Wake Reflection for George Marie Wathen, OSU
In the name of the community, the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph, I offer love and sympathy to family and friends of Sister George Marie, especially to you, Sister Marie Bosco, and Ursuline Associate Mary Rose Bryant, sisters of Sister George Marie, to her brother Joseph Paul and her half-brother George Robert, to Sisters Mary David and Clarence Marie, first cousins, and to each one of us who felt especially loved by Sister George Marie. (I have the distinct feeling that includes all of us!) To Sister Martin Gertrude, and again to you, Sister Mary David, classmates of Sister George Marie, I offer loving sympathy. To the staff in health care, past and present, and to the staff in pastoral care, I extend sincere gratitude for your continued graciousness and attentiveness in caring for an of our Sisters, but particularly at this time for your care of Sister George Marie. We empathize with you, Sister Catherine, in your loss. Your devotion to Sister George Marie was inspiring. Thank you!
“On a special Thursday, April 15, 1909,” Sister George Marie writes, “I began my life in this world. My parents were George Xavier and Myrtle Ann Raley Wathen. I was born in Marion County on the Bradfordsville Pike, a few miles out of Bradfordsville, Kentucky. I was the third child. Later on there were nine children – two boys and seven girls: Harry, Josephine, Paul, Isabel, Anna, Louise, Mary Rose, and Cecilia. We were loved, wanted, and had a happy Christian life. We had family prayers morning and evening and grace before meals. Often on winter Sunday afternoons my mother would read stories from magazines to us. If the stories had any sadness connected, I would watch for tears from my father’s eyes.”
Sister George Marie continues: “I was given the name of Mary Catherine, after my maternal grandmother: Saint Catherine of Siena was, my patron saint. One way I remember trying to imitate her was to stop on every step going up and down the stairs and pray the Hail Mary.”
Mary Catherine’s years of primary education were spent in a one-room school, where classes were taught from pre-primer through grade 8. She speaks of enjoying school and the happiness she felt when her mother invited the teacher to share an evening meal with the Wathen family. “It was a great year when Saint Joseph School opened with Sister Patricia Cummins, Sister Rose Alice Morgan, and later Sister Mary Edna Robinson.” Mary Catherine reminisces. “My mother went to boarding school for a year at Saint Catharine and we loved to hear her tell about the time she spent with the Sisters, which made us more anxious to have the Sisters come to Saint Joseph.”
After much praying, thinking, and feeling that God was giving Mary Catherine a vocation to religious life, Mary Catherine responded to that inner voice. “Papa drove me to St. Mary’s to catch the train en route to Mount Saint Joseph. At St. Mary’s I met Mary Oda Mudd (Sister Mary Oda), Borgie Buckler (Sister Jean Mark), Thelma Jewell (Sister Theresa Carmel, who left before making final vows), and Mildred Abell (Sister Mary Damien), all on their way to the Mount. All of us had heavy hearts but we managed to have fun on the train. This was the beginning of the second season of my life.
On September 7,1927, Mary Catherine and the other young women joined two other postulants that had entered during the summer. Elizabeth Thomas (Sister Mary David) was one of those postulants. On March 19, 1928, Mary Catherine Wathen received the name of Sister George Marie. First vows were professed on March 19, 1930 and perpetual vows were professed on March 19,1933.
The third season of Sister George Marie’s life began at Saint James in Louisville, the site for her first formal experience as educator. She remained there for 17 years teaching fourth grade and later fifth grade. From Saint James, Sister George Marie was missioned to other schools in the diocese of Owensboro, and in the archdioceses of Louisville and St Louis. In many of the schools she served as principal. “I enjoyed all my missions and I especially enjoyed registration day each and every year,” Sister George Marie wrote. “On February 2, 1975, I left the school setting with a heavy heart – not for what I was asked to do,” Sister George Marie wrote, “but because I just wasn’t ready to leave especially in the middle of the year. I had been asked to be local superior at the Mount. I felt I had no training for this. The Lord really had to take over.”
From February 1975 until 1981, Sister George Marie served as local superior at the motherhouse. She ministered in health care from 1981-1982. Then, in 1982 through 1991, MSJ Shop was her place of ministry. Sister George Marie describes these years in the shop as ones filled with happiness and much joy. Retiring from active ministry in 1991, Sister George Marie began the fourth season of her life. In 1993 Sister George Marie wrote: “I do not believe one could retire at a better place than Mount Saint Joseph. Many, many things are done for us to make our life a full, peaceful, and happy one. For all my years in the community, I am most grateful to God and the many holy people I have worked and lived with. I am so grateful to God for giving me good, holy parents, a happy family life, and a religious vocation. I pray for peace in the world and pray that each day of the rest of my life finds me dearer and closer to my Divine Spouse.”
Sister George Marie, you taught us that love is a fruit in season at all times. Love is curative and creative. Love cannot be measured in a lab or proven in a textbook. Yet love, and love alone, is the substance of all things visible. Over all the virtues you put on love, and now you are held in the arms of Love. You are in the reign of God. Pray us there, too.
Sister Rose Marita
Congregational Leader 2000-2004
August 22, 2003