Wake Reflection: Sister Mary Regina Boone
A prayer that Sister Mary Regina wrote in her annals had a good message for all of us: She said, “Dear Lord, help me to entrust an unknown future to a known God. Keep me able to smile and enjoy all your beauty at Mount Saint Joseph. Accept all my aches and pains as a small return for all your gifts to me.”
Appropriately, Sister Regina died on a perfect spring day, amid the beauty of blooming flowers at Mount Saint Joseph. All her aches and pains were “checked in” outside the gates of heaven at 5:30 the afternoon of April 29, just a few hours before the anniversary of the death of her sister, Sister Aloise. And yes—she kept the smile and the “Boone” dry wit until her last week on earth!
Born Mary Elizabeth Boone (the family called her Becky), she was the fifth child of William Joseph Boone and Mary Josephine Greenwell Boone of New Haven, Kentucky. She was born on January 31, 1918 and—in spite of a record cold winter—she was taken by buggy to be baptized two days later at St. Catherine’s Church, New Haven. Even the horse suffered cuts on his legs from crossing the icy creek!
The family lived on a farm, but her father supplemented his farm income with work in road construction to support his large family— Becky and her three brothers and nine sisters: Fred, Aloysius, Joseph William, Joan (Sister Aloise), Margie, Cecilia, Mary Jean, Josephine, Edna Marie, Bernice (Sister Joseph Angela), Catherine, and Teresa. When she was three years old, the growing family moved from “the little house in the holler” to a big house just one mile south of New Haven.
She grew up during the years of the Great Depression, but said she had RICH experiences: their family had a private swimming pool and skating rink (the Rolling Fork River), and their own park (the woods behind the river) where they picked blackberries in the summer, wildflowers and ferns in the spring, and colorful leaves and bittersweet in the fall. However, her family says she was quiet, not an outdoorsy person, and preferred to read while the others were out climbing hills! In the winter they would make popcorn and candy, and listen to her mother’s stories about her teenage years, courtship, and the early days of her marriage.
Mary Regina had many happy memories of growing up in that loving family, which continued to be important to her throughout her life. She recorded in her personal annals all the family reunions, birthday parties, anniversaries, funerals, and other joys and sorrows. And she relied on her nightly call from Sister Joseph Angela to get her to sleep at night! To you, her family, especially Sister Joseph Angela, our Ursuline community offers its sincere sympathy and prayers.
Early in her childhood, her godmother, Sister Hilary, a Sister of Charity of Nazareth, encouraged her to think about religious life, and she said that her pastor, Father James Willett acted as a “Contact Program” for her. The fact that she attended Saint Catherine’s grade school and high school, where she encountered many wonderful Ursuline teachers, apparently strengthened her in her resolve. So on September 7, 1936 she entered the novitiate with Sisters Mary Eva, Ruth Helen, Agnes Mary, Mary Henry, Ann Frances, Marie Claire, and Mary Durr, with Sister Mary being the only surviving member of that class. So Sister Mary, the community extends its special love and sympathy to you in the loss of your classmate.
They apparently had a typical novitiate experience for those days— taking college classes, studying religious life, putting on a postulant Christmas play, and work—laundry, tea towels, carrying trays, breaking dishes, and giggling…and the dreaded experience of getting up at 3:00 a.m. to get breakfast by lantern light. Mother Martina was their novice director, and Elizabeth (with her special love of history) delighted in her stories of the earliest years of Mount Saint Joseph history. Elizabeth received the habit and the name Sister Mary Regina on August 14, 1937.
For her first mission she was sent to Browns Valley as housekeeper. Now, she had not done much cooking at home, where her chores mostly consisted of babysitting, because her two older sisters did the cooking. Sister J.A. told about the time their mother told Elizabeth to watch some apples frying in the skillet. When she got back the apples were burned, and Mom said, “I thought I told you to watch those apples.” Said our Regina, “I did. I didn’t take my eyes off of them!”
Luckily, on her first mission, her local superior Sister Louise Riney took pity on her and gave her cooking and “home ec” lessons on the weekends. Her first year there, the water tank sprang a leak and was not repaired for a year, so they had to collect snow in tubs to do the washing. They had no dryer, so she would hang clothes out on the lines where they froze immediately. But she remembered that on a snow holiday, the three “young ones” were sent out to go sledding and Sister Louise did the cooking that day.
Her teaching career began at Central City in 1941, with the first four grades. And a year later she went to Saint Columba’s School in Louisville where she partnered with her sister Aloise in teaching fourth grade, while beginning her higher education. She completed a B.A. degree at Nazareth College with a major in History and a minor in Math, and got her M.A. from Spalding University, besides doing other graduate work at Catholic University and Western—all on Saturdays and in summer school.
In 1954 she began teaching high school at Saint Romuald’s in Hardinsburg, where she stayed for 16 years. Next, a new career as principal awaited her at Mary Carrico High School in Knottsville. There she got the unenviable task of consolidating that school with Saint Mary’s in Whitesville, to form what is now Trinity High School. She said that was no easy task! When she returned to Saint Romuald as teacher and principal, she was shocked to discover (as many of us have!) that she was teaching the children of her former pupils. She moved on to teach at Lourdes High in Nebraska City, but her first year there was interrupted with drastic cancer surgery and a half-year in Louisville taking radiation treatments.
In 1979 she came back home, to teach in the Academy until it closed. Mary Regina was then assigned to teach math part-time at Brescia College, and to be Director of Hospitality in charge of the Guest House here at the Mount. She loved that job—she said she met such interesting people! So when she turned 70 she gave up the Brescia job to devote all her time to the Guest House. She noted proudly that one year she hosted 215 guests!
After ten years in the Guest House, she retired in 1993, but continued to take an active role in all community gatherings and small prayer groups. Ten years later, in 2003, she moved to Saint Joseph Villa, where she spent time in prayer and taking part in activity programs and exercise classes. This is a good time to say that we thank all members of the health care, activities, and pastoral staff for the care and attention they give all of our sisters.
Mary Regina had always been a voracious reader, and very interested in history and current events. She faithfully kept up with local and world news. She was featured in a 1995 Owensboro newspaper article, commenting indignantly that she wished the state government “would do something about fraud instead of picking on poor and homeless people!” Every time I went in to see her, she had a news program on (well, maybe sometimes Jeopardy!) And of course, she usually was multitasking by having a crossword puzzle going at the same time.
Sister Mary Regina sent all of us a message. In 1985 they had an “Archives Day” when sisters were invited to write why they were optimistic for what the world would be like in 1999. She said, “I’ll probably be in my grave when this is opened in 1999 (You missed that one by 11 years, Regina!) but I beg all who read this to be “full of courage, trust, and high hope.” We will today pledge to do that, in your name.
Sister Mary Regina, thank you for being yourself, the Ursuline woman we loved and admired. We would have liked to have been there to see your reunion with Sister Aloise. But we are sure that she has already pointed out to you that heaven is a lot like the banks of the Rolling Fork in New Haven. We love you, Mary Regina—in life and in death our sister.
Sr. Michele Morek, OSU
May 2, 2010