Sister Amelia Stenger, OSU: “Sister Amelia is a very humble, talented, and gifted woman.”

“After thinking it over, I told her I’d do it, but I couldn’t start until January,” Sister Amelia said. “I had a number of obligations in Louisville and on the state level to take care of before I could leave that position.”

Longtime friend Sister Carol Shively says Sister Amelia’s work ethic and tenacity “are equal to her deep love of community.”

In August she began working both jobs, spending time on her new job at the Center and time in Louisville, finishing up her obligations there. In January of 1998 she came back to the Mount and took over permanently as director of the conference and retreat center, overseeing the renovation of the complex, began expanding programs offered by the center and accelerated its fund-raising efforts.

In January of 1998 Sister Amelia began an endowment for the Center with the building of a memory garden in conjunction with the 125th anniversary of the arrival of the Ursuline Sisters at Mount Saint Joseph.

Just over six years later – in August of 2004 – one of Sister Amelia’s finest ideas became a reality – the reenactment of the flatboat journey of the five Ursuline sisters down the Ohio River from Louisville to Owensboro en route to Maple Mount to establish a school for young Catholic girls. Dressed in 1874-era habits, five sisters (a number of them took turns along the way) traveled the route on a recreation of an 1874-era flatboat, attracting nationwide attention. Almost 100 television stations used the story on their newscasts, complete with video of the sisters in the flatboat. National Public Radio talked live with two of the sisters along the way. There was local coverage along the way by numerous newspapers and radio stations.

The Conference and Retreat Center staff consists of, in front, l. to r., Sister Mary McDermott (receptionist), Trena Goetz (housekeeping), Sheila Blandford (director of hospitality/program coordinator), Sister Amelia, Diane Dodson, (accountant), Beverly Byrne (kitchen), Sister Evelyn Craig (director of spiritual programs). Back row, Juanita Cessna (kitchen), Kathy McCarty (facilities director), Elaine Foster (housekeeping), Merritt Hobbs (chef), Larry Hermann (maintenance), Jennifer Byrd (administrative assistant).

The adventure, which took place from Aug. 11-15, resulted in over $100,000 in donations sent to the community from admiring spectators from across the country. The money went to the work of the many ministries of the Ursuline Sisters.

By 2006 the memory garden had been completed and the demand for bricks outnumbered the bricks available to the donors, so a rosary walk was added to the complex west of the Center. It, too, was an immediate success. People can walk and pray the rosary in a quiet, pleasant atmosphere.

Donations have been made for the mysteries of the rosary and for all of the rosary “beads.” Donations have totaled over $100,000 and donations can still be made.

The construction of the rosary walk was twofold. In addition to adding to the endowment for the Center, the garden enhances the prayerful atmosphere for those attending retreats at the Center.

Now five months into her 11th year as executive director of the Center, Sister Amelia continues to look for new ideas. She said, “We have touched many lives over the past years with the retreats and programs we have offered, and as we begin our 11th year we are in a period of renewing our commitment to our spiritual programs and we are in the process of developing a number of new retreats and programs.”

Sister Carol Shively, superintendent of schools for the diocese of Shreveport, La., is a longtime friend and a member of the conference and retreat center’s board of directors. “Amelia is a very humble, talented, and gifted woman in our community,” she says of her friend and fellow Ursuline. “Her work ethic and tenacity are equal to her deep love of community.” Sister Carol adds that she is impressed with Sister Amelia’s work with the Center. “For the past four years I have served on the conference and retreat center board and it is a treat to attend these meetings and witness Amelia in action,” she says. “Amelia constantly keeps the mission of the Center in focus and she invites everyone whom she meets that the mission of the Center can be theirs too, if they care to join by sharing their wit, their wisdom, and most certainly their wealth!”

Sister Amelia has earned a reputation as an outstanding administrator, earning numerous accolades for her work as a principal, superintendent and director of a large conference and retreat center.

When asked what she feels is her major accomplishment at this point in her life, she answered without hesitation, “being a teacher. It’s been a privilege to work with students from children in kindergarten to adults in graduate school.”

She continued, “I am grateful for being able to share the gifts God has given me in so many ways with so many people. The best part of being a teacher is learning so much from those I’ve taught. I have learned much more than I ever taught. I’m very proud to be a part of the wonderful tradition of Ursuline education.”