(Sister Marie went to heaven on Aug. 18, 2023.)
Two of Ursuline Sister Marie Montgomery’s paternal aunts were the 13th and 16th members of the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph, Sister Mary Bernard Montgomery (who entered in 1901) and Sister Mary Columba Montgomery (who entered in 1902).
Her second cousin, Sister Mary Paul Montgomery, entered in 1907. Her father’s niece, Sister Mary Constantia Payne, entered in 1920.
Yet there was one thing the woman born Mary Hilary Montgomery knew during grade school – “I’m not going to be a nun,” she said.
Born the middle of seven children in St. Lawrence, Ky., on the opposite side of the county from Maple Mount, Sister Marie was taught by the Ursulines from the sixth grade through high school at St. William School in Knottsville. Upon graduation, she made plans to become a secretary, so she decided to take a course at the Mount Saint Joseph Junior College.
“I’d been here just a couple of weeks and I knew this is where I was supposed to be,” Sister Marie said. “I guess God took me by the hand and had something else planned for me. It’s been a happy life.”
Sister Marie grew up on a farm in a family that never owned a car. “We went to church in a horse or mule-drawn wagon,” she said.
Despite all the women religious from her father’s side of the family, Hilary Montgomery told his 20-year-old daughter she wouldn’t remain in the convent two weeks when she became a postulant in 1943.
“It’s been more than two weeks,” she said with a smile. She entered the novitiate in 1944, making 2022 her 78th year as an Ursuline Sister.
Religious life wasn’t just for the women in the Montgomery family, as Sister Marie learned about just a few years ago. Her second cousin, George Thomas Montgomery, was the first American-born bishop of the Diocese of Monterey-Los Angeles from 1896-1902, which is now the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. He was Coadjutor Archbishop of San Francisco from 1902 until his unexpected death in 1907.
Sister Marie spent 61 years in active ministry, in which she was a teacher or principal for 58 years. Two-thirds of her years were spent ministering in five different cities in New Mexico, with her last ministry as a teacher at St. Francis of Assisi School in Gallup, N.M., from 1998-2007.
When she retired to the Motherhouse in 2007, her doctor gave her a valuable piece of advice: “Keep active, keep busy.” That comes naturally to Sister Marie, who said, “I’ve never dragged my feet.”
Since returning to the Mount, she served as a faithful mail deliverer until 2015. Now she serves as a member of the Powerhouse of Prayer. She is the oldest living sister, turning 99 on Jan. 27, 2022.
She’s been very happy that God chose her to become an Ursuline Sister.
“It’s been a good life, with many experiences,” she said.