Proclaiming Jesus through education and Christian formation.

Sisters in Ministry September 2011
Sister Mary Timothy Bland: A life in teaching God’s little ones

Her postulant class had up to 21 members and her novice class had 20. Seven of those sisters remain – Sisters Lisa Marie Cecil, Melissa Tipmore, Diane Marie Payne, Karla Kaelin, Joan Riedley, Laurita Spalding and Mary Timothy.

“It was hard, but they were good years,” Sister Mary Timothy said. “We’d go to Brescia (College for classes), had chores, and then studied. It built character as my mom said.”

One of Sister Mary Timothy’s students shows the class the candle that was used during her baptism.

Sister Laurita met Sister Mary Timothy in 1963 and remains a dear friend. “I guess we struck up a friendship because we were both named Wanda and we came from the same part of Kentucky,” said Sister Laurita, who is from neighboring Washington County. “It seemed that we were destined to be friends.”

With no lay employees in those days, the young sisters had many hard jobs to do at the Mount. “One of the jobs that Sister and I were given was to clean the ‘trunk room,’” Sister Laurita said. “One Saturday morning we came with vim and vigor to get the job done. After working all morning, we were so proud of the work we had done. We could hear the Lord saying, ‘Well done, good and faithful servants.’

“Much to our dismay, we were met by the director and she gave the room the ‘white glove’ test,” Sister Laurita said. “She ran her fingers over the window ledges, and needless to say, our job didn’t pass the test. That was one part of the room we hadn’t touched. I am sure, over the years, we have failed many a test, but, we are still going with vim and vigor and getting the job done.”

Prior to entering, the only times Sister Mary Timothy had been out of her small town were a week she spent with her brother at Fort Knox, Ky., and the retreat to the Mount. “There was a lot of homesickness,” she said. “Growing up, I was pretty shy. I was this little Calvary girl in this big place.”

One of the people who helped her in her early days was Sister Pat Rhoten. “We had guardian angels, Sister Pat was mine. She took me under her wing, probably more than she thought she was going to,” Sister Mary Timothy said. “She could answer my questions. If I was having a bad day, she was there to be a companion. It was like having a big sister to help you out.”

Sister Pat, who now ministers part-time in the community archives, said, “I always felt very blessed to be asked to be her big sister.”

Sister Mary Timothy shows the class pictures from one of her student’s baptism.

“She is very devoted to her family,” Sister Pat said. “She’s certain that every second grade class she’s taught is the best one ever. In fact, the two topics she’ll always discuss are her family and her students.”

When it was time to make her initial vows, Wanda Joyce Bland took the name Sister Mary Timothy in part to have something her sisters at home had. “My four sisters all have a Mary or form of Mary in their names, but I didn’t,” she said. “When I became a sister, I got my Mary. My sister had a son named Timothy Allen, and Timothy was one of my choices.”

A mission in the bootheel

Sister Mary Timothy left Kentucky for the first time in 1967 when she was assigned to teach third and fourth grade at St. Teresa School in Glennonville, Mo. “It was an adjustment. Marion County is so hilly and the bootheel is so flat.” Sister Mary Renee Monaghan was the principal.

After two years, she made her “temporary” switch to first grade. “Sister Mary Renee helped me, but I always credited Sister Mary Mercy Hayden, who took my spot when I left,” Sister Mary Timothy said. “They say you leave a piece of your heart in your first mission, and that is true. It’s the first place you go that you’re responsible for these children.”

Her next stop was at St. Christopher School in Radcliff, Ky., near the Fort Knox military base. “We were right at Fort Knox, so we had lots of children to come in and leave. We didn’t have stable numbers,” she said. The last remaining sisters who ministered with her at St. Christopher are Sister Jamesetta Knott and Sister Eva Boone.

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