Awards and Honors

The mission of the Ursuline Sisters is to proclaim Jesus through education and Christian formation, in the spirit of their founder, Saint Angela Merici. Along the way, many Ursuline Sisters have been recognized for their efforts. Following is a list and description of the honors and awards the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph have received through 2022.

Diocese of Owensboro, Ky., Awards

John J. McRaith Catechetical Leader Award

The recipient of the award, named for the late Bishop John J. McRaith, is a role model who is an outstanding human being; committed to diocesan, parish and community service; who shows a deep sense of spirituality; is knowledgeable, and committed to continuing their intellectual, spiritual and collaborative growth. Honorees had to have served at least five years in the Diocese of Owensboro in the field of catechetics. These are the Ursuline Sisters who have won the award.

  • 2007-08: Sister Rosanne Spalding
  • 2004-05: Sister Marie Michael Hayden
  • 2003-04: Sister Julia Head
  • 2002-03: Sister Margaret Ann Aull
  • 2001-02: Sister Ann McGrew

Catholic Educator of the Year

The diocese considers the outstanding Catholic School Educator to: be a role model; be an outstanding human being; have a major influence in the lives of students; show concern with the faith development as well as the physical, mental and emotional development of students; and encourage students to improve their abilities and talents. These are the recipients.

  • Sister Laurita Spalding, 2014. She became a teacher in 1968, and began teaching in the Diocese of Owensboro in 1973. She has been teaching at Holy Name in Henderson since 2000.  Read the article   
  • Sister Mary Timothy Bland, 2012. Sister Mary Timothy, a teacher since 1967, began teaching in the Diocese of Owensboro in 1979. She taught in the Owensboro Catholic Elementary Schools from 1986 to 2019. Read the article

Sophia Awards

The Sophia Award, established in 1999, is given to parishioners in the Diocese of Owensboro who are age 65 and older and who have lived a life of stewardship – giving time, talent and/or treasure. Sophia is a Greek word meaning “wisdom.” Several Ursuline Associates have won this award.

  • 2018 – Sister Vivian Bowles, St. Alphonsus, Saint Joseph, Ky.
  • 2018 – Sister Mary Celine Weidenbenner, St. William, Knottsville, Ky.
  • 2010 – Sister Margaret Ann Aull, Holy Name of Jesus, Henderson, Ky.
  • 2010 – Sister Mary Jude Cecil, Rosary Chapel, Paducah, Ky.
  • 2010 – Sister Teresa Riley, St. Mary Parish, LaCenter, Ky.
  • 2009 – Sister Joseph Angela Boone – Diocesan Sophia Award
  • 2007 – Sister Jean Claire Ballard (posthumous), Saint Joseph, Central City, Ky.
  • 2005 – Sister Marie Michael Hayden, St. John the Baptist, Fordsville, Ky.
  • 2005 – Sister Helen Leo Ebelhar, Mary Magdalene, Sorgho, Ky.
  • 2004 – Sister Joan Walz and Sister Mary Agnes VonderHaar, Sacred Heart, Hickman, Ky.
  • 2002 – Sister Mary Irene Cecil, Our Lady of Lourdes, Owensboro, Ky.
  • 2002 – Sister Mary Matthias Ward, Saint Leo, Murray, Ky.

Brescia Honors and Awards

The Ursuline Sisters began Brescia College in Owensboro, Ky., in 1950, the city’s first four-year college. The Sisters had operated the Mount Saint Joseph Junior College for women from 1925-50, but moved the college to Owensboro and made it coed to serve the soldiers returning from World War II. Brescia became a university in 1998. Today, the Ursuline Sisters continue to serve on the board, on the faculty and in administration at Brescia University. Here are the Sisters who have been honored for their service.

The Brescia Distinguished Alumni Award

This award honors those graduates who exemplify the elements that encompass The Brescia Difference: Respect for the Sacred, Devotion to Learning, Commitment to Growth in Virtue and Promotion of Servant Leadership. Because of the breadth and scope of their life’s work, the magnitude of their impact on the regional, national and often international scene and their examples of service and leadership, alumni who receive this esteemed honor have distinguished themselves among their peers and demonstrated that they are true stars of Brescia. This award was established in the year 2000. These are the Ursuline recipients.

Father Charles Saffer Alumni Hall of Fame

The award honors an alum who through a lifetime of personal achievement has personified the ideals of Brescia University. The Ursuline recipients are:

  • 2021 – Sister Mary Henning ’64
  • 2015 – Sister Sharon Sullivan ’75
  • 2014 – Sister Cheryl Clemons ’74
  • 2012 – Sister Rose Jean Powers ‘66
  • 2008 – Sister Vivian Bowles ’69
  • 2006 – Sister Joseph Angela Boone ’62

Outstanding Alumnus Award 

The award honors an alum who through a lifetime of personal achievement has personified the ideals of Brescia University. In  2004, Sister Michele Morek ’66 received the honor.

Brescia University Scholarships honoring the Ursuline Sisters

  • Sister Alberta Birkhead Memorial Scholarship – This fund, established by her students around 1970, honors Sister Alberta, a Daviess County, Ky., native who taught business courses at Brescia from 1950-68. She died in 1969. It is for undergraduate students who are majoring in business at Brescia.
  • Sister Mary Aloise Boone Scholarship – Set up to honor Sister Mary Aloise, a native of New Haven, Ky. Annual awards for undergraduate students attending Brescia University who will be pursuing studies leading to a career in service to humanity. Applicants must have financial need.
  • Sister Casimir Czurles Biology Scholarship – Set up to honor Sister Casimir, a native of Elizabeth, N.J., who taught biology at Brescia from 1950-84. Annual awards for undergraduate students attending Brescia University who are majoring in biology.
  • Sister Francesca Hazel Memorial Scholarship – Set up to honor Sister Francesca, who was born in Owensboro, Ky., and taught at Brescia from 1965-73. Annual awards for undergraduate students attending Brescia University.
  • Sister George Ann Cecil Leadership Scholarship – Set up to honor Sister George Ann, a native of St. Joseph, Ky., who served as president of Brescia College from 1974 until two months before she died of cancer in 1985. She taught at Brescia from 1967-85. Annual awards for undergraduate students attending Brescia University, this covers full-tuition, double room and board in the residence halls or full-tuition, fees and books.
  • Sister George Ann Cecil Scholarship –Annual awards for full-time, first-time freshmen enrolling at Brescia University. Selection based on academic merit and potential. Award amount is for full tuition, room and board.
  • Sister Marguerite Younker Scholarship Set up to honor Sister Marguerite, who was born in Hardin County, Ky., and taught music at Brescia from 1951-80. Annual awards for undergraduate students attending Brescia University who are majoring in music. Applicants must have financial need and a minimum 3.0 GPA.
  • Sister Marita Greenwell Scholarship – Set up to honor Sister Marita, a native of Rhodelia, Ky., who was assistant director (1971-73) and then director of the Contemporary Woman Program (1973-96) at Brescia. She continued to help with the program until she retired in 2005. Annual awards for female, nontraditional students attending Brescia.
  • Sister Mary Carmel Browning Kentucky Literature Scholarship – Set up to honor Sister Mary Carmel, a native of Saint Mary, Ky., who taught English at Brescia from 1952-80. Annual awards for undergraduate students attending Brescia University who are majoring in English. Applicants must have a minimum 3.0 GPA and be researching Kentucky authors.
  • Sister Mary Cecilia Payne Education Scholarship – Set up to honor Sister Mary Cecilia, an Owensboro native who taught music at Brescia from 1952-85. Annual awards for undergraduate students attending Brescia who are majoring in education. Selection based on academic merit.
  • Sister Mary Jean Cotter Annual Art Award – Set up to honor Sister Mary Jean, a native of Cedar Hill, Tenn., who taught art at Brescia from 1950-75. Annual awards for full-time undergraduate students attending Brescia University who are majoring in studio art.
  • Sister Robert Irene O’Brien Golden Scholarship – Set up to honor Sister Robert Irene, a native of Louisville, Ky., who taught art at Brescia from 1955-75. Annual awards for undergraduate students attending Brescia University who are majoring in realistic art. Applicants must have financial need.
  • Sister Sharon Sullivan Endowed Scholarship – This scholarship honors Sister Sharon, a native of Austin, Texas, who continues to teach special education at Brescia.
  • Ursuline Scholarship – Annual awards for first-time freshmen enrolling at Brescia. Applicants must have a high school GPA of 3.7-3.9 and ACT score between 30-31 or SAT 1320-1400. Award amount is for 80 percent of tuition.

Environmental honors

  • In 2011, the Ursuline Sisters were honored with the KY EXCEL Champion Award by the Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection. The Ursuline Sisters were among six recipients of the Environmental Excellence Awards at the Governor’s Conference on Energy and the Environment. The award was presented by Kentucky First Lady Jane Beshear. The Ursuline Sisters were honored because they recycled 16,000 pounds of materials between September 2010 and July 2011. Sister Amelia Stenger accepted the award on behalf of the Ursuline Sisters. Read the article
  • In 2008, the Mount Saint Joseph Conference and Retreat Center was honored as Kentucky’s representative in the Sierra Club’s National Faith Appreciation Report, which highlighted one exceptional faith-based environmental initiative from each of the 50 states. The focus on the Mount Saint Joseph environment began with an environmental audit of the grounds, which resulted in a 10-year Environmental Action Plan that began in 1997. The goals of that plan that have been met include installation of geothermal heating and cooling systems and other “green” energy-saving features; best management practices for the farm such as no-till cropping and other soil conservation measures; extensive use of perennial flower beds and other low-maintenance plantings; recycling and composting.
  • In 2004, the Kentucky Environmental Quality Commission honored Sister Michele Morek with an EQC Earth Day Award in recognition of the 35th anniversary of Earth Day. During an award ceremony at the Governor’s Mansion, EQC Commissioner Aloma Dew said Sister Michele had a “passion and commitment to her community and the environment. Kentucky is a better place because of her.” At the time, Sister Michele was active on Kentucky Watershed Watch, serving as chair of the Scientific Committee for the Tradewater/Lower Green River Watershed Watch program. She conducted numerous environmental education workshops for teachers and student groups and was active in Owensboro Curbside Recycling.

Maple Leaf Award

  • Every year since 2000, at least two graduates of the former Mount Saint Joseph Academy or Junior College have been awarded the Maple Leaf Award, given to those who “personify the values of their Mount Saint Joseph education in contributions to their local faith communities, civic communities, and/or Mount Saint Joseph.” Six of the winners have been Ursuline Sisters.

      • 2021 – Sister Luisa Bickett, A47
      • 2017 – Sister Mary Irene Cecil A45
      • 2013 – Sister Michael Marie Friedman A64
      • 2011 – Sister Rosemary Keough A56
      • 2004 – Sister Marie Julie Fecher A40
      • 2000 – Sister Agnes Catherine Williams A23

Liberty Bell Award

The Daviess County (Ky.) Bar Association presents its annual Liberty Bell Award to a non-attorney community leader who strengthens the effectiveness of freedom and law through outstanding service as a community volunteer. The following Ursuline Sisters won the award.

  • 2006 – Sister Larraine Lauter, for her role as executive director of Migrant Immigrant Shelter and Support.
  • 2002 – Sister Fran Wilhelm, for her work with Centro Latino.
  • 1984 – Sister George Ann Cecil, second president of Brescia College.
  • 1970 – Sister Joan Marie Lechner, the first president of Brescia College. She was the first woman to win the Liberty Bell award.

Awards and Honors Named for Ursuline Sisters

  • On Aug. 29, 2015, in Clementsville, Ky., Sister Annalita Lancaster was honored by her former students at St. Bernard High School, where she served as a teacher, organist and principal from 1958-65. During Sister Annalita’s tenure at St. Bernard, the school was in need of money to help students learn marketable skills. Sister Annalita worked with the National Forestry Service to plant 500 pine trees, earning a dollar for each tree planted. Her former students never forgot how Sister Annalita’s ingenuity helped them. On Aug. 29, 2015, a plaque was unveiled in her honor that reads: We, the former students of St. Bernard School, honor Sr. Annalita Lancaster, OSU (1958-1965). To whom we owe our greatest achievements in life as a result of her teaching. She was the mastermind behind the planting of the beautiful pine forest on the hill above our school. She instilled in us faith in God and ourselves. Fondly remembered, with deep gratitude.” Read the article
  • In 2014, Sister Joseph Angela Boone was honored by having a new lodge at the Gasper River Catholic Youth Camp & Retreat Center dedicated in her name. Sister Joseph Angela was chancellor of the Diocese of Owensboro from 1989-2011, and was named as co-founder of the camp near Bowling Green when the land was purchased in 2006. Boone Lodge allows the camp to house more groups at one time. Read the article
  • Sister Fran Wilhelm Stewardship Award (2013) – Presented by Saints Joseph and Paul Catholic Church in Owensboro in recognition of a parishioner’s service or ministry with the Hispanic community. Sister Fran served the Hispanic community with the help of Saints Joseph and Paul Church.
  • By 2011, Sister Darlene Denton had spent 13 years on the board of Shively Area Ministries, never tiring in her desire to help the agency that serves the disadvantaged in a blue collar section of Louisville, Ky. When Sister Darlene died in 2011 at age 63, Shively Area Ministries refused to let her spirit go. That same month at its Fall Event Fundraiser, the first Sister Darlene Make A Difference Award was presented in her honor to Sister Jean Anne Zappa, an Ursuline Sister of Louisville who served as the agency’s mission advancement director. Read the article 
  • On Jan. 24, 2009, Ursuline Sister Mary Cecilia Payne, who was one of the pioneers of the Owensboro Symphony Orchestra, was honored on behalf of all Ursuline Sisters with an endowed chair at the symphony. Sister Mary Cecilia directed the Brescia String Ensemble at its first concert in 1952. Over the next 15 years, that group grew and evolved into what is today the Owensboro Symphony Orchestra. Sister Mary Cecilia died July 29, 1987, at age 81.The principal chair in the second violin section was endowed in Sister Mary Cecilia’s memory at the Jan. 24, 2009, symphony concert, and is established in honor of the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph, in recognition of their role in music education in Owensboro and the surrounding region.
  • In 2008, the Ursuline Sisters were honored with a shrine of the Pieta (Mary and Jesus) in the new St. Teresa Cemetery in Glennonville, Mo. The inscription reads: “In Thanksgiving for the Ursuline Sisters of Maple Mount, Kentucky, who served in the Glennonville Schools from 1930 to 2001.” Sister Michele Morek, then congregational leader, attended a dedication ceremony presided over by the Most Rev. James Johnston, bishop of the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau, Mo., and Father Glenn Efink, pastor of St. Teresa’s Parish.
  • In 2007, Sts. Joseph and Paul Catholic Church in Owensboro, Ky., began presenting its Sister Agnes Catherine Williams, OSU, Stewardship Award. This award honors the late Sister Agnes Catherine (1905-2007), who dedicated her life to educating God’s children, many of whom went to Sts. Joseph and Paul School. During her time at the parish, she also supervised student teachers from Brescia College (now University) and coordinated the speech clinic. Even after retirement, one of her most-treasured possessions was a small book that contained the name of every student who was placed in her care.
  • In 2005, members of the Vacation Bible School class at Holy Redeemer Parish in Beaver Dam, Ky., surprised Sister Luisa Bickett with a prayer garden dedicated in her honor. It included a statue of Saint Francis and a bench. A plaque on the wall behind the garden reads: “This garden is dedicated to the honor and glory of God in recognition of the faithful service of Sister Luisa Bickett, OSU. May all who pray here know the love, peace, and joy of Our Lord Jesus Christ. 2005” Sister Luisa did outreach in Ohio County from 1984 – 2011.
  • The Sister Kathleen Condry Faith and Friendship Award is given to a few select seniors at Saint Thomas Aquinas High School, Overland Park, Kan. Sister Kathleen Condry served as the school’s principal (1988-96) and its president (1996-98) for 10 years.
  • In 2003, Sister Martina Rockers was the first recipient of the Ken-A-Vision Outstanding Science Teacher Award. (Ken-A-Vision is a manufacturer of science equipment in Kansas City, Mo.) That award is now known as the Sister Martina Excellence in Teaching Award, a $1,000 award going to a high school teacher of science, math or technology with more than 15 years of service who has maintained a standard of excellence within and outside the classroom. The Science Pioneers, of Kansas City, Mo., present the award each year. Sister Martina taught in Kansas schools from 1946-2013. There is also a Sister Martina Scholarship fund that was established in 1998. In 2016, it was selected as the Fund-A-Need project for the school’s spring auction, and Sister Martina wrote the letter for the fundraiser, which raised $59,000.

Awards honoring Kansas Sisters

In 2008, the Ursuline Sisters of Paola, Kan., merged with the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph. Ursulines of Paola served in education and other ministries in Kansas beginning in 1895, and Sisters still serve in Kansas today. These are some of the honors the Ursuline Sisters received for their service in Kansas

  • In 2010, the Catholic Education Foundation in the Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kan., honored the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph with the Catholic Education Community Service Award during its eighth annual Gaudeamus banquet, for their work in Catholic education through the years. Gaudeamus means “Let us rejoice.” Congregational Leader Sister Sharon Sullivan accepted the award from Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann on behalf of the Ursuline Sisters, 13 of whom were in attendance. The Catholic Schools Foundation provides scholarships to children in need to attend Catholic schools.
  • The National Catholic Educational Association in 2008 named Sister Martina Rockers one of seven winners of the Catholic Secondary Education Award. The Secondary Schools Department honors Catholic school educators who deserve national recognition and reflect the richness and diversity of American Catholic education. Sister Martina served as a teacher in Kansas for 67 years, with 55 of those years spent at Bishop Miege High School in Shawnee Mission.
  • In 2016, Sister Pat Lynch was honored for her many years of service to the Lakemary Center during a celebration at the Armacost Car Museum in Grandview, Mo. Sister Pat was presented with framed pictures of the Lakemary Center, with a note that read, “In tribute to the vision of our founding friends who dreamed of a better life for individuals with developmental disabilities. Thank you for your faith and friendship which has sustained us throughout our first 50 years.” Sister Pat served her first 15 years in ministry at Lakemary as a speech therapy aide (1971-72), speech pathologist (1974-81) and education coordinator (1981-86). The Ursuline Sisters founded the Lakemary Center in 1969 to serve children and adults who have developmental difficulties. Read the article
  • In 1998, Sister Kathleen Condry received the Marian Award, which is bestowed upon faculty, staff and administrators of Saint Thomas Aquinas High School in Overland Park, Kan., for their life-long commitment to the ideals and values of the school. Sister Kathleen served at the school from 1988-98 as assistant principal, principal and then president. During the Inaugural Saints Hall of Fame Gala & Tribute in 2013, faculty and staff who were past recipients of the Marian Award were inducted into the Saints Hall of Fame.
  • In 2009, the former Ursuline Sisters of Paola were honored with the Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne Award by Sacred Heart Church/Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne Shrine of Mound City, Kan. The honor goes to an individual or community that has served in imitation of Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne, who started the first house of the Society of the Sacred Heart of Jesus outside France when she came to St. Charles, Mo., in 1818. The Ursuline Sisters were recognized for their contributions in the field of education in the Archdiocese of Kansas City for over 100 years, and for their efforts in promoting vocations to the priesthood and religious life. Sister Angela Fitzpatrick accepted the plaque and figurine from Archbishop Joseph Naumann during Mass at the Sacred Heart Church in Mound City, Kan.
  • In, 2000, Sister Rita Lavigne was named Volunteer of the Year by the East Central Kansas Economic Opportunity Corp., for her work with the poor. In 2008, Sister Rita was honored by the Paola chapter of the Shamrock Study Club as their Woman of the Year for her “valuable contributions to our community, often without receiving recognition … for her efforts.” One of her primary projects was coordinating the Food Pantry at the Ursuline Sisters of Paola Motherhouse, which was a project of the Paola Association for Church Action.

Athena Award

The Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph were honored March 12, 2009, with the coveted Athena Award in Owensboro, Ky., an honor that recognizes people who assist women in attaining their full potential. The Ursuline Sisters became the first – and still only – group to win the award since its inception in 1999. The award began in Lansing, Mich., in 1980, with the three criteria for recipients being, “Demonstrated excellence in their business or profession, devoted time and energy to their community in a meaningful way, and most especially, generously assisted women in attaining their fullest potential.” The Ursuline Sisters were honored for seeking to bring about change in our society through social justice, education and church ministry. Special emphasis was placed on their creation of Brescia College/University and the Contemporary Woman Program, of helping Hispanic women through Centro Latino, and serving as mentors for women in administration, business, science, the fine arts, education and other fields. Congregational Leader Sister Michele Morek accepted the award on behalf of current Sisters, and all those who’ve come before.

Ursuline Centennial Honors in 2012

When the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph celebrated their centennial as an independent community in 2012, both the Owensboro City Commission and Daviess County Fiscal Court proclaimed Oct. 12, 2012 as “Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph Day.” In Marion County, Ky., where the Ursulines began teaching in 1912, a week honoring the Ursuline Sisters April 23-29 culminated with the unveiling and dedication of a monument to the Ursuline Sisters at the David R. Hourigan Government Office Building in Lebanon. Read the article

Sister Dianna Ortiz awards

Sister Dianna Ortiz founded the Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition International (TASSC) in 1998 to bring together survivors of torture, their family members and other supporters to work toward the end of inhumane treatment of people. Sister Dianna was abducted and tortured in 1989 while ministering in Guatemala. After much prayer and counseling, she used her voice to bring attention to the rights of survivors and to expose government-sponsored torture. Sister Dianna died of cancer in 2021. For her ministry, she received the following honors.

  • Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace Award (2000) – Annual honor to the person who gives outstanding witness to the theme of Pope Paul VI’s World Day of Peace message, “To reach peace, teach peace.” The award began in 1978, with the first recipient Dorothy Day.
  • Honorary doctorates from Springfield (Ill.) College (2000); Carroll College, Helena, Mont. (2004), and the College of New Rochelle, N.Y. (2004)
  • Ashoka Fellowship for Social Entrepreneurs (2001)Candidates must have a new idea; creativity; entrepreneurial quality; social impact of the idea, and ethical fiber. Sister Dianna Ortiz was named an Ashoka fellow for fostering leadership among survivors of torture within a broad network providing therapy and rehabilitation.
  • U.S. Catholic Award (2003)U.S. Catholic magazine bestows this honor for furthering the cause of women in the Church.
  • Catholic Press Association book awards (2003) for The Blindfold’s Eyes: My Journey from Torture to Truth, written with Patricia Davis. The book received first place both in the history/biography category and as a book by a first-time author.
  • Paul and Sheila Wellstone Mental Health Visionary Award (2004)Given by the Washington Psychiatric Society.
  • Voice of the Voiceless Award (2005) Bestowed by the Annunciation House, an all-volunteer organization serving immigrants and refugees on the U.S./Mexico border.
  • Rothko Chapel Oscar Romero Award for Commitment to Truth and Freedom (2005) — This is a human rights award that honors those who are willing to risk their lives to promote human rights for all people. Created in 1986, this was the first time in the award’s history that a North American individual/organization was honored.
  • War Resisters League Peace Award (2007)The Peace Award honors those who have taken leading roles in defense of human rights and whose work represents the league’s nonviolent platform of action.
  • Anselm Moons Award (2008) – Created to honor Dutch Franciscan Friar Father Anselm Moons, the founder of Franciscan Mission Service based in Washington, D.C. This award recognizes an individual who exemplifies the organization’s mission and Franciscan values.
  • The Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture Peace Site Award (2008) – This is presented to an exemplary individual or group whose actions and ideals promote the cause of peace.
  • M. Shanara Gilbert Human Rights Award (2008) – Given by the Society of American Law Teachers (SALT) to recognize the contributions of activists whose passion for social justice has driven their lives. This award is named after a City University of New York Law School professor who dedicated her life to equality, equity and justice.
  • Program for Torture Victims Human Rights Hero Award (2012)
  • Letelier-Moffitt Human Rights Domestic Award (2021) – The Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C., gave the award to TASSC and the leadership of Sister Dianna.

Sister Fran Wilhelm awards

Sister Fran Wilhelm lived her 73 years as an Ursuline Sister in a wide variety of ministries. She was first a music teacher, then followed her dream of being a missionary to become one of the first Ursuline Sisters to serve in South America. She became a leader in the Charismatic Renewal movement in California, then returned to Maple Mount to begin the Ursuline Associate program, lead the prayer house and serve in elected leadership.

Sister Fran Wilhelm

But it was her 25 years of Hispanic ministry serving as the director of Centro Latino in the Owensboro area that earned her many awards and the nickname “Hermana Panchita” by the people who loved her.

  • Herman E. Floyd Award (2001) – Given by the Owensboro chapter of the NAACP for outstanding service to the Owensboro-Daviess County community.
  • Distinguished Graduate Award (2005) – Given by from her former elementary school, St. Anthony School in Hereford, Texas.
  • Lumen Christi Award (2015) – Presented by Catholic Extension to an individual or group working in one of America’s under-resourced dioceses who demonstrates how the power of faith can transform lives and communities.
  • Liberty Bell Award (2002) — The Daviess County (Ky.) Bar Association presents its annual Liberty Bell Award to a non-attorney community leader who strengthens the effectiveness of freedom and law through outstanding service as a community volunteer.

Sister Larraine Lauter/Water With Blessings awards

Sister Larraine Lauter cofounded Water With Blessings with Arnold LeMay and Jim Burris after they determined that successfully providing clean drinking water was the solution to widespread cholera outbreaks in Honduras, where they traveled yearly as missioners. Since 2012, Sister Larraine has been the director of Water With Blessings, which continues to expand its influence of recruiting Water Women to bring clean water to impoverished areas. These are the honors Sister Larraine has received for her ministry.

  • Clarence H. Moore Award for Excellence in Voluntary Service (2014) – Awarded by the Pan American Health Organization, an affiliate of the World Health Organization. The award highlights the benefits that the voluntary/nongovernmental sector contributes to the public health mission and to improving the lives of the peoples of the Americas. Read the article
  • Brescia University Distinguished Alumni (2015). Read the article
  • Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Award (2018)The award bestowed by the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville was created as a way to publicly recognize and celebrate the greatness of people from around the world.
  • Art of Social Innovation Pyramid Award (2018) – Presented by Louisville’s Center for Nonprofit Excellence, the Pyramid Awards are designed to recognize the essential value of the region’s nonprofit sector. 
  • Honorary Doctor of Divinity (2019)Bestowed by Providence (R.I.) College. Read the article
  • Trinity Peace Medal (2021) – Trinity High School in Louisville has given the award for more than 50 years to someone recognized for their efforts in promoting peacemaking, justice building and service to others. Read the article
  • Liberty Bell Award (2006) – The award that is given by the Daviess County Bar Association recognized her work as executive director of Migrant Immigrant Shelter and Support.

Sister Emma Cecilia Busam awards for archives work

After 38 years as an educator, Sister Emma Cecilia Busam accepted the challenge as the director of the Ursuline Sisters’ Archives. In 1991, she also became director of the Diocese of Owensboro’s Archives, doing both jobs until 2001. For the next 10 years, she served full time with the diocese.

  • 1994 – Sister Emma Cecilia received the Society of American Archivists Sister M. Claude Lane Award for her significant contribution to the field of religious archives. She was a member of the Society of American Archivists since 1983, the year she became an archivist.
  • 2015 — She was recognized as a founding member of the Archivists of Congregations of Women Religious during the 25th anniversary celebration. Read the article
  • 2011 — When Sister Emma Cecilia retired from the Diocese of Owensboro Archives, Bishop William Medley renamed it the “Sister Emma Cecilia Busam Archives.”
  • 2012 – Sister Emma Cecilia was honored with the Kentucky Archives Month Certificate of Merit for Significant Service as an Archivist. Barbara Teague, state archivist and records administrator and State Historical Records Advisory Board coordinator, came to Mount Saint Joseph to present the certificate. Read the article

Casa Ursulina Honors

In 2004, Sister Mary Elizabeth (Mimi) Ballard was recognized in Chile on the International Day of Women, March 8, for her ministry to women in Chillán, Chile. In a morning ceremony, Sister Mimi was honored by the Office of the Governor and the National Governmental Organization for the promotion of women. In the evening, she was recognized once more, this time by the Municipality of Chillán. Sister Mimi, who has ministered in Chile since 1978, is director of the Dianna Ortiz Ursuline Center for Women (Casa Ursulina), which provides classes, support groups and a wide variety of services for women in one of the poorest sectors of Chillán.

Magnificat Award

In 2014, Sister Mary Ellen Backes was honored with the Magnificat Award in the Diocese of Springfield, Ill., where she has served as pastoral assistant at St. Joseph Parish since 1995. She received a medal which depicts an image of Mary and the Child Jesus taken from the icon commissioned for the diocesan sesquicentennial, “The Mother of God, the Life-Giving Spring.” The reverse bears the diocesan shield and the inscription “For Outstanding Service to God and Neighbor,” along with her engraved name. She is director of the RCIA program and religious education for the Parish School of Religion and the former St. Joseph School; an ex-officio member of the pastoral council; a member of several subcommittees; a participant in ecumenical gatherings and activities, and organizer of a weekly adult bible study. She also offers spiritual direction in Springfield. Read the article

Minot (N.D.) Catholic Schools Hall of Fame

In 2010, two Ursuline Sisters who are natives of North Dakota were among the honorees at the Hall of Fame banquet sponsored by Minot Catholic Schools. Sister Dorothy Helbling taught math and physics at Bishop Ryan High School in Minot from 1958-74, and Sister Mary Ellen Backes is a graduate of Bishop Ryan and was a student at Minot State College from 1968-71. Both were Ursulines of Belleville, Ill., before the 2005 merger with Mount Saint Joseph. The Belleville Sisters got their start in America in North Dakota, before moving the motherhouse to Belleville in 1945. Inductees into the Hall of Fame were the orders of women religious who had taught in the Diocese for more than 65 years, including the Ursuline Sisters.

National Blue Ribbon School

In 2012, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan recognized St. James Elementary in Elizabethtown, Ky., as a 2012 National Blue Ribbon School based on its overall academic excellence. The principal of the school  was Ursuline Sister Michael Marie Friedman, who served from 1990-2015. St. James was one of 269 schools honored across the country, and one of five private schools recognized in the state of Kentucky. The National Blue Ribbon Schools award honors public and private elementary, middle, and high schools where students perform at very high levels or where significant improvements are being made in students’ levels of achievement. St. James was recognized as being an “Exemplary High Performing” school. Read the article

Owensboro (Ky.) High School Hall of Achievement

In 2012, Sister Sharon Sullivan ’65 was selected for her high school’s award that the school created in 2001 to recognizes alumni who have “distinguished themselves through service to others as well as through excellence in their fields.” Sister Sharon was a National Merit Finalist at OHS. She has served as a professor of special education at Brescia College/University for many years, and from 2010-16, served as the congregational leader for the Ursuline Sisters. Read the article

Knights of Columbus Community Service Award

On Aug. 13, 2018, Sister Martha Keller became the first woman to receive the community service award from the Knights of Columbus chapter in Fancy Farm, Ky. Council 1418 honored Sister Martha with a plaque for “Dedicated Catholic Service to St. Jerome Parish and the Fancy Farm community.” Sister Martha has served as pastoral associate at St. Jerome Parish since 2012.

Teacher of the Year in Farmington, New Mexico

In 2002, Sister Sara Marie Gomez was voted “Teacher of the Year” by her fellow teachers at Sacred Heart School in Farmington, N.M., where she was teaching fifth-grade religion. She taught there from 1972-73 and then from 1997 to 2018. She was also the director of religious education for St. Joseph Parish in Aztec and Holy Trinity Parish in Flora Vista, both in New Mexico.

Owensboro Rotary Club Fellowship

In 2007, Sister Suzanne Sims was the recipient of a Paul Harris Fellowship, awarded by the Owensboro Noon Rotary Club “in appreciation of tangible and significant assistance given for the furtherance of better understanding and friendly relations among peoples of the world.” A sum of $1,000 was contributed in the name of Sister Suzanne/the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph for Rotary Foundation projects worldwide. Sister Suzanne was a member of the Rotary Board of Directors, and chaired a committee for a water project initiative in Uganda, a Rotary International project in which the Owensboro club participated. She was also active in the Rotary’s Readifest program for at-risk schoolchildren.

RiverPark Center Volunteer recognition

Sister Elaine Burke was honored in 2003 as one of the top 10 volunteers at the RiverPark Center, the performing arts center in Owensboro, Ky. She served 262 hours in 2002. She began volunteering at the performing arts center in 1993 and has consistently been among the top volunteers, serving as an usher, greeter or ticket-taker. In 2009, Sister Elaine volunteered 327 hours, which put her in fifth place that year. In 2017, Sister Elaine was again honored by the RiverPark Center, this time for 25 years of volunteering.

Green River Aging Service Award

In 1989, Sister Mary Clement Greenwell retired to the motherhouse at age 81, saying that she hoped to help her “aged and sick sisters with the strength the Lord continues to give me.” She went on to help them for 20 years until her death in 2009 at age 101. She also was involved in outreach activities at the Curdsville, Ky., Senior Citizens gathering each Monday for lunch and visiting. For this, she received the Green River Aging Service Award from the Green River Area Development District. GRADD is a regional planning agency serving the communities of Daviess, Hancock, Henderson, McLean, Ohio, Union and Webster counties in Kentucky.