In Remembrance of Sister Joseph Angela Boone, OSU
November 14, 2018
Sister Amelia Stenger, OSU
“The purpose of life is to live a life of purpose.” This was a saying that Sister Joseph Angela told many people during her 71 years in religious life. Sister JA lived that life of purpose and we come together tonight to celebrate that life.
There isn’t any way that I am able to say in a few minutes all the things that describe Sister’s life. There is enough material that we would be here until tomorrow at funeral time. So, tonight I will give some of the highlights of the life of this remarkable woman and after these few minutes, we will give some of you an opportunity to share some thoughts or stories about her.
Mary Bernice Boone was born in a small town southwest of Bardstown, Ky, called New Haven. She was the twelfth child in the family. Her parents were William Joseph Boone and Mary Josephine Greenwell Boone. She was born on September 20th, 1928. She was baptized on September 24th, 1928. Mary Bernice and all the Boone children including Frederick Joseph, Joseph Aloysius, Mary Joan (Sister Aloise), Margaret, Mary Elizabeth (Sister Regina), Cecilia Marie, Mary Jean, Mary Josephine, Mary, who died at birth, Louise who died at 6 months, Edna Marie, Joseph William, Anna Catherine and Teresa Marie attended St. Catherine School in New Haven and were taught by the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph. She was confirmed on May 3rd, 1937 at St. Catherine Church by Archbishop John A. Flourish. Catherine, Teresa Marie and all of you who have come from her family, we offer you our sympathy and prayers.
In her autobiography, she said her father was a farmer, so the family made a living growing crops, feeding some animals and growing vegetables. They did a lot of canning when she was a young girl. She had an enjoyable childhood with all her brothers and sisters, went swimming in the Rolling Fork River and got into the usual kid trouble. She said that her family lived on “Beachfront Property” and they had lots of visitors who came to visit and swim near their home.
She attended St. Catherine High School in New Haven and one of her favorite teachers was Sister Joseph Therese Thompson who taught her high school Math and Physics. Sister Joseph Angela said she was one of the most influential people in her life.
Following her graduation from high school, she followed her two older sisters, Sister Aloise and Sister Mary Regina to the Convent at Mount Saint Joseph. Her parish priest said at the time that she was “of outstanding character” and the Mother Assistant said after her first year in the community that Mary Bernice “is a gem.” Her classmates were Sister George Ann Cecil, Sister Ellenee Johnson, Sister Marilyn Thompson and Sister Francis Mary Wilhelm. Sister Fran, we offer you our prayers.
In her postulant year in 1946, she started taking college classes and was responsible for many chores such as cleaning, helping in the kitchen, dairy, diet kitchen and infirmary. (All of this sounds very familiar to most of us Sisters.) She knew how to work. She entered the novitiate on August 14, 1947. During her third or vow year she had more classes but still did chores in many areas on the campus. She made temporary profession on August 15, 1949. She made her final vows on August 15, 1952.
In 1949, she was sent out to teach at Sts. Joseph and Paul School in Owensboro where she taught third grade. She attended classes at Brescia College (now University) at night and on the weekends. She stayed there two years and during the following summer attended Creighton University to get 8 credits in Physics.
Her second mission assignment was to teach 5th and 6th grades at St. Denis school in Louisville and to attend Saturday classes at Spalding University. At that time the only transportation was by the city busses. She and the other Sisters would catch a bus at 10:00 a.m. with a brown bag lunch and get home at 5:00 p.m. She did this for eight years while she taught at St. Denis.
After those eight years she was reassigned to Sts. Joseph and Paul for two more years to teach one of the 7th grade classes and to attend Brescia to complete the bachelor’s degree requirement in 1961.
The next two years were spent getting her master’s degree in Math with a minor in Physics at the Catholic University in Washington, D.C. To all of us who worked with her, she was a genius. She knew everything. In looking through her files to prepare this remembrance there was a bit of evidence that she was just as human as all of us. She will probably come back to haunt me for telling you this, but she got an F in Advanced Calculus during her first semester. It seems impossible since she was such a brain in math, but she actually had to take the class over. She must have been sick or something. She made an A the next time.
These were the days when Vatican II was in session. There was much talk and many dreams of what it was going to be like. There were many changes taking place in the church and in the community. Delegates were now elected to form the Chapter of Affairs in the community. Changes were discussed by the whole community and some were promulgated. The visible changes were with dress, cars, budgets, freedom to visit relatives in their homes, retreats away from the Motherhouse and regular Chapter meetings with everyone in the Community.
After she completed her degree from Catholic University, she was assigned to teach Math and Physics at Brescia University from 1963 to 1969. During this time, she was also the Resident Director in Merici Hall which was the residence hall for the Freshmen and Sophomore girls. She said that the things that happened during those years would fill a whole book. Several of those women were here this afternoon saying what an impact she had on them.
In December of 1969, while she was still teaching at Brescia, she was asked to be the Community Treasurer. This was supposed to be a part time job. She moved to the Mount and rode the bus to Brescia with the novices and Junior sisters. I happened to be one of those novices who was on the bus during the year before my temporary vows. There was always a conversation going on about the changes in the Mass, dress and all the other things that were being altered. Times were changing. She said it was sometimes called the “Swinging Door Time”. Many women entered, got a degree, became teachers, and then withdrew from the community to become lay teachers, principals and strong leaders in schools and parishes.
During this time, she attended summer sessions at Notre Dame where she found that communities were beginning to think about retirement funds. She began working with several other sisters to start the Mount Saint Joseph picnic in order to raise funds for the retirement program. Without her foresight and determination, we would not have the retirement program that we have today. She was also responsible for getting our Sisters enrolled in Social Security in 1978. She was always trying to find ways to support the whole community.
She remained the treasurer of the Community for nineteen years. It is impossible to name all the things she did during those years. There are few things pertaining to our properties and even our community life where she did not have some influence.
Her life and the life of the Diocese of Owensboro/Western Kentucky changed when she was named the Director of Finance. At that time the Catholic Pastoral Center Offices were located at South Frederica in front of Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Owensboro.
Because Bishop McRaith wanted to get everyone involved in the Church, he brought in the Renew program and also held a Synod of representatives from all the parishes of the Diocese. The wishes and needs for more ministries within the parishes were brought forth. This meant that there would be a need for more office space for the Catholic Pastoral Center. A Family Life office, Stewardship office, Social Concerns office and Youth ministry office were a few of the new ministries that began during those years.
Sister Joseph Angela was involved in all of these and the discussion to vacate the Pastoral Center on Frederica street. That building would become the parish Hall for Our Lady of Lourdes Parish. Since St. Stephen School was closing after the consolidation of the Owensboro Catholic Schools, it was decided to move the offices to that building on Locust Street which was close to the Cathedral.
Getting the building ready was interesting. Sister Joseph Angela did not like to waste money. On weekends she and a group of us would go down and scrape wax off the walls near the floor and then have a party after we had finished cleaning the walls and picking up the piles of old wax. The day we moved the offices, the trucks were filled up with furniture and office supplies and we formed a parade down Frederica Street. She sat in the back of one of the trucks waving to all the people who were watching this crazy site go down the street.
In 1991, she was appointed the Chancellor for the Diocese. It was very unusual for a Sister or lay person to be made Chancellor. On Feb 9, 2010, at Vespers in St. Stephen Cathedral, Sister Joseph Angela watched Bishop-emeritus John J. McRaith sign his name to the Formula of the Profession of Faith, one of two documents signed by Bishop-elect William Medley. She shared an unusual diocesan historic event on February 10, 2010 as she read aloud Pope Benedict XVI’s Letter of Appointment of Bishop Medley to be the fourth Bishop of Owensboro. The reading of the Letter of Appointment was to have been read by the Papal Nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Pietro Sambi. Weather systems dumped nearly four feet of snow in the Washington area in the days just before, closing the airport and everything else in Washington, D.C. As far as we know she was the first women to ever read the document.
On June 30, 2011, Sister Joseph Angela resigned from her positions as Chancellor and Finance Director of the Diocese. She continued to be a consultant until March 2014. She served the Church of Western Kentucky for twenty years. During her years at the Diocese, she received many awards, and served on many boards. Too many to mention here. These have been documented well in the Western Kentucky Catholic and other newspapers. She touched many peoples’ lives.
In reading through her yearly annuls reports, she shared many things that happened to her and shared places where she traveled. She never made a big deal about this. Who knew that she traveled to Kenya, the Serengeti, Mongolia, China, Alaska, Brazil, Poland and Aruba to name a few. She went with her family to most of these places. She loved her family, she loved the community and she loved the Church of the Diocese of Owensboro and we all loved her.
God bless you, JA. We will miss you.