She graduated in 1977, and that summer got a job working at GE making ovens. “I was making $5 an hour, that was big money in 1977,” she said. She bought a guitar and told her parents she planned to stay out of school for a while so she could make money. “By the end of the summer, I was ready for higher education,” she said.
She enrolled in Bellarmine College in Louisville, but thoughts of becoming a sister followed her.
“I knew all the way through high school I was intrigued by the possibility,” Sister Larraine said. “I thought, ‘I need to get this out of my system.’ Those were the days when women in higher education, of working in leadership, were still sort of extraordinary. I had a sense that these are women who can go all the way. They will make use of every bit of education, all for the kingdom of God,” she said. “It was also a chance to work with people with compassion. I was vague on how, I just knew these women were doing it and I knew them.”
She entered in 1978, a year after her Academy classmate, Sister Dianna Ortiz. She holds two marks of distinction: She’s the last graduate of the Academy to become a sister, and she was the last of the current sisters to enter as a teenager. The fit hasn’t always been smooth.
“I’m not a conventional person. It can be a difficult dynamic,” she said. “I was very idealistic. I had a desire to respond to God’s love, and a be a conduit for that love. I entered at a time of drastic change, and we’ve been in transition ever since. I’m OK with change.”
Sister Larraine was sad to see the Academy close in 1983. “Our academy was an honorable enterprise. It did the vision well for as long as possible,” she said. “If the demographics of Owensboro had been different, it could have been a day school. I think there’s a definite place for a separate gender high school in Owensboro.” Louisville has seven gender-specific high schools, Owensboro has none.
Art, teaching, and music
Sister Larraine’s first job was teaching art at St. Bernard School in Louisville for six months while another teacher was on pregnancy leave, then doing the same at St. Francis of Assisi School in Loretto, Ky., the next six months. She then moved to Cathedral School in Owensboro, handling children’s liturgy and teaching art and music for the next several years, while taking classes at what was then Brescia College.
“I was known to be artistic. I taught art but I didn’t feel like I was getting a chance to be an artist,” she said. That would change in the coming years.
“Sister Mary Diane (Taylor, chairwoman of the Division of Fine Arts at Brescia), was a major influence in my life and has become one of my longest friendships,” Sister Larraine said.
Sister Mary Diane said Sister Larraine was an excellent art student and leader. “I don’t know of any medium she’s tried that she hasn’t excelled in,” Sister Mary Diane said. Just recently Sister Mary Diane used some of Sister Larraine’s oil on canvas paintings to help students in her design class.
“It’s an unusual friendship, I’m considerably older,” said Sister Mary Diane, who’s been an Ursuline Sister for 56 years. “It’s just wonderful to have someone within the community who understands and appreciates art. I feel very fortunate to have had her as a friend all these years. She’s a joy to know.”
Sister Larraine has helped parishes reshape their worship spaces, and done fabric hangings, such as in St. Michael’s Parish in Sebree, Ky. She helped with design work for the chapel at Brescia, and did all the glass work in the windows. She also did the glass in the tabernacle in the Retreat Center.