Sister Margaret Marie Greenwell felt called to do something special with her life. She’s glad she chose the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph to make that happen.
Sister Margaret Marie was born Mary Helen Greenwell in New Haven, Ky., an area of central Kentucky that is so heavily Catholic it is referred to as the “Kentucky Holy Land.” The area is home to the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth and the Sisters of Loretto, but Sister Margaret Marie was taught by Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph every year at St. Catherine Grade School and High School.
“Sister DeChantal Whelan and Sister Marie Julie Fecher had the biggest impact,” Sister Margaret Marie said. “DeChantal was always laughing and cheerful. Marie Julie always had such a gentle smile. She was my music teacher. Every morning I got up at 6 o’clock to sing in the choir.” Sister Marie Julie is retired at the Motherhouse. Sister DeChantal died in 2009.
Sister Margaret Marie was the second of four children born to the late Paul and Marie Greenwell. Her father worked in a factory in Bardstown and her mother was a homemaker. Her older sister is also an Ursuline, Sister Paul Marie Greenwell, who is retired at the Motherhouse.
For fun, the Greenwell children visited the skating rink and the movie theater, or just entertained each other. After her sophomore year in high school, Mary Helen decided to enter the Ursuline Sisters, just as her sister had done two years earlier.
“I had thoughts about entering in the 7th and 8th grades, but it became more serious when I entered high school,” she said. “I was so impressed by the sisters, the life they lived. I felt the Lord was calling me to do something special in my life.”
“I had DeChantal my sophomore year,” Sister Margaret Marie said. “Paul Marie was already in the convent, my parents thought they were blessed to have two daughters entering the convent,” Sister Margaret Marie said. “My mother kept saying, ‘That’s what God wants.’ She was happy for me.”
She completed high school at Mount Saint Joseph Academy. Sister Paul Marie told her to “do what the Spirit was guiding me to do. She was happy about it, but she did not put pressure on me to come,” Sister Margaret Marie said.
She took her mother’s name, Margaret Marie, when she entered. She served as a teacher or principal for 35 years, until 1993.
“I heard a quiet, gentle voice from God saying, ‘Come and work with God’s poor,’” she said. Sister Margaret Marie worked with the poor at the reception desk at the Sister Visitor Center in Louisville for 22 years before retiring in 2015.
“Of all the ministries in which I have been involved, I feel helping God’s poor is the greatest blessing in my life,” she said. DeAnn Hollis says, “The heart of the ministry is not measured in size, but by the depth of our commitment to make a difference in the lives of others. I feel I have done this by my service to the poor,” Sister Margaret Marie said.
“Dorothy Day, who was a great lover of the poor, said, ‘The closer we are to the poor, the closer we are to Christ’s love.’ I feel my prayer life has been deeply enriched by this ministry,” Sister Margaret Marie said.
She is in her 67th year as an Ursuline Sister in 2022 and is awaiting the next step God has for her to take.
“During my years of religious life, I have been richly blessed by God, my family, my friends and the students whom I have taught,” she said. “For this, I am eternally grateful.”