Relatives of sister who died 51 years ago visit the Mount

From left, Father Larry Ridgley, Fred Ridgley, and Mary Rose Ridgley stand before the grave of Mary Rose’s sister, Sister Mary Esther Yates, in the Motherhouse cemetery.

Mary Rose Ridgley and her husband Fred had not been to Maple Mount for 10 years, but were hoping to come this fall to visit the grave of her sister, Sister Mary Esther Yates, and the sisters who would remember her.

When Fred Ridgley’s brother, Father Larry Ridgley, a priest in northern Vermont, came to visit them in August at their home in Prospect, Ky., just outside Louisville, the three decided to make the trip early so Father Larry could see Maple Mount for the first time.


Sister Marie Brenda Vowels points out some of the stained glass windows in the Motherhouse Chapel to Mary Rose Ridgley, her husband Fred Ridgley (center), and Father Larry Ridgley.

When they arrived on Aug. 11, they found an outpouring of affection from sisters who were in the novitiate with Sister Mary Esther, and from Sister Marie Brenda Vowels, who grew up in the same hometown as Mary Rose Ridgley, Vine Grove, Ky.

“I’m related to Sister Marie Brenda through marriage,” Mary Rose Ridgley said. “She used to work in my uncle’s store.”



Sister Elaine Burke, left, who was a member of Sister Mary Esther’s novice class, takes the Ridgleys on a tour of the grounds. Here she is showing them the piazza.

Sister Marie Brenda had lunch with the Ridgleys, and then gave them a tour of the chapel. The Ridgleys also visited with Sister Mary Cabrini Foushee and received a tour of the grounds from Sister Elaine Burke, both of whom were in the novitiate with Sister Mary Esther in 1950.

Sister Mary Esther was only an Ursuline Sister for 10 years before she died of cancer at age 28. The Ridgleys spent time visiting her grave in the cemetery, as well as those of sisters who taught Mary Rose at St. Brigid School in Vine Grove. They also visited the grave of Father Joseph Diemert, who baptized Mary Rose. Father Diemert died in 1979.


The Ridgleys stop to talk with Sister Francis Louise Johnson, left, who knew Sister Mary Esther.

Sister Mary Esther, born Norma Jean Yates, was the oldest of seven children, and joined the Ursulines at age 17. She and Mary Rose loved to watch Western movies when they were growing up, and Norma Jean had a fondness for Native Americans, Mary Rose said.

“One of the reasons she chose the Ursulines was because they helped teach Indian children out West (in New Mexico),” Mary Rose Ridgley said. “She wanted to take the name Kateri Tekakwitha, but she was not a saint.” (Kateri Tekakwitha was a Mohawk-Algonquian woman who converted to Catholicism at an early age in the 17th century. She was beatified in 1980.)