at the regional prison.

She has come to know St. Angela Merici through the years and to value her trusting, independent spirit and strong faith in God to found a community of women late in life. “She was a pretty modern saint, way before her time, “ she added. “It was what God wanted, and that was it.”

She reflected on her own vocation to religious life and the tremendous support of her congregation for projects like Christian Help. “I’m grateful I joined the Ursulines. I’ve loved the life and the things I was able to do.”

She values St. Angela’s charism that binds together contemplation with service. “The one has founded and grounded the other,” she pondered. “It’s the way I’ve wanted life to be.”

Sister Evelina (Mary Roger) Pisaneschi

70 Years – 1946
Current Ministry: Volunteer, Sacred Heart Home and the Motherhouse

Previous Ministries: Teacher at St. Elizabeth, St. Peter Claver, St. Boniface, Our Lady of Lourdes, Ursuline College, Sacred Heart Model School, St. Therese (all of Louisville, KY), St. Francis de Sales (Morgantown, WV). Principal at Holy Spirit School, St. Therese and St. John Vianney (all of Louisville, KY) and Our Lady of Mercy-Blessed Sacrament (Pittsburgh, PA). Assistant director of Ursuline Campus Services. Assistant to Formation Mentoring Community.

Gift of Vocation Causes Sister Evelina to ‘Shout for Joy’. To meet Sister Evelina Pisaneschi is to meet joy personified.

Joy first was infused into her childhood as the blonde-haired, blue-eyed daughter of Italian parents who raised four children. “I had a brother, Albert, 18 months older than I. We did everything together and had a lot of fun growing up in Cumberland, MD.”

Two sisters, Janet and Patricia, were born years later. Sister Evelina taught them to read and write before they entered school. “My childhood and school years were full of happiness. I had many friends and my life centered around St. Mary’s parish.”

She was active at weekly bingos, card parties and enjoyed playing the violin in both the parish junior and senior orchestras. “We had weekly dances and I loved to jitterbug.”

The Blessed Mother has always been important to her and while attending St. Mary’s High School. As a high school freshman she became involved in the Sodality of Our Lady. Attached to her rosary to this day is a large miraculous medal she received from that organization. One of Sister Evelina’s special memories is being voted as May Queen while in high school.

From an early age, one wish was clear to Sister Evelina: “All my life, I wanted to be holy like my Mother, (Ursuline) Sister Helene Jones and Mary Breighner (the housekeeper for the St. Mary’s parish priests).”

Her mother often talked to her about God, and exemplified the holiness Sister Evelina sought. Sister Helene was her first grade teacher. “I remember her as being very patient and kind, and she had a very joyful smile.”

On walks home from school Sister Evelina would visit Mary, who would be on the rectory’s back porch reading Thomas A. Kempis’ “The Imitation of Christ.” “Mary would read from it and we would talk about what was read,” Sister Evelina remembered.” When I left home for the convent, she gave me a copy of ‘The Imitation.’”

If holiness was what she sought, there was a sure way to obtain it. “I think forever I felt I always wanted to be holy and people who were holy were nuns.”

Initially, her calling met with resistance from her father, but it was a mark of how deeply he loved and would miss her. Evidence of this came when her parents traveled from Maryland for her investment ceremony in Louisville, KY. Sister Evelina recalled the summer morning of their arrival. There were so many sisters home from their teaching assignments that some slept on cots in what was St. Joseph’s Hall (now the Sacred Heart School of Performing Arts building). “Sister Millie Mae (Rueff) said there was a man looking in the windows. It turned out that it was my dad. He wanted to see if I really was happy.”

Challenges were placed before her during the formation process. Shortly after her entrance, while in quiet study with other sisters, Sister Evelina reacted by laughing loudly to something funny another sister had said. “Mother Dominica (Hettinger) came and stopped by my chair. She said, ‘Evelina, either you will not persevere to be a nun or you will become a saint as great as St. Angela.’”

Because of her sincere desire to be a sister, the choice was clear to Sister Evelina. “To me, it meant, ‘I’m going to be as great a saint as Angela. When things get tough, I can do it. Be a saint.’ And I’m still striving.”

During her formation and teaching years, she acquired degrees and certificates from Ursuline College (Louisville, KY), Catholic University (Washington, DC), West Virginia and Pennsylvania departments of Education, Commonwealth of Kentucky and Spalding University (Louisville, KY).

She admits that she entered religious life not because she wanted to teach but primarily because she wanted to be an Ursuline. “One thing for sure is that I learned I loved children. I just loved them.”

She taught in elementary schools for 22 years and served as principal for 19 years at schools in Pittsburgh, PA; Morgantown, WV and Louisville, KY. Challenges came, including assignments in impoverished areas. “I worked with very poor families and I just tried to help as much as I could.”

Often she assisted in small but significant ways: buying boxes of cereal for a little girl who would otherwise come to school hungry, providing a comb and soap for another child who would arrive early to clean up in the classroom sink (“It made my life that she felt so good.”), and, on special occasions, she would cut up candy bars that the class would share.

“I learned to depend on the Holy Spirit,” she confided. “I had families with a lot of problems, especially with poverty. Every time I met with a parent I prayed that the Holy Spirit would put the right words on my tongue. It was amazing! I would say words and I didn’t know where they were coming from.”

Occasionally, she taught middle school students. “I loved junior high kids. They’re so real and I loved to tease them.” The affection was mutual for the sister whose religious name was “Mary Roger.” Her students knew that “roger” was the code word for “OK.” “One time there was trouble as students left lunch. I said, ‘Look, if there is going to be carrying on like this there will be consequences. When I was finished, one boy smiled, saluted and said, ‘Roger, Roger.’ I have a lot of happy memories.”

During a portion of the time while teaching younger children, she took on a part-time teaching position in the Education Department at Ursuline College, and also taught full-time at Bellarmine-Ursuline College for four semesters. She eventually went back to teaching in Catholic elementary schools.

In 1991, she retired from teaching (“I thought I would get out while I was still on top.”) and for 14 years she worked as assistant to the director of Campus Services on the Ursuline Campus in Louisville.

These days Sister Evelina resides at the Motherhouse. In her free time she likes puzzles and reading novels. “There’s always one going in the community room.”

She volunteers at Sacred Heart Home and the Motherhouse, offering to do little acts of kindness for the sisters there, such as cleaning veils, polishing shoes and decorating their rooms for Christmas.

“Angela, our foundress, has always been a model of holiness for me. She truly loved God and spent her life doing all she could for others.”

She is thankful to God for her vocation with the Ursulines. “The community has been my family. I’m proud of our fourth vow, to teach Christian living, which shows how serious we are about our ministry to educate everyone to live holy and better lives by word and example.”

Like a good student, she has completed her homework by looking up the word “jubilee” in Latin, which means “to raise a shout of joy.” “I ask everyone to shout for joy and celebrate this great gift that God has given me.”

Sister Mildred Mae (Anselm) Rueff

70 Years – 1946
Current Ministry: Ministry of prayer, Sacred Heart Home

Previous Ministries: Teacher at St. Boniface, Our Mother of Sorrows, St. Rita, Holy Trinity (all of Louisville, KY), St. Francis de Sales (Morgantown, WV), St. Mary (Jackson, MS), Sacred Heart Mission (Camden, MS) and Blessed Sacrament (Omaha, NE). Counselor at West End Program, Louisville Independent Schools, John F. Kennedy Public School, Indian Trail and Medora Public School, Churchill Public School, Hite Elementary, Jefferson County Public Schools, Sacred Heart Schools (all of Louisville, KY). Pastoral Associate at St. Patrick and The Forum (both of Louisville. KY).

From School Counseling to Parish Ministry, Sister Mildred Mae Would ‘Do It All Again’

Sister Mildred Mae Rueff has fond memories of her youth growing up not far from the Ursuline Motherhouse. The oldest of four daughters and a son born in Louisville to Ida and Irvin Rueff, she liked to shoot marbles and attended Holy Trinity School and Ursuline Academy where she was taught by Ursuline Sisters. She ran errands for Ursuline Sister Marietta Schwindel, the cook at Holy Trinity at the time. While at the Academy on Chestnut Street, she would stay after school to help teachers. “I’d walk down to the corner by the saloon on Shelby Street and wait for a bus. My mother would always tell me, ‘You be careful.’”

After high school she took office jobs, including one at Reynolds Metals in the West End. World War II was in high gear and often after work she would board a bus transporting girls to USO events at Fort Knox where they would dance with soldiers. “They just threw us around (on the dance floor),” she remarked, smiling at the memory. “You either did that or stayed home. There wasn’t anything else to do. All the boys were in the war.”

Her road to religious life began after she expressed a desire to enter the Navy. “My Daddy wouldn’t let me be a WAVE (a term for women who wanted to serve in the Navy).”

Then the war ended. “Everyone—all the kids and neighbors–got in the back of their trucks and went down to Fourth Street to celebrate.”

The very next day, Sister Mildred entered the convent. “My Daddy said, ‘Let her go; she’ll be back in a week. He got fooled,’” she said with a laugh.

It wasn’t difficult going from dances with soldiers to formation in religious life. “It was what I chose to do. It wasn’t hard, just a change. I was fitting in where I belonged, wherever I could help.”

She progressed through religious formation and studies in early elementary education, entering the classroom in 1948 and making her final vows in 1951. While teaching at various elementary schools in Kentucky, West Virginia, Mississippi and Nebraska, she often juggled class work with cooking for the sisters. “They eat whatever you make.”

She shifted from classroom teaching to counseling when sent for her master’s degree in guidance from Creighton University in Omaha, NE. (Later, she went on to receive her specialist certification in counseling psychology from Spalding College.) She embarked as a counselor in the public school system addressing diverse needs–discipline, underfed children, over-bearing parents, violence at home and busing. She also had cause to venture into “The Projects.” “I’d go back and do it all again,” she admitted.

In the early 1990s she found her way into pastoral ministry at the fledging parish of St. Patrick’s in Louisville’s East End, aiding Father John (“Jack”) Schindler. “There was myself, a bookkeeper and father.”

Meeting first at a community center and then in a warehouse at an industrial center, they built the church and started a school on Beckley Station Road; both continue to thrive today. Sister Millie began the religious education program and, when space was scarce, would take a statue of the Blessed Mother down into the basement for a women’s Bible study. Sister Millie Mae helped to found the Leprechauns, a ministry for senior citizens that continues to offer spiritual and social events, trips and provides emotional support for members. Her ministry expanded to include serving Catholic seniors living at The Forum.
Somewhere along the way, Sister Millie took up art—teaching it and showcasing her art at the Ursuline Art Fair. (In her youth, she was more apt to play football or baseball than paint or draw outside of the classroom.)

Known for his preaching and for helping people find lost items, St. Anthony of Padua has been a special saint for Sister Millie over the years, stemming from her younger years when she would stop at St. Boniface Church after leaving work at Reynolds Metals.

These days the 93-year-old sister stays busy at Sacred Heart Home, attending activities and crafting her way through each holiday. As she reflects on her years as an Ursuline, the 93-year-old sister said with a smile, “I go with the flow. … I don’t know anything else.”

Sister Rosella McCormick

60 Years – 1956
Current Ministry: Facilitate RCIA, retreat opportunities, days of prayer. Teach classes for the Archdiocesan Faith Formation Office

Previous Ministries: Teacher at St. Raphael, Angela Merici High School and St. Patrick High School (North Platte, NE); part-time professor at Bellarmine University, Jefferson Community College and Indiana University Southeast. Adult Education director at St. Jerome, (Fairdale, KY). Congregation’s director of novices. Vocation Director. President of the Ursuline Sisters. Pastoral Associate at Holy Spirit (Jamestown KY), Christ the King (McFarland, WI), St. Gabriel and St. Leonard (both Louisville, KY).

Teaching Christian Living Is a Continued Joy for Sister Rosella

Sister Rosella McCormick is a native Nebraskan whose family consisted of her parents and three brothers. When young, she lived in Central Nebraska and attended a public school since there were no nearby Catholic schools. At age 13, the family moved to North Platte, NE, and she enrolled as a sophomore at St. Patrick’s High School, staffed by the Ursuline Sisters. A scholarship enabled her to attend Ursuline College in Louisville, KY, until her father’s poor health called her home after freshman year. For three years she was employed by Municipal Light and Power Co.

Relative to discernment of her vocation, Sister Rosella feels deeply that “God tries hard to get us where God wants us. It is more God’s doing than ours. Made in God’s image and likeness, we all have that Divine DNA, which is so powerful.”

She says that some factors that played a significant role in her discernment include:

  1. “As a child it seemed to me that the Catholic Faith was extremely important to my mother and she witnessed it faithfully and quietly. She always tried to answer my questions about being a Catholic.”
  2. “I met an Ursuline Sister for the first time when I was 7 years old. One of my older brothers and I stayed with an aunt and uncle for two weeks in preparation for receiving First Eucharist.”
  3. “I had no desire to be a sister when in high school or in my year at college here on our Campus. Even though at that time, I wasn’t tuned into it, I think God’s hook (Divine DNA) was reeling me in as I saw postulants and novices in some of my college classes. I wondered what made them ‘tick’ and why. The college was staffed mostly by our sisters.”
  4. “While working for the City of North Platte those 3 years, I frequently went to daily Mass. It seemed God nudged something in me as I observed the sisters file into the front rows of the church. I think the idea of being a woman where prayer and community living were important was becoming important. Also, thoughts of being a teacher had haunted me in school.”
  5. “One day when I stopped by the church after work and only “God and I” were there, I remember being hit with the realization that I had to test a vocation as an Ursuline. However, it was a heavy challenge: so far away from my family and the concern I had for them. Is this what God really wants?”
  6. “I entered the Ursuline novitiate in 1956.”

Sister Rosella expressed a deep conviction that God called her to be an Ursuline. Ursuline foundress, St. Angela Merici, has been an example of prayer, flexibility, faithfulness and “sureness of God.” The Charism of St. Angela and the Louisville Ursulines is a contemplative love of God and a resulting openness and eagerness to serve the needs of others. Sister Rosella considers all the variety of ministries she has had as expressions of the Ursuline Congregation’s Mission: Teaching Christian Living.

Sister Rosella expressed gratitude for opportunities to earn her BA degree at Ursuline College; an MA degree at St. John’s University in New York; and to pursue graduate studies at Notre Dame University, South Bend, IN; and at Washington Theological Union in Washington, DC.

She is thankful for the wonderful opportunities to learn, to pray, and to minister as an Ursuline. She also appreciates sisters who challenged her and persons in the Ursuline Community and parishes who trusted and affirmed the gifts God gave her. Sister Rosella feels that life with her birth family and with her Ursuline family are truly blessings!

Sister Rose Ann (Mary Luke) Muller

60 Years – 1956
Current Ministry: Prayer and presence at Sacred Heart Home

Previous Ministries: Teacher at St. Raphael, Ursuline College, St. Elizabeth, St. Joseph (all of Louisville), Blessed Sacrament (Omaha, NE), St. Mary (Jackson, MS). Principal at Pope John XIII (Madison, IN). Pastoral minister at St. Mary (Jackson, MS) and St. Simon (Washington, IN). Co-coordinator at Marian Home.

A Tested Vocation Blooms into Many Fruitful Years of Ministry for Sister Rose Ann

Sister Rose Ann Muller was born in Evansville, IN, at her parents’ home on June 16, 1932. She is the daughter of Louis and Elenora (Vaal) Muller. Her childhood was happy and many memories still remain. She had a two-year-old brother, Bill, and later Eddie and Eugene came along. The family often visited her grandparents’ farm. “Grandma always had homemade bread and butter and a cup of hot milk with come coffee in it for us. It was sooo good,” Sister Rose Ann recollected. And while grandfather let her and her brothers play in the hayloft, ride on the tractor and feed the animals, she was always glad to return to their 4-room home in the evening. “She slept in the room where the main potbelly stove was situated, a popular spot before breakfast on cold mornings. “Every morning Daddy would get up earlier than any of us, shake down the ashes from the stove and then build a fire with coal.”

They had a swing in their large back yard, which was “big enough for Daddy’s garden.” She and her siblings would ride bikes in the alley and streets near their home. “In the evenings, we sat out on the porch in our swing and played tag and other games. We knew all our neighbors and they knew us.”

Sister Rose Ann was taught by the Sisters of Providence of St. Mary’s of the Woods and the Benedictine Sisters of Ferdinand, IN, in high school. Upon graduation she worked for three years as a secretary for a lawyer and an oil man. During high school and throughout her time as a secretary, she dated, hung out with friends and spent time at the “SHE-HE-HE-SHE Teen Club.” She also was a member of the junior and senior Legion of Mary. “It was mainly through my work in the Legion of Mary that I began to think about becoming a sister,” she said. “My experiences with different types of spiritual works made me think of religious life.”

She also received encouragement from her parish’s assistant priest, Fr. Dewig, who had a great devotion to the Blessed Mother. “When I finally got serious about religious life I leaned toward the Benedictines because I got closer to them in high school.”

There were Ursulines teaching at Evansville’s St. Boniface School, 10 blocks from her home parish. Fr. Dewig wished for Sister Rose Ann to meet his biological sister, who was an Ursuline assigned to Louisville, KY, so the two traveled to St. Peter’s Convent. “I was impressed with Sister Cordula (Dewig) and the Ursuline Sisters but I chose the Benedictines because I knew many of them.”

She was a novice in the Benedictine Order for one year, but her health was not strong enough to allow her to stay so the Superiors asked her to leave. “This was very traumatic for me because I thought that I had failed God in some way.”

She received support from her family, Fr. Dewig and Father Lautner, superintendent of Mater Dei High School, her alma mater. After several months she took a secretarial position with St. Mary’s Hospital, which was down the block from St. Anthony’s Church. “I made many visits to the Blessed Sacrament on my lunch hour. Jesus and I had many a talk together. I felt like Jesus was telling me to try again.”

Healthwise, she felt stronger and on one November day she visited the Ursuline convent at St. Boniface and asked the Superior if the Ursulines would accept her even though she had been in a different convent. A few phone calls later, the answer came back: “Yes.”

She had only four weeks to prepare for her departure. Her parents and brothers drove her to Louisville and she entered the Louisville Community, becoming a novice in July of 1956. She took her temporary vows in 1958. Her first “obedience” (or assignment) was as a first grade teacher at St. Raphael in Louisville, KY. “Those first graders taught me how people learn,” she recalled. “These children, 55 in my class, did not have kindergarten or pre-school experience so everything I taught them they were so excited and happy to learn.”

She received support and advice after school hours from her religious sisters. “Many recreations at the convent found teachers cutting out letters and numbers for our bulletin boards and flashcards to help with teaching. We sisters have always learned a lot from each other.”

Life in the convent was full with daily mass, communal and personal prayer, meals together and weekends finishing coursework and teaching catechism. “We were always busy but together we sisters helped each other to keep our spirits up and to have fun on a minute’s notice.”

After her final vows in 1963, Sister Rose Ann went to Omaha, NE, to teach and pursue a master’s degree in education from Creighton University. She taught at Blessed Sacrament School until her graduation from Creighton in 1967. “Being at Creighton was very enlightening to me, meeting so many students like myself and sharing our stories. I had some fine teachers there and I really liked to study and learn new ideas.”

Ursuline College in Louisville was her next stop. “I found the college students were just as eager to learn and as challenging as my elementary students.” Over time, though, she realized that she preferred elementary education and was assigned to be principal at Pope John XXIII School in Madison, IN. Her ministry was “a little more involved” as she oversaw the academic program and sacramental preparation for all students. Sister Rose Ann noted a memorable day, April 4, 1974, when a tornado struck the school, tearing off the roof over six classrooms and the hall. Fortunately, no one in the school was hurt. “Our teachers, children, staff and parents were involved and very supportive. We were back in school by September of that year.”

From there, Sister Rose Ann taught at St. Elizabeth and St. Joseph schools in Louisville. It was at St. Joseph School where she began her friendship with St. Joseph, the foster father of Jesus and spouse of Mary. “It started with St. Joseph always finding me a place to park my car in front of the convent on bingo nights. Now, St. Joseph is my constant companion.”

After major surgery in 1984, Sister Rose Ann requested a sabbatical, which she used to participate in a program called “The Global Community.” She lived in a dormitory at Mt. St. Joseph College near Cincinnati, OH, with 35 other women religious from across the United States, Canada, Ireland and Africa. They took courses and participated in social justice activities in Washington, DC, and in Texas. “It was truly a special time for me. I am really grateful for that experience.”

Sister Rose Ann was hoping to return to a parish position as a pastoral minister but at that time parishes could not afford to pay for those positions and the congregation could not afford to let her do volunteer work. She accepted a position at St. Mary’s School in Jackson, MS. The pastor of St. Mary’s Church told her that in a few years he hoped to have a paid position for a pastoral minister. In the meantime, Sister Rose Ann taught sixth grade, and three years later earned her same salary but now as a pastoral minister. “The pastor took me to the hospitals and every nursing home and every homebound person in the parish. He told me that all I needed to do was to love them and help them in their need. I did just that.”

She also assisted with the RCIA program at St. Mary and Christ the King parishes. “I truly enjoyed the people of Jackson, MS,” said Sister Rose Ann, who added that they were of all races living there and attending classes at Jackson State University.

She left Jackson in 1995 to be pastoral minister at St. Simon Church in Washington, IN, allowing her to make the hour-long trip to Evansville to be closer to her 90-year-old father. “I was grateful for the opportunity to help in his caregiving,” she said. “He was a kind, gentle and loving person.”

After her father died in 1999, she returned to the Ursuline Campus as co-coordinator of Marian Home and worked with the sick and elderly, meeting their physical and spiritual needs. She retired in 2004 and began volunteering in the surrounding community. Because of her failing health, in September 2015, she moved to Sacred Heart Home. “It is a new era in my life and it takes some time to adjust to it. I feel more at home as the months pass by.”

Her connection to St. Angela Merici has grown since the late 60‘s, a time when sisters received permission to change back to their baptismal names and the congregation began studying St. Angela’s life in-depth. She shared a favorite saying of the saint: “I will be with you more in heaven than while I was on earth.” Sister Rose Ann confided that she would often challenge St. Angela in prayer when situations presented themselves by telling her, “’You promised.’ And she always had an answer for me.”

During her studies, Sister Rose Ann also learned the word “piazza” when one of the sisters autographed her book with the message: “Be like a piazza.” She has pondered and meditated on that word many times. “I think Jesus would like for our whole world to have many piazzas. Perhaps peace and justice would come from them.”

Sister Rose Ann was fortunate to go on an Angeline pilgrimage in 2000, visiting St. Angela’s birthplace and many piazzas. She also traveled to Straubing, Germany, and to the convent where the three founding Ursuline Sisters came from in 1858 to start the Louisville congregation. “It was something to see the area where they lived and worked and to pray in the chapel where Sisters Salesia (Reitmeier), Pia (Schoennhofer) and Maximillian (Nicklas) had prayed.”

Jubilee celebrations are special to Sister Rose Ann. She celebrated her 25th Jubilee in 1981 at St. Joseph Church and her family organized a second celebration in her hometown of Evansville. “Those were two days I will never forget as there was much joy and reminiscing among my family and sisters and friends.”

In 2006, she celebrated her 50th jubilee at Our Mother of Sorrows Church in Louisville, a gathering that was also full of joy. Now it’s her 60th jubilee. “As I am older now, I need to celebrate and remember the many blessings of these 83 years of my life. I thank God that, in my declining age and health, I have a home where my Ursuline Sisters provide care for me, as well as Sacred Heart Home where many loving caregivers take care of my needs.”

Sister Mary Martha (Joseph Marie) Staarman

60 Years – 1956
Current Ministry: Hispanic Parish Services, St. Agnes Parish (West Chester, PA)

Previous Ministries: Teacher at St. George (Louisville, KY), St. Joseph (Columbia, SC), St. Angela Merici (Callao, Peru), St. Mary (Cumberland, MD). Pastoral Minister at St. Peter (Reading, PA), Sacred Heart and St. Joseph (Rock Island, IL).

Unexpected Assignment Led Sister Martha to ‘Vocation within a Vocation’

Sister Martha Staarman has garnered the title of “abuela” (“grandmother”) for guiding immigrant mothers through pregnancies and births of over 500 children. Her car is a taxi, she said, transporting women and children to doctor appointments.

She traces the seeds of this ministry to Ascension Thursday in 1964 when her name was drawn from a hat, earning for her a spot as one of four missionary sisters for ministry in Peru.

Many years prior to shuttling others in her car, Sister Martha was often riding her bike in her hometown of Cumberland, MD. Her father worked for the railroad and her mother managed the home front and three children. Both parents were “very religious,” recalled Sister Martha, adding that her mother sang in the choir and they all wore miraculous medals and went to confession every other week. “My father would take me to all of the novenas.” He would also take the children swimming or for walks in the woods to give her mother a day of peace.

She attended Catholic schools along with her siblings, and participated in piano recitals and theatrical plays. “I’m not an outgoing person. It was never easy for me to get up in front of people but it was a beginning. It helped later in life.” She also wrote for the LaSalle newspaper and won the top spot for her essay, “I Speak for Democracy.”

Ursuline Sisters served as her teachers throughout her school years. The family became well acquainted with Sister Rosalie Weckman, and would drive her places. During those years, Sister Martha aspired to become an airline stewardess. That changed her junior year in high school after a priest spoke to her class about vocations. He left a big poster about becoming a professed religious. “I remember looking at that poster and thinking, ‘Maybe it’s not a bad idea. I’ll try that.’”

After telling her family of her calling and graduating from high school, Sister Martha was on a train to Louisville, KY. It was a difficult transition but she progressed in her formation, which included one year as a postulant, two years as a novice, and two more years of formation before taking her final vows in 1963. During the latter part of her formation, she taught at St. Joseph School in Columbia, SC. The following year she completed her college degree. Then, she was chosen for ministry in Peru to answer Pope John XXIII’s appeal to religious communities to send missionaries to Latin America.

“Going to Peru was pivotal to my whole life,” she surmised, explaining that she had volunteered on a whim. She was shocked when her name was drawn and even tried to back out of the assignment. “It was going against everything in me.” Now, she sees Peru as the place where “I found my vocation within my vocation.”

They had a place to stay in Peru and then set upon the task of establishing a school. “It was up to us to get a school started knowing no Spanish.”

The people welcomed the sisters but the early days were difficult. God willed a school and soon one emerged. (Read about the 50th anniversary of the school established by the Ursulines in this issue.) Once Sister Martha’s Spanish improved she felt comfortable attending meetings and moving freely in the barrio (neighborhood). The Peru assignment changed her life. “I think I found my vocation among the people there,” she later realized. “It made me see religious life in a different context.”

Initially, she taught younger grades in Callao and then pursued community work, relying on skills she learned at the Latin-American Pastoral Institute in Quito, Ecuador. She also studied Liberation Theology in Lima, Peru, and took her knowledge into the community. “I got people together to discuss the Bible and then action would come out of what we studied,” she explained, adding that the need for water and the establishment of basic infrastructure were two key issues facing the local people.

She returned to the United States in 1978 and employed her skills in pastoral ministry at parishes in Reading, PA, Rock Island, IL, Cumberland, MD, and she finally settled at St. Agnes Parish in West Chester, PA, beginning in 1985. “It’s a big parish with a lot going on.”

Her current ministry feels similar to her work in Peru: an outreach to the Spanish-speaking community that includes many from Mexico. Imagine being young with no place of one’s own, often without family, and with no easy route home, Sister Martha reflected. The immigrants come to the United States because they want their children to be safe and educated, she explained.

For 30 years, she works within the parish to meet spiritual and other needs. She guides expectant immigrant parents until their children’s second birthdays, ensuring pregnant mothers receive good healthcare, have transportation to doctor appointments and that children receive the shots they need.

She emphasizes the importance of education to the immigrants. “I tell them, ‘Do you want to clean houses all of your lives? Then you have to study.’” It’s a process that takes patience, she said, recalling her acclimation to Peru and her own family history. “My grandparents were German immigrants and they couldn’t speak English.”

The wisdom of St. Angela Merici infuses her ministry. Favorite pearls of Angeline wisdom include: “We have a greater need to serve the poor than they have of our service” and “You will find no other recourse than to take refuge at the feet of Jesus.”

Sister Martha’s own experiences in Peru allow her to meet immigrants, given their many hardships, with compassion and to join them at Jesus’ feet. “I look upon opportunities so that when something comes along I’m more open to what happens. Whatever it is, it may not be OK but it will turn out as it should. Maybe not in my eyes, but it will turn out OK—sometimes that’s hard to swallow.”

Being an Ursuline has changed the course of her life. “I would not have had the opportunities and experiences if not for being part of the Ursulines.”

Even though she lives away from the Motherhouse, she feels connected to the congregation in Louisville. “There are people there that are part of my life even though I am up here. It’s home.”

Sister Loretta Krajewski

40 Years – 1976
Current Ministry: Principal/Teacher at St. Luke School, Ogallala, NE

Previous Ministries: Teacher at St. Elizabeth, St. Joseph, St. Jerome, St. Therese, St. John Vianney and St. Simon and Jude (all of Louisville) and St. Patrick (North Platte, NE).

Nebraska Native Serves as Principal and Teacher in Her Home State

Sister Loretta Krajewski is the fifth of six daughters that her parents were blessed with in eight years. She was raised on a farm 10 miles southwest of Ogallala, NE. “Growing up on the farm meant that you did everything that you were needed to do – drive a tractor or the truck, move irrigation pipe, help with wheat harvest, mow, feed cattle, horses, pigs, and chickens, and there were always ‘big weeds’ to be pulled in a field in the middle of nowhere.”

Kindergarten through 4th grade, she frequently walked one and a half miles to a one-room country school she attended. Her last year at the country school, there were two other students – a neighbor girl and her youngest sister. The following year the youngest sisters joined two older sisters at Saint Luke’s School in Ogallala, where they were taught by the Dominicans from St. Catherine, KY. After graduating from the eighth grade, Sister Loretta joined older sisters who were attending Saint Patrick’s High School in Sidney, NE. Since Sidney was more than 60 miles away, she lived with a different family each of her high school years. “We would go home on weekends to help out on the farm when there was not a volleyball game to play in or a basketball or football game to attend.”

At St. Patrick, she was introduced to the Ursuline Sisters of Louisville. They became her mentors. “They were very kind, helpful and caring. I wanted to be that kind of person.”

She went on to Kearney State College in Kearney, NE, and was active in the Newman Center. Sister Loretta recalled a presentation on religious life offered through the center. “I just remember being deeply touched by what the sister was challenging us young people to think about – a life of service in the Church.”

Presented with an imposing book of numerous religious communities, Sister Loretta received advice from her campus minister to consider congregations she already knew. She had had contact with the Ursulines and Dominicans, and so she wrote to both communities.

In the meantime, Sister Loretta graduated with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a minor in physical science. On a visit to her family in North Platte, NE, Sister Rosella McCormick, the Ursulines’ vocations director, paid the college senior a visit in Ogallala. After that, Sister Loretta, along with her father and youngest sister, accompanied her to Louisville and St. Catherine. It was in Louisville where Sister Loretta felt “like this could be my ‘home.’”

She moved to Louisville in August of 1975 to begin her postulancy with Sister Martha (Olga) Buser as her formation director and 11 other sisters as roommates on the third floor of Marian Hall. Having a degree in education, she was ready for the classroom, teaching first at St. Elizabeth and then at St. Joseph, St. Jerome, St. Therese, St. John Vianney and St. Simon and Jude, all in Louisville. She also taught at St. Patrick High School in North Platte and finally, in 2005, returned to Ogallala, NE, as principal and teacher at St. Luke, where she still ministers in her 11th year and 40th year in education. Principals of schools where she has worked have been instrumental to her own career. They include Sisters Alberta Neppl, Romana Selter and Evelina (Roger) Pisaneschi, Mrs. Hurst and Michelle Duvall. “Each of them helped me become a better teacher, work together as a team, improve communication skills and establish good relationships with parents.”

Guiding her, too, has been Ursuline foundress, Saint Angela Merici. One favorite saying of the saint is “when necessary, change with the times.”

“Saint Angela challenged us to persevere,” she said, adding that she identifies with the saint in her work with women, children and families. “When there are bumps along the way, I know I am being called to persevere.”

Another go-to source of strength is the Blessed Mother. “In my work with families, I turn to her in prayer often to give me strength, wisdom and guidance.”

Psalm 63 and Matthew 9:21 are Scripture passages that inspire her. “If I could just touch the hem of his (Jesus’) cloak, I will be healed.”

She thinks of this quote when ministering to children, hoping they come to know and love Jesus. “Every day I want to touch the hem of his cloak, staying very close to Jesus and God. With God, all things are possible.”

She feels privileged to be part of the Ursulines, a group of “wise and prayerful women making a difference in our world.” She aspires to continue the Ursuline legacy.

“They have supported me, challenged me, and helped me grow spiritually, emotionally and mentally. They are my family.”

Sister Yuli Oncihuay

Love for Ursulines Fuels Sister Yuli’s Vocation and Work in the Classroom

Sister Yuli Oncihuay arrived in Louisville in March from the Ursuline mission in Callao, Peru. For about a year, she will be living at the Motherhouse while learning English and visiting with her sisters and their places of ministry. Her visit sparked an idea – celebrate her 20 years as an Ursuline Sister of Louisville. [Traditionally the Ursuline Sisters of Louisville have celebrated jubilees of 25, 50, 60, 75 and 80.]

Sister Yuli entered the Ursuline Sisters of Louisville in 1996. “I was attracted to the Ursulines by the way they lived in community, their hospitality, their service and dedication to others, and also their work for justice and peace,” she recalled. [The Ursulines had arrived in Peru in 1964.

After formation into the Ursulines with Sister Sue Scharfenberger and the other Sisters in Callao at that time, Sister Yuli made final profession there in 2005. She came to Louisville in early spring from her ministry as a kindergarten teacher at Colegio Parroquial Santa Angela Merici, the school founded by the Sisters in 1965.

“It gives me joy to be a part of this great community, the diversity of the Sisters and their going to Peru, leaving their footprints as ‘Angela Peregrina.’ Also the life of the children, women and youth who seek ways of knowing themselves and realizing their potential as people gives me joy.”

Sister Yuli sees her visit as a chance to deepen her relationships in the congregation and a chance to reflect- an opportunity for peace and quiet, not often found while involved in her teaching ministry.

Bienvenida y felicidades, Sister Yuli!