Sister Maureen Griner: Making music led her to serve the poor

“I felt that Adasia was a gift of the Holy Spirit,” Sister Maureen said. “It’s not something I would have ever asked for. We both felt we were being called to it, despite the disruption it caused in our lives and in the community.”

She assumes a live-in aunt’s job, helping with Adasia’s schedule, homework, and meals.

“Adasia has brought out a side of Maureen that was kind of hidden,” Sister Margaret Ann said. “Maureen uses her own gifts of music and creativity to bring out those traits in Adasia. She is more spontaneous. She is teaching Adasia not just about God, but how to live in God’s presence all day long, and that God loves her no matter what.She is teaching her about prayer, which comes from the heart and not only asks for God’s help, but also how to live with a grateful heart.She is teaching her about helping the poor and the homeless so much so that when Adasia gets some money from a relative, she often wishes to give it to a poor person.I guess Adasia in some ways has helped Maureen make love visible in a new way.”

The sisters became friends in the early 1980s, when they were both ministering at the Motherhouse. “What we have experienced together in Memphis has deepened our friendship; it has become more rooted in Christ,” Sister Margaret Ann said. “Together we have formed community with the associates here and have found ourselves challenged to live more in the spirit of Angela.”

Sister Maureen’s commitment to the poor has become very real and very hands-on at the Dorothy Day House, Sister Margaret Ann said. “She has always said Adasia was the first of many children who we would welcome into our lives and our hearts,” Sister Margaret Ann said. “She has found those other children in the Dorothy Day House.”

City girl

Sister Maureen visits with her brother, Father Bill Griner, earlier this year.

Sister Maureen grew up in the west end of Louisville, the youngest child of Catherine and Bonnie Griner. Her mother was a homemaker, her father was a salesman for a preserving company for 33 years, then became a food broker.

She had a twin brother, Maurice, who died at 8 weeks, and her oldest sister had a twin who died at age 4. Her siblings were all about five years apart. “My sister, Mary Carmel, is about 5 years older than me and my brother Bill is 10 years older than me. Bill went to the seminary after the eighth grade,” Sister Maureen said. “We each almost grew up as an only child. I only lived with my brother when he was home in the summer.”

The family was very involved in St. Columba Church. “My mom worked in the cafeteria, my dad was in the men’s club and the Knights of Columbus,” Sister Maureen said. “Bill was an altar server, I was in the choir.”

Her choir days began because her mother gave her the option of either getting up to sing at Mass, or getting up early to help her clean, Sister Maureen said.

“I recall my parents going for perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament from 2 to 3 a.m.,” Sister Maureen said. “We’d get up, go to church, pray for an hour, and go back to bed. We didn’t think it was strange. We said the family rosary every night.”

Her parents’ devotion to the Catholic faith did not extend to urging their children to enter religious life. “I don’t ever remember my mother talking about vocations,” Sister Maureen said. “When I asked to go to the Mount for high school, my father said, ‘If you go, they’ll make a nun out of you, and you know how I feel about nuns.’ He never finished that statement. By the time I entered, he was fine.”

Her family influenced her faith, if not her love of music.

“Neither of my parents was musically gifted,” she said. “When I was a child, a woman came to our home every Saturday morning and gave piano lessons for 50 cents.” Each of the four children took lessons for four years and then quit. “By the end of my fourth year, I hated it and wanted to quit,” Sister Maureen said, who was in the sixth or seventh grade then. “My mother told me, ‘If you think I’m telling Miss Stella she can’t come back … she’s been coming for 16 years.’ She said I had to tell her, so I did.”

Sister Maureen’s first influence from the Ursulines came when she attended St. Columba School, where 21 Ursuline Sisters taught. “Sister Helene Thompson was the music teacher at St. Columba, she started me on organ and voice lessons,” she said.

The sisters at St. Columba recommended that Sister Maureen consider attending Mount Saint Joseph Academy in Maple Mount for high school.