Proclaiming Jesus through education and Christian formation.

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

It was while she was serving in Radcliff in 1973 that her father died of cancer, at age 59. “He was a hard worker,” Sister Mary Timothy said. “I think his dream was to be a farmer, but that was never realized. He had a garden at home and he took such pride in that garden. He worked all day, then came home and worked in the garden until supper time.”

After her father died, Sister Mary Timothy’s mother moved to Lebanon, a larger nearby city. She also started an idea that continues to mean so much to the Bland siblings.

“My brother had moved away, he was in the service. Mom wanted to keep us together, so she started a family letter,” Sister Mary Timothy said. Each member of the family would write one page and send it on to the next member. When it came back around, the sibling removed his or her old page and wrote a new one. “It got lost one time, so Mom started it over,” she said. The family letter began in 1973 and continues today among the siblings. “If there’s a new baby, there’s usually a picture included,” Sister Mary Timothy said.

Small town sister in a big city

In 1975, Sister Mary Timothy was in culture shock when her next mission took her to St. Angela Merici School in Florissant, Mo., a suburb of St. Louis. “When I was little, my sister and I would play and we’d say, ‘Let’s talk citified,’” Sister Mary Timothy said. When she arrived in Florissant, the air conditioning was broken and she overheard the maintenance man, to which she thought, “Even the maintenance men talk citified here.”

The Florissant years turned out to be good ones, and the proximity to the big city offered many new experiences for Sister Mary Timothy. “We saw the Arch, the botanical gardens, and visited Old Town,” she said. “I would have never dreamed I would end up in St. Louis. The Lord has been holding my hand and leading me.”

In 1979, she came to Bowling Green, Ky., to teach first grade at St. Joseph School. “Mom was very happy I was back,” Sister Mary Timothy said. “She came to Bowling Green to take me home for visits, I didn’t drive then. I learned to drive when I got to Owensboro. I’d watch people drive and think, ‘I could never do that.’”

Sister Mary Timothy stands in the back of the room as her second-graders recite the rosary to begin religion class at the Owensboro Catholic K-3 Campus.

She called St. Joseph “a very affirming place. The teachers bonded, we had more time to be with each other.” Her average class size was 17.

In 1986 she moved to Owensboro to Blessed Mother School, still as a first-grade teacher. With her mother in advancing years, Owensboro was even closer to Nazareth Village, a retirement home run by the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, where her mom lived the last 15 years of her life.

It was at Blessed Mother that she was asked to take on the second grade. “I wanted to do the sacraments,” she said. Sister Rita Scott was the principal, and Sister Marie Carol Cecil taught with her.

In 1988, Sister Mary Timothy experienced the first of two school consolidations. With the number of students in parish-run schools declining, the Owensboro Catholic School System was created, closing some of the parish schools. Blessed Mother kept its school, but the name was changed to St. Angela Merici – the second time Sister Mary Timothy got to teach at a school named for the Ursuline founder.

“We talked about her feast day” with the students, she said. The consolidation was difficult, like a grieving period. “The St. Stephen (Cathedral) students came to Blessed Mother, they lost their school,” she said. “We got through it, we’re better people for doing it.”

After Sister Marie Carol left in 1997, Sister Mary Timothy was the lone sister in the school, which she continues to be today. In 2004, she experienced another consolidation due to shrinking enrollment, when it was decided to create four school sites – the Owensboro Catholic K-3 Campus, 4-6 Campus, Middle School, and High School. Sister Mary Timothy continued to teach the second grade, but it meant moving to the campus on the grounds of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church.

“I’d been at Blessed Mother 18 years, I’d only been to Our Lady of Lourdes once,” she said. “We felt like what St. Stephen and other schools went through the first time. You have to make the best of it. The faculty just accepts you, it’s great,” she said.

“This past year, we started Old Testament study on video after school,” Sister Mary Timothy said. “That was so neat, learning with each other. We’re hoping to get church history this year.”

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