In 2015, the Discalced Carmelites made the decision to move out of their monastery on Newburg Road in Louisville and sell the building to the Archdiocese of Louisville. Ursuline President Sister Janet Marie Peterworth recalls that, “I received a call out of the blue one day in 2015 from Sister Carol Curtis, then Mother John the Baptist, who explained that, ‘The Carmelites were moving out of their building, and would we happen to have any room for a few of them to move in?’” She thought to herself, this could be us. So, of course, she said yes, knowing they had plenty of room, and soon the Carmelites came.
One of the Carmelites who came was Sister Mary Theresa Burns, a Louisville native, who attended Assumption High School, and graduated from Bellarmine University. She says that she kept searching for something meaningful after college; and after a conversion experience at church during Holy Week, she discerned that religious life was for her. Ironically, her mother had hoped she would become an Ursuline Sister since the campus was close to their house, but she instead joined the Carmelites and entered their monastery in 1990. Sister Mary Theresa was cloistered for 24 years until the decision to close the monastery in 2015.
Sister Mary Theresa explored many other communities during this transition period, and it wasn’t until she attended an Ursuline Convocation that she felt, “called to become an Ursuline—to have all these women as my sisters, to be a daughter of Angela. The closing ceremony at Convocation made me realize how much I loved being with these women and what they were about. How even though they were from all over the place, they all had the same basic charism. They were all sisters to one another. I then understood that these Ursulines here had everything I was interested in—contemplatives in action, with ministries such as spiritual direction and being a chaplain.”
Sister Mary Theresa has found a new calling as a chaplain, and underwent training for this ministry. She currently is earning her master’s degree and is serving at Nazareth Home-Clifton in Louisville as a chaplain, where she has formed community with the Ursuline Sisters of Louisville who live there.
Sister Mary Theresa made her final profession of vows on Monday, January 27, 2020, the feast day of Saint Angela Merici. She thanked Saint Angela for sharing her feast day with her and said, “In 2017, I had the great privilege of going on a pilgrimage to Italy and walking in Saint Angela’s footsteps. In Brescia, we visited St. Angela Church, and while there, I had a deep desire to become one of her daughters and be connected to her. It means so much that this is my profession anniversary.”