Sister Julia Head, OSU: A lifetime of openness and presence

Robinson described her as “scholarly, very efficient, and organized,” but the two also enjoy finding time to watch movies or have lunch. “She’s witty and good with words,” Robinson said. “I just enjoy being with her.”

In late December, the Ursuline Sisters decided it was time for Sister Julia to use her many gifts in a different way – as assistant congregational leader of the community. She will begin serving in this new role on July 18, along with four other new Leadership Council members.

“Ministering with and for the sisters, serving the needs of our sisters is what this leadership position is all about,” Sister Julia said. “I need and want to honestly serve the needs of my sisters … I want to be like the Grinch at the END of the story: his heart grew two sizes that day! I pray for a heart that can grow to include ALL.”

Life on the farm

Sister Julia grew up on a farm in the Stanley-Newman-Birk City area of western Daviess County, Ky., not too far from Maple Mount. Working on the farm “certainly gave me my work ethic,” she said.

“It’s a lot of hard work on the farm. We never went on a vacation, we had animals to tend,” she said. “We didn’t have the money to go on vacation. It was a big deal to go to Owensboro.”

Sister Julia is joined by her brother Herman (center), her mother Frances and her father Bernard (seated). Bernard Head died in 2002, Frances Head in 2004.

Her father, Bernard, was a sharecropper when she was born. “The pride of his life was buying his own farm, when I was 4,” she said. Her mother, Frances, worked along side him on the farm as long as she was able. The family eventually had to leave the farm and move to a home behind the auditorium at Maple Mount, where her father worked in maintenance for 15 years.

She has a brother, Herman, who lives in Stanley, and “two brothers in the cemetery,” she said, including one who lived just a day and another who was a miscarriage.

“There are probably several other little ones, Mom couldn’t remember all her pregnancies,” Sister Julia said. “I can’t wait to get to heaven and see how much family I really have.”

Sister Julia attended St. Peter of Alcantara School in Stanley, where her teachers were all Ursulines. Sister Rosaria Ray taught her in the first and second grades.

“I so appreciate the gift of reading, she got me started,” Sister Julia said. Sister Rosaria, who is retired to the Motherhouse, called Sister Julia, “The sweetest thing I’ve ever had,” and recalled her as a “wonderful student.”

“I read any book that came along,” Sister Julia said. “I’d go to the library and just stand there. ‘Where do you start?’” Her favorite book growing up was her great grandfather’s “Lives of the Saints.”

“It was falling apart,” she said. “I was supposed to be dusting, and I’d stop and read it.” Years later she had the book rebound.

“My grandfather had one ‘National Geographic.’ I read it every time I went to visit,” she said. She read the Farm Journal and the Progressive Farmer that came to her home.

“I learned a lot about soybeans,” she said. “I listened to the Lux Radio Theater, with ‘Rin Tin Tin’ and ‘Sergeant Preston of the Yukon.’ It was the beginning of my imagination.”

Robinson was one of her classmates in the first grade. “I was looking at our first communion picture the other day,“ Robinson said. “That picture was taken over 60 years ago, and I’m proud to still be among Sister Julia’s friends.”

A Mount girl

Sister Julia attended Mount Saint Joseph Academy, the all-girl high school run by the Ursulines. “The teachers at St. Peter told my mom I had a vocation. My mom wanted to save my vocation,” she said.

Sister Julia was a day student her first two years at the Academy. But when the public junior high school closed, there was no bus service, so she became a boarding student.

“I had no sisters, no girl cousins, so going to the Academy was like having a huge family,” she said. “Sister Lennora (Carrico) could tell you I was distracted by all the people.”