Proclaiming Jesus through education and Christian formation.

Sisters in Ministry March 2011
Sister Barbara Jean Head: A life of service “by the numbers”


Sister Barbara Jean visits with Nancy Reynolds, assistant director of business and finance at Brescia. Sister Barbara Jean said she goes to Reynolds “when she needs wisdom.”

When Ursuline Sister Barbara Jean Head was a teenager, she and her siblings took turns minding their dad’s service station while he came home for lunch. It was during her turn that she first realized the power of prayer.

“I was a shy little girl, I was afraid I couldn’t put gas in correctly,” Sister Barbara Jean said. “I prayed that no one would come. In all my years of helping, I never had a customer.”

Prayer remains a powerful part of her life, including praying to the Communion of Saints. It has kept her faith strong through 46 years as an Ursuline Sister, and now has returned her to the place where she earned her first degree, Brescia University.

She is a senior accountant at Brescia, handling internal auditing of student accounts, checking bank reconciliations, and contacting students who are delinquent in paying their bills.

Sister Barbara Jean has been a “numbers person” much of her life, first as a math teacher for 20 years, then as the community’s treasurer for 15 years. “I was on Brescia’s finance committee beginning in 1995, and Dale Cecil (Brescia’s vice president of business and finance) was on that committee as well,” she said. “I was thinking of the future, I knew I wouldn’t be treasurer forever. I thought I’d like to work with Dale.”

Sister Barbara Jean left the treasurer’s office in 2004 when she began a six-year term as a counselor on the community’s leadership team. In search of a part-time job for those six years, she checked with Cecil at Brescia.

“With her connection to Brescia, and her experience at the Mount, it looked like a perfect match,” Cecil said. “It has been.”

Since her role in leadership ended in July, Sister Barbara Jean is now serving full-time at Brescia. “When I got out of leadership, this is the place I felt I needed to be,” she said. “I like the relationship with the students, it rekindled the flame within my heart to work with the young. I loved teaching, I missed the relationship with the students.”

She has more responsibilities now, and Cecil can give her tasks that need to be done more quickly. It’s an evolving role which requires flexibility, which is one of Sister Barbara Jean’s gifts, Cecil said.

Sister Barbara Jean looks over some paperwork with Adrienne Skeen, student accounts clerk at Brescia University. Sister Barbara Jean works closely with Skeen in her role as senior accountant.

“She deals a lot with students and parents, that’s an art in itself,” Cecil said. “They aren’t always the happiest people,” because they are delinquent in paying their bills.

“One thing the Ursulines are known for is balancing money issues with mission,” Cecil said. “That gives her a unique perspective.”

Sister Barbara Jean has always liked working with numbers. “I guess because it’s black and white,” she said. “Sister Mary Leon Riney taught me math all four years of high school, she was topnotch. All my years of teaching, math was my main subject to teach.”

Her ministries have never been about the numbers, but the relationships she’s built because of them. “I got away from numbers in leadership, and what I do now is more than numbers. My outside activities are so different than numbers,” she said. One of her volunteer activities is completing tax returns for low-income people through the Owensboro-Daviess County Asset-Building Coalition. “I got into doing taxes because I wanted to help the poor,” she said. “I stress every year because I have to get recertified, but I know that I’m helping people, and I meet a lot of nice people.”

She hopes to stay at Brescia for years to come. “I’ve had five careers, I have no desire to start a sixth one.”

Growing up with the Ursulines

Sister Barbara Jean grew up in New Haven, a small central Kentucky town about 20 minutes from Elizabethtown and Bardstown. “My dad was in World War II when I was born, I was 4 months old when he saw me,” she said.

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