Sister Marie Joseph Coomes, OSU: “We thank God for her every day.”

It was also during this time that Sister Mary Evelyn Duvall, who had left the Knottsville area, returned to Saint Lawrence and was teaching some of Sister Marie Joseph’s younger siblings. She contacted Sister Mary Evelyn and they talked about her wanting to become an Ursuline Sister. “She then helped me get ready to go the Mount,” Sister Marie Joseph fondly recalls.

Sister Marie Joseph and Sister Alicia have been best friends for many years.

She became a postulant on September 6, 1964. She started college level courses at the Mount and later took summer school classes in Owensboro at Brescia College.

She began her teaching career in 1968, teaching first grade at Sacred Heart Grade School in Waverly, Kentucky, for two years.

She then taught for four years in the Flaherty, Kentucky, public school system, teaching third grade at Flaherty Grade School, which was located on the grounds of Saint Martin Church. One year she had 34 children in her class, 25 boys and only nine girls.

Then it was on to Saint Martin in Rome, teaching first grade for one year; Saint Frances in Loretto, teaching third grade for two years; and then the public grade school at Raywick, on the grounds of Saint Francis Xavier Church, teaching first grade and part of second for one year.

Along the way, Sister Marie Joseph earned her B.S. degree from Brescia and her masters in education from Western Kentucky University.

Sister Marie Joseph’s 86-year-old father, J. B. Coomes, lives in nearby Philpot.

Her one year of teaching at Raywick would prove to be her last year in the classroom. “I was 29 when I started teaching, and after 10 years I asked to get out of teaching for a while,” Sister Marie Joseph explains. “And that while has grown into 29 years!

“They asked if I would work in the infirmary, and I told them I’d try. I had no healthcare or nursing background, but I still said yes. I took Sister Joseph Cecelia Muller’s famous six-week training program and began work in September of 1978.”

After working as a nurse’s aid for four years, Sister Marie Joseph left health care to maintain the prayer house for four years, the last three under spiritual director Sister Fran Wilhelm.

She returned to the infirmary – which was located in the Lourdes building at that time – and spent one whole year following Sister Alicia Coomes around in her job as healthcare receptionist and supply coordinator. Sister Alicia was preparing to go off to nursing school, and Sister Marie Joseph had been asked to take over her job while she was gone.

“Things were changing in the healthcare scene at the Mount,” Sister Marie Joseph recalls. “The younger sisters were getting nursing degrees – Sister Jacinta (Powers), Sister Betsy (Moyer), Sister Rebecca (White) and Sister Claudia (Hayden).”

When Sister Alicia returned with her nursing degree, she was named director of nursing, and Sister Marie Joseph was formally named receptionist and supply coordinator. She stayed on the job for 20 years.

One of the highlights of her many years in healthcare was the move into the new Saint Joseph Villa in 2002. “It was a beautiful building,” she recalls. “It was nice, very clean, and everything.” She added with a giggle, “I had a hard time learning the systems to get in and out of the building.

“Overall, it’s so nice. I also learned a little bit about the computers, all kinds of things.”

Sister Marie Joseph retired from the Villa two years ago. She took a one- year sabbatical, living at Blessed Mother parish, reading books and doing volunteer work. She took a trip to Europe with her closest friend, Sister Alicia, who was celebrating her 25th jubilee, and 46 other people.