After completing her term as superior and a yearlong sabbatical, Sister Mary Irene joined the pastoral center in Owensboro as director of adult formation, and then added director of lay ministry and coordinator of the staff. She was instrumental in having each parish name a layperson to the deanery meetings that had previously been only for priests in the diocese, and helped train people for council work. “It connected the parishes,” she said. “I had to go by myself to all these parishes.”
She came back to the Mount in 1995 to be director of postulants for a year, and then prepared for her next career in pastoral care.
From 1996-2002, she ministered to the sick at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Owensboro, an often-powerful ministry for the impact she could see. One day she was told to visit a couple that had stopped coming to Mass. She learned they were from a Greek Orthodox Church in the East and hadn’t been coming to Mass because they hadn’t been to confession. She was able to arrange for them to receive the sacrament and they came back to church.
In another instance, she visited a woman after a tornado and found that she was living without electricity, so she contacted the woman’s son, who arrived with a generator. Another man was able to receive last rites because Sister Mary Irene recognized he was in the final stages of death.
Her parish work prepared her for the work she was asked to do when Saint Joseph Villa opened in 2002.
Sister Mary Irene said she’d like people to know that, “Ursuline Sisters are here to be of service to others, and to show God’s love by the way we give that service.
“I think that’s why I keep doing this. I don’t want to be here with nothing to do,” Sister Mary Irene said. “We’re here for service.”
By Dan Heckel