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

Sister Joseph Angela said Sister Julia’s gentleness and friendliness are two of her great assets. “She recalls the names of everyone she meets. I find that incredible,” Sister Joseph Angela said.

She thinks Sister Julia will do well in leadership. “She has that calming way about her. She may be upset on the inside, but it doesn’t show on the outside.”

After one year, Sister Julia left St. Alphonsus and was appointed by Sister Annalita Lancaster, then the superior, to be director of the apostolate at the Motherhouse.

“We were doing all kinds of experimenting,” Sister Annalita said. “The director of the apostolate had to do with the education of the sisters, and helped to place them in their ministry. She visited the sisters and met with the council regularly to make recommendations.” The director helped determine which places requesting sisters needed them the most, and which sisters had the skills to match.

Sister Julia’s most vivid memory of that ministry was the late Sister Mary Antonia Wathen telling her that when she made her schedule, she should put in time to read, and to place it at different times each day. The position lasted only her term, which ended in January 1976.

That’s when Sister Julia began her only ministry outside Kentucky, at Lourdes Central High School in Nebraska City, Neb. Her friend Sister Carolyn Marie O’Harrow was teaching there at the time, so Sister Julia joined her for a semester. When Sister Carolyn Marie left that summer, Sister Julia took over her language arts courses the following year.

“It was an adventure being in Nebraska, we were right on the Missouri River,” she said. “Sister Carolyn Marie was the kind of person who would say, ‘Here, you’d like to read this.’”

Friends for over 60 years,Sister Julia, Rose Marie (Smith) Clary, and Marianna (Willett) Robinson hosted a reception for Sister Rosaria Ray on her October feast day, the Feast of the Holy Rosary. Sister Julia, Marianna, and Rose Marie met in Sister Rosaria’s 1st and 2nd grade classes at St. Peter of Alcantara School in Stanley, Ky.

A few days before Christmas in 1981, Sister Carolyn Marie was killed in a car accident at age 47, a loss Sister Julia took a long time to overcome.

“You learn a lot from your losses,” she said. “It convinced me to be more grateful.”

A change in the air

Sister Julia returned to Kentucky in 1977 to teach at Christ the King School in Madisonville for a year, but she knew she needed to get out of the classroom. She was also struggling with her life as an Ursuline Sister. At the end of that school year she left the community for 14 months.

“It was a big struggle for religious women after Vatican II,” she said. “It was the opportunity for a kind of freedom. Religious life can be binding. In that re-examination, some of that binding was loosened. It allowed women and men to make some individual decisions.

“If you look at the church in the 1940s and ’50s, there was encouragement to enter a vocation that is not there now,” she said.

She taught the following year at Our Lady of Lourdes School in Owensboro, and returned to the Ursulines in July 1979.

“I came back to put down roots. I was one of the first to come back,” she said. “I think the Spirit of God led me back.”

During her year at Our Lady of Lourdes, Fr. Victor Boarman asked her to “do something” with CCD (Confraternity of Christian Doctrine). “I was one of the first people hired to do so,” she said.

“In 1979, I started to work with people who were already volunteering,” Sister Julia said. “They were a little ticked off I was hired to do it. I loved it, I was working with adults to train them to teach children.”