Proclaiming Jesus through education and Christian formation.

Sisters in Ministry October 2011
Sister Michele Morek: Always ready for the next adventure

She was born in Brownsville, Texas, baptized in Roosevelt, N.Y., and confirmed in Albuquerque, N.M., while also having stints in Mississippi and Florida.

“I was baptized three times. My daddy was Russian Orthodox, my mother was a converted Catholic,” Sister Michele said. “He wanted me baptized in the Russian Orthodox Church and there wasn’t one nearby, so I was baptized in an Episcopalian church. My mother started to worry about that, so she baptized me herself. Then she started worrying about that, so I was baptized in a Catholic church (in New York.)”

Sister Michele blesses the cemetery with holy water on Aug. 5, 2009. Each year on Aug. 5, the Feast of Our Lady of the Snows, the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph process to the cemetery to honor the dead.

“My daddy was from Brooklyn, N.Y. His parents came from Middle Europe after World War I,” she said. Michael Morek was in the Army Air Corps during World War II, stationed in Florida, and met Sister Michele’s mother, Blanche, in Miami Beach. The west Texas native was working for the U.S. Office of Censorship translating letters in Spanish and Portuguese.

“I was born in Brownsville, Texas, because Daddy was stationed there. They moved to Greenwood, Miss., but my mother hated the racism there,” Sister Michele said. From there they moved to New York, (where her father’s family lived) and then Clearwater, Fla.”

“I was named after him,” Sister Michele said. “They couldn’t decide whether to name me Michaela or Michele, so they called me ‘GI’ for the first year of my life.”

Before her second birthday, Sister Michele’s father was killed in a vehicle accident while serving near Naples, Italy.

“I have no memory of my father,” she said. “My first memory is my mother putting me in nursery school because she had to get a job, and I was so anxious.”

When she was 3, she and her mother were living in Florida when Sister Michele contracted tonsillitis. “The doctor said he could take my tonsils out or we could move to a dryer climate,” Sister Michele said. “My mother decided to move.” Her life in the Land of Enchantment was about to begin.

New Mexico

Her aunt and uncle owned a cattle ranch in New Mexico, and her aunt was an archaeologist. “She loved flowers and taught me how to identify them,” Sister Michele said. (Sister Michele can identify every type of tree on the Maple Mount campus.) “Two of my uncles were rock hounds, they loved to collect rocks. They called me their little pebble pup,” she said. “I loved being outside. My aunt would try to keep me inside to learn to sew and cook, but I wanted to be in the corral, or riding the horses.”

When Sister Michele was in the first through third grades, her mother attended pharmacy school, because she thought being a pharmacist was a good job for a single parent. “I’d draw bacteria in her books, go to the lab with her and see the rabbits,” she said. “The funny thing is, she never liked pharmacy.”

Blanche Morek’s love was working as a social worker on a Navajo reservation. “We lived in Albuquerque while my mother was in school, then we moved to Gallup (along the Arizona border) so she could be a social worker to earn enough money to go back to school,” Sister Michele said. “I loved to go with her. I loved growing up with the Navajos. I loved the diversity of New Mexico, the Indians, the Hispanics. When I came to Kentucky, everyone looked the same.”

Moving was never an ordeal for Sister Michele, she grew used to it. “I lived all over the state. All my mother’s family was from west Texas. They think if you’re good, when you die, you’ll go to New Mexico.”

Meeting the Ursulines

“We were living in Gallup, I was in the fourth or fifth grade, and I was becoming a juvenile delinquent,” Sister Michele said. “My mother said, ‘We are moving to where you can be in a Catholic school. There’s an Ursuline school in Farmington, they’re supposed to be very good teachers.’”

They moved to Farmington, in northern New Mexico, when Sister Michele was in the sixth grade, where she attended St. Thomas School.

The first Ursuline Sister she met at St. Thomas was her choir teacher, Sister Fran Wilhelm. “I loved her, she was young and energetic,” Sister Michele said. Sister Fran continues to minister to Hispanics in Owensboro, Ky., with Centro Latino.

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