Sister Emma Cecilia Busam, OSU: July 27, 1921-December 14, 2018

In Remembrance of Sister Emma Cecilia Busam, OSU

December 17, 2018

Sister Amelia Stenger, OSU

Congregational Leader


“God does not love us for what we are, but we are because God loves us. His call is creative, unique for each of us. Since He calls us, he enables our lives to be fruitful and if we cooperate with His graces, we will live the Our Father rather than just say it.” This quote was taken from a talk that Sister Emma Cecilia gave during Renew at the small parish of St. Sebastian in Calhoun, KY in the 1980’s.

Sister Emma Cecilia’s call was truly creative and unique in the way she lived and the way she died. In the morning of December 14, God called her without anyone knowing. She accepted that call after living 97 years. We are so grateful for the staff of the Villa who took care of Sister so faithfully.

Emma Cecilia Busam was born to Mary Cecilia Bryan Busam and John William Busam, Sr., at their home at 316 East Seventh Street in Owensboro, Kentucky. She welcomed her first day at 3:10 a.m. on July 27, 1921. Rev. Boniface Benkert, OSB baptized her on August 7th in Saint Joseph Church on Fourth Street. At the age of 5, she received her First Holy Communion on June 5, 1927 and was confirmed by Bishop Floersh on May 11, 1930, taking Saint Philomena as her Confirmation name. She attended St. Joseph School in Owensboro and was taught by the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph.

Emma Cecilia was fourth in a family of five brothers and sisters. Rachel who died at birth, Rachel Agnes Eugenia, John William, Jr., Emma Cecilia and Mary Agnes. Mary Agnes, we offer you our sympathy and prayers at the loss of your Sister. You have been so faithful in calling her and coming to see her. To all of you, her family, we are praying with you for our Sister.

Emma Cecilia attended Saint Joseph High School and graduated on June 9, 1939 with seventeen classmates who are listed in her archives folders.

After working at Ken-rad for three years and playing trumpet with the Ken-Rad Tubadores she entered the Postulancy at Mount Saint Joseph on September 7, 1942 and was one of a class of nine. In 1943, the group became novices and now Sister was put before Emma Cecilia’s name. Her classmates were Sisters Naomi Aull, Susanne Head, Annalita Lancaster, Cecilia Jean Lonergan, Joseph Emma Morris, Mary Nichols, Anne Louise Ramold and Marie Bosco. We offer our prayers to you, Sister Naomi and Sister Marie Bosco as you say good bye to your classmate of 75 years.

On August 15, 1945, Sister made her temporary vows and on August 15, 1948, she made her final vows. Sister’s teaching experiences included all grades, high school and college. Her education included a bachelor’s degree in History from Brescia, a bachelor’s degree in Art from the College of St. Francis in Joliet, IN in 1960 and a master’s degree in Art from the University of Notre Dame in Notre Dame, IN. She held five different Kentucky teaching certifications and obtained certification as an Archivist. It is impossible to name all the certificates she received from workshops, institutes and other activities that she attended every summer for almost 40 years. A little later, we will share a prayer that she wrote that includes many of the things she did over the years with these summer programs.

Sister taught for 47 years. Her first mission in 1945 was teaching grades one through four in Central City, KY. The years that followed were in Knottsville, KY, Louisville, Ky, Holy Cross, KY, Bardwell, KY, Blessed Mother school in Owensboro. While at Blessed Mother she also taught Art part-time at Brescia. She taught at Sts. Joseph and Paul and also kept teaching Art part-time at Brescia. She taught Art at Owensboro Catholic High, Brescia University and the Owensboro City School System at the same time from 1971 to 1982. She taught Art at Mount Saint Joseph Academy for one year before becoming the Director of Archives for our Community. She served in this position from 1983 to 2001. She then became the Director of Archives for the Diocese of Owensboro. She took a sabbatical in 1999-2000 and after that began volunteering to take communion to the Owensboro Mercy Hospital. From 2011 to 2017 she served as Assistant to the Archivist here at the Mount and was consultant to many other religious community archives. She retired from all of this in January of 2018. Just about one year ago. So, we can say she served the community and the church for 74 of her 75 years as an Ursuline.

She belonged to many organizations and helped create some of them. She served on the boards of The Society of American Archivists, Kentucky Council on Archives, Association of Catholic Diocesan Archivists and was the cofounder of the Archivists for Congregations of Women Religious to name just a few.

Earlier when I said that she attended workshops and institutes every summer, she really did. While at an Ignatian Retreat in New Jersey in 1989 she was asked to write a litany of praise for things she was thankful for in her past. Rather than give more information about her, please listen to her prayer of praise and thanksgiving for all the places she visited and things she was able to do.


Litany of Praise:

Bless the Lord, O my soul, for all that has happened to and through me:

You called me to life in loving surroundings. Your love has never ended.

You lead me and guided me through the days of my childhood, you filled them with friends and travel, with teachers who cared and lessons to live by. Your love is never ending.

In the days of my youth you followed me to work among strangers who accepted me with loving kindness. Your love never ended.

In your good time you led me to the Mount to increase my desire for perfection, though trials and hardships awaited me, peace and resignation filled me. Your love never ended.

In time you sent me to bring your presence to children and youth in Central City, to see and water the seeds of Catholicity in the Lyle family through Wayne. Your love never ended.

In Knottsville, where you allowed me to minister to Anthony Payne when an accident killed his sister and Elsie Mae Payne when her mother died and J.C. Meserves when their home burned. Your love never ended.

At St. James in Louisville where Altar boys fell to my lot and father and son served together. Where little Billy (the spastic) struggled but finally was accepted by all. The competition between Eddie O’Hern and George Shoemaker which made teaching a pleasure—Your love never ended.

In Holy Cross, away from the city noises, the daily repetition was broken when fire destroyed the school. All worked together with love and concern for one another—Your love never ended.

At Blessed Mother, Owensboro, with 7th grade and College as a challenge, increased my secular knowledge as well as knowledge of You. Your love has never ended.

At Sts. Joseph and Paul in Owensboro, where student teachers graced my classroom and claimed my time already hectic with duties. Your love never ended.

At St. Anthony, Axtel, where remote, rural backwardness was meeting affluent urban society as it became a State Park. Your love never ended.

At Catholic High, Owensboro High and Brescia, again with ups and downs and problems without solutions. Adult Ed classes were refreshing. Your love never ended.

A year at the Mount and Adult Ed, too, gave me the time to evaluate my behavior. Your love never ended.

The archives for six years with Adult teaching and CCD, too. Your love never ended.

All this and more, ….

Studies at Mount Saint Joseph, College of St. Francis in Joliet and Notre Dame. Then grants to Chapel Hill, NC, University of Hawaii and Pennsylvania. Your love never ended.

To the cool mountains of Bolder, Colorado and then to the heat of Atlanta, GA. Your love kept on growing.

Taking me to Ohio and Pennsylvania again, then to Wabash, IN before travelling over the waters to Rome and the Holy Land. Your love continued to grow.

While at St. David’s, Chautauqua, NY and New Jersey your favors never ceased. Your love continued to grow.

From Oklahoma to Atlanta again. Your graces were with me and continued to grow.

To the Art Institute of Atlanta, GA several more times before going to New York, Irvington on the Hudson, the House of Seven Gables and Jamestown among others. Your love continued to grow.

Down south to Clinton, MS and several times to New Orleans. Studies at Westminster College and to Dayton, Cleveland and Cincinnati, OH. Your love has never ended.

You remembered me in my affliction and freed me from my foes and your love continued to grow.

A look at careers and mid-life adventure—Flights to Great Britain, Mexico, Canada, Montreal and Quebec. Later to the west to Seattle and up to Vancouver with many joys to remember. Your love grew and grew.

Then grants to enhance our Mount Saint Joseph buildings and others to bring our documents together and further my archives learning. Your love was still growing.

Further travels to D.C. and again to Canada, Missouri, Texas, Chicago, New York and Georgia. Your love and protection continued to grow.

I give thanks to you, O Lord,

Hear the words of my heart:

In the presence of your angels I will sing your praise,

I will worship at your holy temple and give thanks to your name.

When I called, you answered me. You built up strength within me for your love will never leave me.

The workshops, grants, talks, travel, programs and all, so interesting—now seem so trivial in the light of my awakening.

Your constant presence through all of this, is my salvation.

Your love so enduring and long lasting brings me to this moment of surrender. Amen.”

Sister Emma Cecilia said it all in her Litany of Praise and she is now enjoying that love that will never end.


  1. John Powers

    Early on in my education this lady touched my heart and nurtured my passion for art. I am grateful for her influence and consider her a great teacher and a grand example of one who loved her calling and am thankful for her love, care and brilliance. Sister Emma Cecilia Rest In Peace. ❤️

  2. Rose Brandenburg (Hayden)

    I was so happy to be able to reconnect with Sister Emma Cecilia in 2014 at my 50th reunion. She taught me in 6th grade at St Charles, Bardwell, Ky, 1958. She was a beautiful soul! Rest in peace dear Sister!

  3. Becky Franey

    I was one of Sr. Emma Cecilia’s students. I loved her for her love of Art. She was such a kind and gentle soul. I was fortunate enough to be part of a group of old friends and students of hers who spent time with her in her recent years. We loved her company and will certainly miss her.
    Becky Franey

  4. Elaine Williams

    Sr Emma Cecilia taught my group at Blessed Mother and we never forgot her kindness or her way of being able to teach fifty students at the same time. She was a remarkable lady and we later began taking her out to lunch with us. She will surely be missed.

  5. Stephanie Morris

    We have lost a beautiful woman in Sister Emma Cecilia’s passing. My thoughts and prayers are with her family, friends and community.

  6. Sister Mary Serbacki, osf

    I worked with Emma Cecilia in the early days of LCWR and so appreciated her generosity, wisdom, and humor. I well remember a meeting of the exec committee held there at Mt. St. Joseph over a Derby weekend (1995?). I still regale my own community each Derby weekend with the story of how it was to celebrate with the community there!

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