(Sister Marie William went to heaven on March 10, 2019.)
If it weren’t for a high school scrapbook project, Sister Marie William Blyth might not be an Ursuline Sister of Mount Saint Joseph today.
Raised in Denver, Sister Marie William was taught by the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati. “I admired them, I wanted to be a teacher like them,” she said. “In the third grade, I decided I would join them.”
During her freshman year of high school, she had a yearlong assignment to create a scrapbook on what she would do for the rest of her life. “I thought, ‘I’m going to be a Sister of Charity and a teacher. That won’t fill a scrapbook,’” she said. She found a brochure in the Holy Ghost Church that listed other religious communities, so she decided to write to them to get more information.
One of the communities she wrote to was the Ursuline Sisters of Paola, Kan. “All this literature came. I got a letter from Paola and my mother said I was waving the letter saying, ‘This is where I’m going to go.’ It was just the Holy Spirit,” Sister Marie William said. “God directs us to where He wants us to go.”
Born Helen Blyth, the first Ursuline Sister she met was the superior, Mother Cecilia Koehler. A Paola sister was in the hospital in Denver, and Mother Cecilia came to visit her. She stayed in the Sisters of Charity convent, and became friends with the high school principal, whose name was Sister Marie William. The first train ride of Helen Blyth’s life – the first time she’d ever left Denver – was Sept. 8, 1949, when she entered the Paola convent. She had never visited before entering. She became a novice in 1950, making this her 65th year as an Ursuline Sister.
Like all the Ursulines of her time, she began as a teacher in 1952, serving 31 years in the classroom or as principal. She taught from first to eighth grade at five schools in Kansas and one in Oklahoma. While attending summer workshops, she decided that adults needed education too. In 1984, she began a new ministry as director of religious education at a parish in Overland Park, Kan.
While still a teacher, Sister Marie William attended a summer workshop with another religious community that had associates, and she saw the need for that in Paola. She presented that to the leadership in 1980, and the associates were begun in 1982. Sister Marie William remained in parish ministry until 2005, but in 2000 she took over as a leader of the Ursuline Associates in Paola.
When the Ursulines of Paola faced dwindling numbers of sisters, they merged with the Ursulines of Mount Saint Joseph in 2008. Sister Marie William moved to Maple Mount in 2009. One of her roles now is writing the monthly Reflective Moments with Angela for the website. Another role she assumes is being the consummate joke teller at the Mount.
“During these 65 years as an Ursuline Sister I have been abundantly blessed through spiritual formation, educational opportunities and the trust and friendship of all whose lives I touched,” Sister Marie William said. “As I write the Reflective Moments and do further study on Saint Angela’s life, I know there will be further blessings ahead provided I am open to all of them.”