Sister Grace was born in Fairfield, Kentucky, in Nelson County, the fourth oldest of Byron and Eleanor Simpson’s 10 children – five boys and five girls.
She attended Saint Michael’s Grade School in Fairfield for eight years where she was taught by Ursuline Sisters from Mount Saint Joseph and then attended high school at Mount Saint Joseph Academy.
Sister Grace’s first recollection of a religious calling dates back to the fourth grade when she thought she’d like to be like the fourth grade teacher she admired.
The first serious calling came during her senior year of high school. “I was sitting in study hall, looked up and saw Sister Joseph Therese, our principal, praying her office,” she recalls. “I thought, ‘Oh, I want to be like her!’ Well that was it.”
Looking back at her family life, she recalls, “My mother gave me my faith, gave me my structure. My father gave me my freedom, my love of nature. He was a farmer.”
She entered the community in the fall of 1956 and took her final vows in 1963.
Her teaching ministry began in 1959, teaching seventh grade at Saint Columba Grade School in Louisville. After four years at Saint Columba, she moved on to Saint Ignatius in Louisville where she taught seventh and eight graders for five years before becoming principal at Saint Catherine’s in New Haven for eight years, the last two years teaching seventh and eighth graders in addition to her duties as principal.
In 1976, Sister Grace returned to Saint Columba as principal, a position she held until 1982 when she resigned and moved to Mount Saint Joseph.
She had various responsibilities her first year at the Mount before being named the first secretary of Mount Saint Joseph Conference and Retreat Center under director Sister Mary Matthias Ward.
After one year in that position, Sister Grace returned to Louisville to “work with the poor.” That was in September, 1984. She became a caseworker at the Sister Visitor Center on Louisville’s west side. She recently began her 23rd year in that same position. “It’s the people who keep me here,” she says. “The people who are so needy. I have learned more from the poor than from any other people.”
When asked what changes she has seen at the center in the last 23 years, she said, “Needs changed, but the basic needs have not. People still need food, clothes, supplies, financial assistance with utilities, mortgages, and rent, and medicines. That hasn’t changed. There’s still the people that are needing because there are still poor people.”
Has Sister Visitor’s ability to provide help changed? Sister Grace says it has. “In the last several years, we have had to cut back on financial assistance,” she explains. “One reason being Hurricane Katrina. People gave there, and our donations dropped. We lost two full-time caseworkers due to financial cutbacks.”