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

Some of her classmates who became sisters were Sister Rose Marita, Sister Kathleen Kaelin, and Sister Helena Fischer.

“During our high school days I often would sing ‘Smoke Gets in Your Eyes’ for Julia because she loved that song and took pleasure in my singing of it,” Sister Rose Marita said.

Robinson also attended the Academy with Sister Julia, and always thought she was headed for the convent. “There was no doubt about it,” she said. “The Ursulines are such great role models.”

Pictured are 19 of the 28 members of the 1961 novice class. Sister Julia is seventh from the right. Other current sisters in this class are Sister Nancy Murphy, Sister Rosanne Spalding, Sister Kathleen Kaelin, Sister Rose Marita O’Bryan, and Sister Helena Fischer.

After graduating from the Academy in 1960, Sister Julia attended Brescia College for four or five weeks. “I was trying to be independent,” she said. When a sister saw her that October, Sister Julia told her, “I think I’m in the wrong place.” She entered as a postulant that same month.

“I was an only daughter, I was just captivated by having people around me all the time,” Sister Julia said.

Like all sisters in those years, Sister Julia attended Brescia for her undergraduate degree, and to prepare for a teaching career.

“At Brescia, Sisters Julia, Kathleen, and I majored in English together and also took a number of studies in German as our second language,” Sister Rose Marita said. “We were known as the Three Musketeers!”

Becoming a teacher was something Sister Julia had prepared for even in high school. “I was a very serious, responsible kid,” she said. While in high school, she took over a class for a teacher who was ill.

“Teaching let me learn. I was captivated by learning,” Sister Julia said. “That’s why I love what I do, it allows me to keep learning.”

Mission in a big city

For the young woman who’d rarely left the farm, her first teaching assignment in 1965 was at St. James School in Kentucky’s largest city, Louisville.

“It was awful. I had to look up to see the sky,” she said. “I was really homesick in Louisville, living that close to people.”

Sister Julia is pictured here with the sisters in her bonded community, Companions with Angela. From left are Sister Judith Nell Riney, Sister Julia, Sister Rosanne Spalding, Sister Laurita Spalding, Sister Margaret Ann Aull, and Sister Ann McGrew.

She was happy to move to St. Margaret Mary School in Louisville from 1967-72, which was built along the city’s fringe, with more open space around. “What is now Oxmoor Mall was a sheep farm, we’d walk there in the evenings,” she said. She taught language arts, art, science, and religion to sixth and seventh graders. One of her students in sixth grade language arts is now Sister Larraine Lauter.

She came back to Maple Mount in 1972 for a year as head teacher at St. Alphonsus School, which is just across the highway. “Sister Joseph Angela (Boone) saved my life every day while I was at St. Alphonsus,” she said.

Sister Joseph Angela was treasurer at the Motherhouse then, and recalls a secret the two kept from the rest of the community.

“She had a Boy Scout meeting in Curdsville, it was raining really hard and she was taking this kid home,” Sister Joseph Angela said. “The car went off the shoulder of the road and into the ditch. No one was hurt, the car wasn’t damaged, but it was covered in mud,” she said. “This was about 10:30 at night. I called Mr. Riney in maintenance to pull the car out and he said to bring it over and he would power wash it. There wasn’t a speck of mud on it and she parked it in the circle (between St. Angela Hall and what was then the Academy.)”

The next morning, someone drove the car off, but all the mud that had been under the car was now in a large pile on the asphalt. “No one could understand where all this mud came from, because the car didn’t have any on the outside,” Sister Joseph Angela said. “We didn’t tell anyone. That was one of our deep secrets.”