Proclaiming Jesus through education and Christian formation.

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

“I had her in choir, she sang alto,” Sister Fran said. “The fact that she lives life to the fullest, you always know Michele is in the group.” When Sister Michele later decided to join the Ursulines, Sister Fran said she was thrilled.

“She has that zest for life that makes her effective in whatever she does,” Sister Fran said.

Another transition in Sister Michele’s life occurred when she was 11, when her mother married Theodore Kerkelis, who owned a restaurant where she went on her coffee break.

“He was a wonderful cook and my mother hated to cook,” she said. “I was mostly glad, I knew she had been lonely. Later we fought a lot, he wasn’t used to kids, and I wasn’t used to sharing my mother.”

When Sister Michele was 13, her brother Ted was born, and 10 months later, Mike was born. Mike Kerkelis lives in Thailand and Ted Kerkelis lives in San Diego. They came to visit her in September at the Mount. “I hadn’t seen Teddy in six or seven years, and I hadn’t seen Mike for 10 years, when I went to Thailand,” she said.

After St. Thomas, Sister Michele attended Waterflow Academy, a boarding school near Farmington, for high school. “Sister Consolata (Stallings) was my favorite teacher, she was my science teacher,” Sister Michele said. “It was the first time I’d had science.”

Hearing the call

In the 8th grade, a Victory Knoll sister talked to the class about vocations,” Sister Michele said. “I was angry. I said, ‘Everyone is going to be a sister except me.’

Sister Michele, left, and Sister Suzanne Sims, right, participate in the 2006 rally to close the School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Ga.

“When I was a junior, I started thinking about joining the Ursulines,” she said. “I really enjoyed the sisters, and I saw how much they enjoyed each other. Being in a boarding school lets you see them better.”

Her only trip to Kentucky prior to entering the convent was during her junior year of high school, when she and Sister Sara Marie Gomez made a trip to Washington, D.C., and were allowed to stop at the Mount to see a sister from New Mexico take the habit.

“We really didn’t like it at all,” Sister Michele said. “My hair curled, her hair went straight. We thought, ‘What kind of place is this?’”

There was not a particular moment when Sister Michele knew she was joining the Ursulines. “Sara Marie and I had to clean Father’s house and we hated it,” she said. “I told her I was going to join the convent, and she said she had been thinking about it too.”

Sister Sara Marie, who ministers in New Mexico, said Sister Michele’s personality hasn’t changed much since she met her as a sophomore in high school. “She’s always been very friendly, very accepting of people where they are,” she said. “She doesn’t follow the pattern, she’s her own person. She’s very staunch in what she believes in.”

On Sept. 7, 1961 (50 years ago last month), she, Sister Sara Marie, Sister Sheila Anne Smith, and Toris Yeager, who later left the community, all entered as postulants. “It was the only time in the history of the community that they had four from New Mexico enter. We were a marvel.”

There were 18 in her novice class, and six remain in the community today, Sisters Sara Marie, Sheila Anne, Rose Jean Powers, Francis Joseph Porter and Kathy Stein. “I really enjoyed the novitiate,” Sister Michele said. “I enjoyed having all these sisters.”

The difficult part for her was leaving behind her younger brothers, who were 3 and 4 at the time. “I’d held up well until we got to the bus station, then I started to cry,” Sister Michele said. “They had never seen me cry, so they said, ‘Mickey, you’re funny.’” Her brothers still call her Mickey.

Sister Rose Jean, who ministers at Brescia, recalls Sister Michele as fun-loving and mischievous from their novitiate days. “She was always interested in what made a thing work, not just in nature, but everything,” Sister Rose Jean said. “She always wanted someone to go with her on a walk, because she was always looking down examining the bugs or moths, so someone had to watch where we were going.”

Sister Michele took the name Sister Dolores Marie. “Devotion to the Sorrowful Mother was very popular in New Mexico,” Sister Michele said, and the Spanish word for “sorrow” is “dolor.” “I kept it until I came back to teach at Brescia.”

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