Maple Mount — Sister Marie William Blyth, 89, an Ursuline Sister of Mount Saint Joseph, died March 10, 2019, at Mount Saint Joseph, in her 69th year of religious life. She was a native of Denver.
Sister Marie William was an Ursuline of Paola, Kan., until the merger of that community with Mount Saint Joseph in 2008. She loved teaching and helping adults to grow deeper in their faith. She was never without a joke in hopes of lightening someone’s day.
Sister Marie William taught in Kansas at St. Ann School, Prairie Village (1952-55) and at Queen of the Holy Rosary in Overland Park (1957-61). She was both principal and teacher at Wea Grade School, Bucyrus (1961-69), Holy Angels School, Garnett (1969-76) and Holy Trinity School, Paola (1976-83). She was director of religious education at Holy Cross Parish in Overland Park from 1984-95, and at Queen of the Holy Rosary Wea Parish from 1995-2005. From 2000 until moving to Maple Mount in 2009, she ministered to associates, which she continued to do in Kentucky. She also taught at St. John School in Bartlesville, Okla. (1955-57).
Survivors include the members of her religious community and her nephew Joseph Wilkes of Thornton, Colo.
The funeral Mass will be at 10:30 a.m. Thursday at Mount Saint Joseph, where visitation will begin Wednesday at 4 p.m., with a wake service following at 6:30 p.m.
Glenn Funeral Home and Crematory, Owensboro, is handling arrangements.
Donations in memory of Sister Marie William may be made to the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph, 8001 Cummings Road, Maple Mount, KY 42356.
Remembrance of Sister Marie William Blyth, OSU
March 13, 2019
Sister Amelia Stenger, OSU
I would like to begin this evening the way Sister Marie William would begin. “Why wouldn’t the shrimp share his treasure? Because he was shellfish.” “What did one hat say to the other? You stay here. I’ll go on ahead.” And one more, “Why didn’t the bicycle stand up? Because it was two tired.”
Sister Marie William always had a joke for us. She would come up with some of the craziest things, but they would always make you laugh at the cleverness. She truly did spread joy until the evening she died. She was at supper on Saturday evening telling her stories and died at around 4:00 a.m. on Sunday morning. What a blessed way to go to heaven. She surprised us all.
Helen Louise Blyth was born in Denver, Colorado on August 30, 1929. Her parents were Allen Blyth and Katherine Teresa Carrullo Blyth Hill. She had a brother, James and a sister, Marietta who are both deceased. She has one nephew who lives in Colorado who called her every Saturday evening. She talked with him the night before she died. He is not able to come for her funeral.
She was baptized at Our Lady of the Assumption Church, Denver, Colorado on February 26, 1938 when she was four years old. She was confirmed at Sacred Heart Church in Denver, Colorado on May 5, 1938 by Bishop Urban Vehr.
Sister attended Catholic schools in the Denver area and had made up her mind to become a Sister while she was in grade school. She thought she would join the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati who taught her and live happily ever after. It didn’t exactly happen that way.
During her freshmen year of high school, she had a yearlong assignment to create a scrapbook on what she would do for the rest of her life. She thought that she would be a Sister of Charity and do a scrapbook for them but realized there wouldn’t be enough for a scrapbook. She found a brochure in the Holy Ghost Church that listed other religious communities, so she decided to write to them to get more information.
One of the communities she wrote was the Ursuline Sisters of Paola, Kansas. She said, “All this literature came. I got a letter from Paola and my mother said I was waving the letter saying, ‘This is where I’m going to go.’ Years later, in an article she wrote entitled, “Who in the world are Ursulines?” she ended the paragraph with this statement, “I’ll never know exactly just what was special about that first letter or the ones to follow it. But since entering the Community in 1949, I have found the specialness of Ursulines and can look back over the years… and marvel at God’s constant love and care. Not only do I know what an Ursuline is but all who come to us in daily need or whom we touch in our various ministries find the touch of God, a real sign of Ursulines.”
The first Ursuline Sister she met was the superior, Mother Cecilia Koehler. A Paola sister was in the hospital in Denver, and Mother Cecilia came to visit her. She stayed in the Sisters of Charity convent, and became friends with the high school principal, whose name was Sister Marie William.
The first train ride of Helen Blyth’s life was on September 8, 1949, when she entered the Paola convent. She said it was a very interesting trip since she was welcomed by the biggest and worst lightning and thunder storm she had ever experienced.
She had never visited Paola before she entered the novitiate on March 25, 1950. She made temporary profession on March 25, 1952 and made Final Profession on March 25, 1955. March 25 was a very special day for the Sisters at Paola. Entering with her were Sister Raymond Dieckman and Sister Edith Wondra. During that same year, here at Mount Saint Joseph, these Sisters entered. When Sister Marie William moved to Kentucky, they became her classmates: Sisters Marie Goretti Browning, Elaine Burke, Marie Carol Cecil, Mary Jude Cecil, Amanda Rose Mahoney, Alfreda Malone and Mary Angela Matthews.
When it came time to receive her name when entering the novitiate, she submitted three names that she might have as she continued her religious life. Sister Marie William was not one of them. She said that Mother Cecilia liked the Sister of Charity who was named Sister Marie William, so she gave Helen that name. She was surprised to get it but said in later years when she could have changed it back to her baptismal name, she just decided to keep the one she had been given.
Like all the Ursulines of her time, she began as a teacher in 1952, at Saint Ann School in Prairie Village, Kansas just three years after coming to Paola. She taught in schools in Bartlesville, Ok, Overland Park, KS, Bucyrus, KS, Garnett, KS and Paola, KS, for 31 years. She taught from first to eight grades. She said that the fourth and fifth grades were her favorite because they seemed to be more acceptable to learning.
During her years of teaching, she attended college classes at Ursuline College at Paola, Mount Saint Scholastica College in Atchison, KS, where she received her bachelor’s degree in Education, the University of Colorado at Denver and finished her master’s degree in administration at Kansas State Teachers College in Emporia in 1972.
Later, while attending summer workshops, she decided that adults needed education, too. In 1984, she began a new ministry as director of religious education at Holy Cross Parish in Overland Park, KS, and remained there for eleven years until 1995. She moved to Queen of the Holy Rosary Parish in Wea, KS and worked there until 2005 which was a total of ten more years.
If you are adding up the years, that is 31 in education in schools as a teacher and principal and 21 years as a Director of Religious Education.
While she was attending a summer workshop with another religious community that had associates, she saw the need for that to begin in Paola. She presented the idea to the leadership in 1980 and the associate program began in 1982. She said, “I was always on the committee to develop the program, but I didn’t become the facilitator until 2000. Associates are an enthusiastic group. They are looking for an in-depth approach to spirituality. I feel their enthusiasm, it makes me want to do more if I can.”
And she did do more. In 2005, she moved back to the Motherhouse in Paola and she continued her ministry as the director of the Associate program in Paola. She was also the Librarian and a receptionist for the community. She was there greeting people or answering the phone. She greeted many associates to the Motherhouse. To those of you who worked with Sister in the Associate program who are here with us from Paola, we offer you our prayers and sympathy at the loss of your friend and mentor.
When the Ursulines of Paola decided to merge with the Ursulines of Mount Saint Joseph in 2008, Sister Marie William said, “When we visited here, I could see the same spirit. This is a very welcoming community and we fit in. If you don’t get out of your rut, you’ll never learn anything.”
When Sister Marie William got to the Mount, she became involved in many activities here. She began writing the monthly Reflective Moments with Angela for the website. When asked where she got the ideas for the reflections, she said, “I don’t know where they come from, they just happen. I think of poems I’ve written that might have some meaning for people or look for quotes I’ve written down from retreats. I say a prayer to the Holy Spirit and then it just comes out.”
One of the things we remember most about Sister Marie William was her ability to come up with jokes. She found them in books, on line and many other places. When asked about it, she said, “I’ve always done it. I say a prayer that I’m able to recognize a need in people, to help them in any way they need. Maybe a joke will breathe some fresh air into their life.”
She also added much to people’s lives by her poetry. In her file there is a folder of many of her poems. She wrote tributes to sisters by taking the first letter of their name and writing something for each letter. She wrote beautiful prayers that share her faith with others. Many of the poems are centered on Christmas, Lent and Advent which she sent to people on these days.
In 2002, she wrote a poem during her retreat that shares so much of her life in a very simple way. I have asked Sister Helen to read the poem. It didn’t have a title, but she may have wanted it to be “The Cracked Pot.”
Formed by the Master Potter,
We are unique in His eyes,
Skillfully shaped to please Him
and fired in His great love.
Each is to bear witness
Of His great majesty.
Many events may cause
Some flaws over the years.
Yet, the Divine crafter
Overlooks any faults.
With love He re-fashions
To ensure our cracked pots
Are only seen by Him.
Whatever we may be,
Cracked or whole, we move on
Content to be His own.
Sister Marie William was content to be God’s own for the sixty-nine years that she served God’s people as an Ursuline Sister. Now she has moved on and will forever serve in God’s presence. She may even be sharing a joke or two.