Ursuline Sister Grace Simpson remembers greeting the man on crutches who asked her name as he entered the St. John Center for Homeless Men in Louisville.
“When I told him, he started singing ‘Amazing Grace’ to me,” she said.
After 23 years as a teacher or principal, Sister Grace embarked on a second ministry career that lasted even longer – serving the poor and destitute in Louisville. She was a caseworker at the Sister Visitor Center for 30 years – 1984-2014 – then spent the next five years volunteering at the St. John Center.
“I greeted all the men who came in. They were almost all very polite, not like the stereotype people believe,” Sister Grace said. “I liked to get to know them. I was a quiet, steady person. The men didn’t have to worry about me stereotyping them.”
When Covid hit in 2020, none of the volunteers could return to the St. John Center for eight months, Sister Grace said. By the time Sister Grace could return, she had stopped driving. She lives quite a distance from the center, so had to give up her volunteer ministry. “Covid changed everyone’s life,” she said.
She misses her time at St. John and at the Sister Visitor Center, helping the poor get some of their basic needs filled such as clothing, food and help with utility bills.
“I learned so much from them, the homeless and needy,” she said. “They were prayerful people and willing to share their story. I have a lot of good memories from there.”
Sister Grace continues to live in Louisville with Sister Larraine Lauter, but came to the Mount for a two-week visit the last week of February 2023. This year she is a member of the Powerhouse of Prayer, in which she prays three to four times a day for the entire Ursuline community and the Ursuline Associates. With Sister Larraine busy at her ministry, Water With Blessings, Sister Grace helps take care of their home, which includes their cat, Beastie.
She has lived with Sister Larraine for five years and they pray together at 7:30 a.m. each day. Once a month, the two join with the two other Ursulines still serving in Louisville – Sister Joan Riedley and Sister Kathleen Kaelin – along with Ursuline Associate Patsy Beauchamp for their bonded group, Companions on the Journey. Her sister brings her to the family farm in Nelson County a few times a month.
Sister Grace’s two great loves are music and poetry, and she gathered more than 100 of her creations to publish “Poetry Presence” in April 2016.
Being back at the Mount for a few weeks allows Sister Grace to enjoy visiting with the Sisters, and a chance to pray with the community and attend Mass every day. This is her 66th year as an Ursuline, and on Feb. 15, she celebrated her 86th birthday. She plans to serve in Louisville as long as she can.
“I live day by day,” she said. “Traveling the whole world is my bucket list for heaven.”