Ursuline Sister Annalita Lancaster was known for many attributes — the eight years she served as superior of her community, being an expert on the history of the Ursuline community and on Father Paul Volk, the priest who brought the sisters to Maple Mount, and even being the community’s first director of Mission Effectiveness.
But to a group of students who attended St. Bernard High School in the tiny central Kentucky town of Clementsville from 1958-65, Sister Annalita is remembered in the rustling of the pines.
Sister Annalita, who died Dec. 9, 2014, in her 71st year as a sister, served as a teacher, organist and principal at St. Bernard, the third school where she served. While she was there, Kentucky increased its course requirements for a high school diploma, meaning the students at St. Bernard suddenly needed more classes and more books.
The pastor said the parish couldn’t afford new books, and that the students would have to make do with the old Latin books in the bookstore. As principal, Sister Annalita knew that what the students really needed were marketable skills. In those days, the skills needed included typing and bookkeeping, but the equipment was too expensive.
To alleviate this obstacle, Sister Annalita worked with the National Forestry Service to plant 500 pine trees, earning a dollar for each tree planted. Together with the proceeds from a few pigs and bales of hay, St. Bernard had its new courses and technology, as well as a baby pine forest that flourishes today.
Her former students never forgot how Sister Annalita’s ingenuity helped further their careers. At 2 p.m. on Aug. 29, 2015, a plaque was unveiled honoring Sister Annalita, and hangs on the former school building, which is now the parish hall. The plaque reads: “We, the former students of St. Bernard School, honor Sr. Annalita Lancaster, OSU (1958-1965). To whom we owe our greatest achievements in life as a result of her teaching. She was the mastermind behind the planting of the beautiful pine forest on the hill above our school. She instilled in us faith in God and ourselves. Fondly remembered, with deep gratitude.”
Among those in attendance were members of Sister Annalita’s family, former students and the two Ursuline Sisters from Clementsville, Sister Marietta Wethington and Sister Mary Matthias Ward. Sister Mary Matthias delivered the blessing of the pine grove. This is what she said:
“Lord, God, Holy Creator of Trees and Forests,
Come and place your blessing of life upon this pine grove, planted long ago. In the Garden of Eden, You planted the tree of knowledge and the tree of life. This pine grove was a true blessing to many St. Bernard students who learned to type … to operate in the business world after planting the trees along with their teacher, Sister Annalita Lancaster. As the students have moved on in their lives and Sister Annalita has gone to be with her God, the trees live on, they still breathe forth life-giving oxygen. They still provide living space for anyone who wishes to climb up … the birds still nest there. May all who continue to look upon this pine grove know the gift of beauty.
As we hang the signage, dedicating it to that great Ursuline educator, Sister Annalita Lancaster, may we be reminded of her great love for the students and the school at St. Bernard. May those walking or driving by take the time to stop, read the signage, learn its history and praise God for all the efforts given to education here in this school.
Blessings, peace and life were the fruits of the tree of the cross of Your Son, Jesus. May those same fruits flow from this pine grove, from this signage which we have placed in Your Holy Name, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.”
Here are some pictures from the ceremony.