Sister Mary Angela Matthews, 90, an Ursuline Sister of Mount Saint Joseph, died April 5, 2020, at Mount Saint Joseph, in her 70th year of religious life. She was a native of Hardinsburg, Ky.
She graduated from Mount Saint Joseph Academy in 1949, and from Brescia College in 1965. She also earned master’s degrees from Loyola University, Chicago, and Indiana University.
Sister Mary Angela greeted everyone with a smile, through 28 years as a teacher and principal, and 12 years of serving in New Mexico. She was a teacher at St. Joseph School, Paul, Neb. (1952-54, 1958-64, the last three years as principal), at Holy Name of Mary School, Calvary, Ky. (1954-58, 1964-65, 1967-71 as principal), St. Mary High School, Paducah, Ky. (1965-66) and Flaherty High School, Flaherty, Ky. (1966-67). She was principal and teacher at St. Martin School, Rome, Ky. (1971-74). She was principal of St. Romuald High School, Hardinsburg (1974-78) and Mount Saint Joseph Academy, Maple Mount (1978-80).
She was director of religious education for St. Joseph and Holy Spirit parishes in Bowling Green, Ky. (1981-85), then served in the same role in New Mexico for St. Rose Parish, Blanco (1985-86), Mission San Rafael Parish, San Rafael (1986-88), Christo Rey Parish, Santa Fe (1988-91) and St. Teresa Parish, Grants (1991-96). She also served as religion coordinator at Saint Mary School, Belen (1996-97).
She returned to Kentucky and served as a parish minister at St. Pius X Parish in Calvert City (1997-2002). She was a caretaker at Saint Angela Convent in Louisville (2003-2005) and was a business office volunteer and postmaster at the Motherhouse before serving as community librarian from 2006-2017.
Survivors include the members of her religious community and nieces and nephews.
In compliance with health and public safety directives the wake and funeral will be private. The wake service is at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday and the funeral at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday.
Glenn Funeral Home and Crematory, Owensboro, is handling arrangements.
Donations in memory of Sister Mary Angela may be made to the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph, 8001 Cummings Road, Maple Mount, KY 42356.
Remembrance of Sister Mary Angela Matthews, OSU
April 7, 2020
Sister Amelia Stenger, OSU
We come together this evening to remember Sister Mary Angela Matthews. We gather here but we also gather in our mission houses and with her family by way of live streaming. We know that you would all like to be here but the circumstances that are with us now keep us from coming together. Sometime later in the year we will have a celebration of Sister’s life so everyone can come together. To all of you, her family in Hardinsburg and Colorado, we offer you our sympathy and prayers and to Sister Joyce, we thank you for your care for her during these last years.
Mary Rita Matthews was born in Axtel, Kentucky to Alva Murray Matthews and Grace Compton Matthews. She came to Axtel by way of Detroit, Michigan. Her dad, Alva worked at the Ford Motor company. Her family lived in Detroit for ten years. During those years in Detroit her brothers Joseph, Gerald, Francis and Claud were born.
In March 1929, her Mom came home on a train to Breckinridge County with four little boys under ten and was pregnant with Mary Rita. Businesses were closing and the depression was spreading over the country and the world. Her Dad stayed on in Detroit to finish the year’s work and pay off a debt her father still owed on the farm in Axtel. She came from enjoying the conveniences of life in the city to a farmhouse where they found all the windows had been broken out. Her mother and two brothers, Clement and Bennie, lived 12 miles away on dirt roads. Her Uncle Bennie led a cow all the way to the house so her Mom could have milk for the children.
On November 18, 1929, her grandmother, Alice, was there when she was born. On November 30, Fr. Jerome Hoeff rode a horse three miles from St. Anthony Church in Axtel to baptize Mary Rita. She was named for St. Rita Church in Detroit where her family attended while they lived there. Her Dad came home from Michigan in December, not long after she was born. In her biography, she said that her Dad teased her Mom by asking her why she had a little girl after having four boys.
Two years later, her Mom had another girl, Patsy Ruth, but she only lived for nine days. Many were sick with the flu. She said she remembered being lifted up to look into the small casket. She said that when they were driving away from her burial, she cried and asked when they were going to bring her back.
In December 1934, a baby brother, Thomas was born. She said that her Mom told her that God sent Tommy so she would have someone to play with.
Her mother and grandmother taught her prayers and the catechism. She said she loved the rare times when the big Bible came out of the trunk. It was falling apart because her Uncle Clem got caught out in the rain with it. He always walked the twelve miles to their house.
Times were hard during the depression, but she was too young to know any different. Her parents and older brothers knew how bad it was especially during the drought of 1934. They were lucky because they always had food from their farm.
The first two years of her schooling were in Mattingly public school. The Louisville Ursulines came for summer school and catechism at St. Anthony’s in Axtel. They instructed her for her first communion. By third grade, Fr. Friedel, the pastor of St. Anthony in Axtel, began a Catholic school there. They felt privileged to go there, even if it was a renovated horse barn. Sister Mary Beatrice taught her in the “little room” and Sisters Edward and Eulalia taught Francis and Claud. In fifth grade, Sister Theodora came. She had a big influence on Mary Rita’s religious vocation.
She said that they walked the three miles to and from school each day. The roads were not graveled so the buses did not run on them. Her Dad always held up education as something very wonderful, so she often dreamed of being a teacher. By the seventh and eighth grade, she said she knew she wanted to give her life to God.
When WWII began, her three oldest brothers had to go, so Joe, Gerald and Francis left for the service. The rest of them went to work in the fields. She said it was very hard to tell her brothers goodbye.
She had to tell her whole family goodbye when she received a scholarship to attend Mount Saint Joseph Academy. Her oldest brother, Joe, sent money from Germany to buy her school clothes. She wanted to go but she was very homesick and missed her family very much. It was during her retreats at the Academy that she began thinking about her vocation. She had an aunt who was a Sister of Charity and began writing to the superior of the Charities for information. On a vacation home from the Academy, she was at church and saw Sister Mary Edgar and Sr. Charles Borromeo kneeling up front. She said the thought struck her, “Why are you kidding yourself, you know you want to be an Ursuline.” From then on it was a Go. She said that Sisters Lucita, Joan, Francesca and Martha Ann influenced her most in high school.
She said her last summer before entering was very difficult. Her parents seemed hurt that she was leaving. The rules at that time in the convent were very strict and she would only be able to go home when her parents were ill or dying. She said that a year later, on Investment day, her Dad hugged her and said, “I want you to know, I feel different about this now.”
Mary Rita entered the community on September 9, 1949 with twenty-three other young women. Five of those women are here at the Mount. We offer our sympathy and prayers to her classmates: Sister Marie Goretti Browning, Sister Mary Elaine Burke, Sister Marie Carol Cecil, Sister Amanda Rose Mahoney and Sister Mary Alfreda Malone.
She received the habit on August 14, 1950 and received the name Sister Mary Angela. She made first vows on August 15, 1952 and left for Paul, Nebraska for her first mission later that month. She made final vows on August 15, 1955. She served in elementary schools and high schools in Nebraska, Kentucky, and New Mexico. She taught everything from first grade through high school and served as principal in several of the schools. She taught in schools until 1981 when she started her ministry as a Director of Religious Education. She continued her ministry of religious education in many parishes across the diocese and especially in New Mexico.
She received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in French in 1965 from Brescia College, (now University). She received a Master’s in Education from Indiana University in 1970. She completed a Master of Pastoral Studies from Loyola University in 1983. She had teaching certificates and principal certificates for Kentucky and there were numerous certificates for work she accomplished in the area of religious education. She never stopped learning.
During her years of retirement here at the Mount, she has worked in the business office, the post office and the library. As a sister in the Powerhouse of prayer, she prayed for many different mission sisters over the years.
The last few months were not easy for her. She met each day in the Villa with grace and kindness. We would like to thank the nurses in the Villa for the wonderful care they gave to her while she was there with them.
Now, we ask her to pray especially for all of us here during this very difficult time. We ask you, Mary Angela, to go before God and ask God to keep all of us safe. We are happy that you have gained your new Easter life.