(Sister Pauletta went to heaven on April 7, 2018.)
Ursuline Sister Pauletta McCarty had an aunt who was a Sister of Mercy, a great aunt who was a Sister of Loretto and a paternal aunt who was a Poor Clare. But there was never any doubt which religious community she would join.
“I came to Maple Mount when I was a month old to see my aunt take the habit,” she said. “I didn’t go in the chapel, I stayed on a bed in the infirmary, they tell me.” Her mother’s sister became Sister Mary Florentia Mahoney. Three of her cousins, the Powers brothers, are priests, as is her great nephew, Father Josh McCarty. “I’ve been around religious all my life,” she said.
She was taught by Ursuline Sisters at St. Elizabeth School in the tiny town of Curdsville, just three miles from Maple Mount. Her favorite teacher was the late Sister Georgetta Higdon.
“She taught me a love for reading,” Sister Pauletta said. “She did things with us. If we talked about the sea, we’d have sand and put a little water in it.”
When she completed the eighth grade, public school buses were not allowed to take students to Catholic school. Her parents sent Sister Pauletta to Louisville to live with her grandparents, and she attended Mercy Academy for two years. Following the 1937 flood, Sister Pauletta was very homesick and when her sister came to Louisville on her honeymoon, Sister Pauletta returned with her to Curdsville, spending her final two years as a day student at Mount Saint Joseph Academy. She graduated in 1939, making her the oldest living graduate of the Academy among the sisters.
She did not join the convent immediately upon graduation, taking two years before entering in 1941, one of 12 novices that year. This is her 74th year as an Ursuline Sister. “I just felt the call,” she said. “I liked what the Ursuline Sisters were doing and I wanted to be a part of it.”
She was born Helen Marie McCarty, the third oldest of eight children, but the community already had a Sister Helen Marie. Her grandmother recommended mixing her father’s name, Paul, and her mother’s, Nettie Rose, to make Pauletta. Because the Mount had always been home to her, in the ensuing years, she took it upon herself to make new novices feel welcome. “I wanted them to love it as I did,” she said.
Sister Pauletta was a teacher for 36 years, serving in seven Kentucky cities, the St. Louis suburbs and in Nebraska. She also served in parish ministry, and at the Motherhouse as assistant local superior, director of transportation, sacristan and from 2005-2010, the daily annalist, writing down the significant events of the day for the archives, something that has been done for more than 100 years at the Mount.
Sister Pauletta said she feels blessed to be an Ursuline Sister. “It was the best thing for me,” she said. “I feel grateful to the Lord. You knit me together in my mother’s womb, you know all my faults and failures, yet you still love me.”