Wake Reflection for Sister Mary Louise Knott
September 22, 1929 – May 3, 2014
Scripture says: Do not neglect the gift you have…Do not neglect the gift you have which was given to you…She who received five talents went at once and traded them and she made five talents more. Scripture is rather splattered with quotes, thoughts and ideas of creativity. So I keep wondering if heaven has gotten a “new look” since 11:35 a.m. on Saturday. Has a craft room been set up?
This creative woman Mary Louise Knott was born to Proctor Knott and Mary Florence Thompson Knott in the early hours…in fact at 4 a.m. on September 22, 1929. Mary Louise as named was the fourth child of 12 children but the first girl of the family. Three boys had already made themselves a part of the family…Paul, Martin and Charles. Later there would be Alma, Rosita, Walter, Marilyn, Roberta, Kathleen, Dottie and Angela. All made their appearances into this family. And to you the siblings, relatives and friends, we the Ursuline Sisters give you our sympathy and prayers. May the Creator God heal your wounded hearts.
Supposedly the Knott family practically lived in the church and school door at St. Anthony, Browns Valley. Mary Louise was baptized five days after birth and later received the sacraments of Holy Eucharist, Penance and Confirmation…all at Saint Anthony’s. Mary Louise began her formal education at St. Anthony and met the Ursuline Sisters. After her 8th grade graduation she rode a bus daily to 5th and Clay Street in Owensboro to attend St. Joseph High School taught by the Ursuline Sisters. We know that it was in her high school years that she became hooked on sewing. Her mother did not sew but had a treadle machine. Mary Louise taught herself. The very first thing she ever made was to take her mother’s coat and remake it to fit one of her younger sisters…all on that treadle machine. Sewing was something that Mary Louise loved to do all of her life. And she was very generous in sewing for others.
After graduating from high school, Mary Louise entered the Novitiate at Mount Saint Joseph on September 8, 1947. She entered with classmates: Sisters Mary Afra Henning, Clarita Browning, Mary Eileen Howard, Jane Irvin Hancock, Mary Sheila Higdon, Jamesetta Knott, Louis Marie Bickett, Rose Therese Johnson, Mary Collette Drury, Mary Renee Monaghan, Miriam Therese Lanham, John Mary O’Reilly, and Ann Miriam Johnston. And to you the classmates, Clarita, Mary Eileen, Jane Irvin, Mary Sheila and Luisa we give you our prayers and support at this time. On August 14, 1948, Sister Mary Louise received the habit and retained her baptismal name, Sister Mary Louise. Lots of folk called her “Weezie” and did until the end. Mary Louise said” Weezie” had been her nickname since she was knee high to a duck.
On August 15, 1950 Sister Mary Louise made her final vows and began her teaching apostolate at St. James, Louisville and lived at St. Angela on Edenside. She taught in various schools in the Archdiocese of Louisville and the Diocese of Owensboro in KY., Lincoln Diocese in Nebraska, Saint Louis and Springfield-Cape Girardeau dioceses in Mo. In those 21 years of teaching she taught primarily the intermediate grades.
During her teaching years she furthered her education and received her BA degree from Brescia College, Owensboro. In 1970, Sister Mary Louise left the teaching field and worked here in our infirmary mainly with those sisters who were ambulatory. She felt that further education was needed. She attended nursing school at Spalding in Louisville for about two years, but due to an automobile accident resulting in several broken bones she didn’t return to nursing school.
In 1979, Sister Mary Louise was dispensed of her vows and left the community after 32 years of membership. She married Jack Alvey. Mary Louise and Jack were among the very first to join the associate program, just coming into life in 1984. Mary Louise found the associate program to be the satisfying link with the community she left. She had been closely connected with the Ursulines all of her life and so wanted to be connected.
After Jack’s death in 1984, Mary Louise searched deeply into her own heart and with friends to discern God’s will for her. She found a parish position at Blessed Mother in Owensboro in 1985 where in addition to cooking and housekeeping for Father Fisher she became involved in parish ministry. Her creative talents also benefited the parish. Fr. Fisher was transferred to St. Paul, Leitchfield in 1988 and Mary Louise transferred with him and remained his housekeeper until May 28, 1992. She always used her crafts to benefit the parish. She was very active in the Associate program and kept the Grayson County associates moving with some project. She was their leader for many years.
On that Ascension Day, May 28, 1992, Mary Louise re-entered the Ursuline community and was known once again as Sister Mary Louise. During her temporary profession she worked in the craft room and in MSJ Retreat Center. Many a tablecloth, many a craft item for the shop was made.
Sister Mary Louise had two experiences in pastoral ministry at Central City and Greenville and also at Marian, KY. She loved pastoral ministry. She loved working with RCIA. She loved leading groups whether in a craft project or a spiritual project. Sister Mary Louise returned to the motherhouse when a new pastor came and brought his own pastoral worker to Marian, Ky.
Sister volunteered to be director of the craft room. Crafts were now her ministry as well as her hobby. This she loved. Sister Mary Louise was all over the area joking that she was the seamstress from Seamstressville or a sewer from Sewerville. She was seamstress, decorator and did much upholstery for the MSJ Retreat Center and Shop.
Sister Mary Louise recommitted herself to give herself away. She knew if she were to be a prophet of peace in a violent world, then she had to practice living with a nonviolent heart. She had to become peace. During those days when she was much into peace and justice issues, she visited Fort Benning to protest injustices and atrocities. She attended workshops to protest the death penalty. She took sabbaticals to South Carolina and Colorado to learn of Eco Spirituality and the Arts. She attended the United Nations in New York on sustainable development. And she took a vacation in Alaska. She worked for a few short months helping with the Dorothy Day House in Memphis. She did a special project for the retreat house in Gallup, NM. She went to Jamaica to teach sewing and to help Mary Danhauer in the health clinic.
Someone said that Sister Mary Louise had something in common with Mere Marie of the Incarnation, Rogers and Hammerstein and Toys R US. Sister Mary Louise lived in the married vocation as did Mere Marie. Like Rogers and Hammerstein she was a famous song writer. Parody, after parody, after parody she wrote. Raggedy Ann and Andy, her stuffed animals, her crafts, her sewing could say to Toys R US, “Get in line.” Sister Mary Louise tried to live a quote of Sister Dorothy Stang. SND: “We are here on the land for a few decades. Use every day to bring joy and not greed to our tired land so full of anguish”.
Sister Mary Louise moved to the villa in 2012 when her health began to decline, when mini strokes took place. To the nurses and staff of the villa, to the Health Care coordinator, Randy Shelby, we say thank you for all that did to make Sister Mary Louise comfortable and happy these last few years and in particular these last few weeks.
Sister Mary Louise said ,”When I can no longer work, I’ll join the sisters in the Powerhouse of prayer and take a crash course on how to do nothing but pray and wait in patience, until God calls me to heaven.” And I believe, Sister Mary Louise, that during this last month you got that crash course on how to pray and how to wait patiently for God. Thank you for being Ursuline.
And what a tribute to a multi-talented woman than a parody of her own. And we sing:
“Weesie”, “Weesie” we’ve been thinking
What a dull place this would be,
If you weren’t here at St. Joseph
Oh what talents you have brought us
Of your goodness we are sure.
Teaching, sewing, and creating
In your passion for the poor.
Thank you, “Weesie”, we enjoy you;
Love your positivity,
And we love and thank the lord for
Your great gift of PARODY.
—–Friend and Admirer
Sister Mary Matthias Ward, OSU
Director of Local Community Life
Maple Mount, KY