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

“I remember being summoned to the convent at St. Columba to talk with Mother Mary Wilfrid (Hayden). People didn’t consider the Academy much, Louisville had plenty of good Catholic schools,” Sister Maureen said. “I’m so glad I went. Going to a boarding school prepares you like nothing else. My parents were wonderful, but neither was adventurous or outgoing,” she said. “I think my time at the Mount and my brother’s time in the seminary caused both of us to be a bit more adventurous than our parents liked.”

Once at the Academy, Sister Maureen realized that her piano instruction from Miss Stella was poor. “Sister Marita (Greenwell) and Sister Francesca Hazel wouldn’t let me take piano, my foundation was so bad,” Sister Maureen said. “I took voice lessons. I told Sister Francesca I would like to major in music, but I presumed than I couldn’t. She gave me some books, and told me if I worked with the music teacher at St. Columba in the summer, she’d recommend that I be a music major,” she said. “It was fortuitous, I’ve always done voice and piano. Usually people do one or the other. Good music teachers turned me around. Francesca and Marita were wonderful music teachers.”

She worked in the music department cleaning to help pay her tuition, alongside Sisters Francesca and Marita. “They were really surrogate mothers,” Sister Maureen said. “Francesca was a real mentor. She was a renaissance woman, about 30 years ahead of her time. She saw to it that the girls got into Owensboro to hear the symphony, and develop a love for the arts.”

Hearing the call

The decision to join the Ursulines came about gradually, Sister Maureen said. “I never remember talking about it at the Mount, it was more the modeling the sisters did,” she said. “They had something I thought I should follow.

“We went to church every day. When you live in that milieu, you don’t need a lightning moment,” she said. “I never thought I’d have the patience to be a mother, I never considered it.”

Sister Maureen gives some direction to the female members of the Cathedral choir during practice.

She made the decision in her junior year, but she didn’t tell her parents until her senior year. Six girls from her graduating class in 1964 entered, three of whom remain, Sisters Michael Marie Friedman, Mary Henning, and Elaine Byrne.

She was close friends with two girls from Louisville who also chose religious life. “One went to Mercy Academy and became a Sister of Mercy. One went to Presentation Academy and became a Sister of Charity. I went to the Mount and became an Ursuline Sister,” Sister Maureen said. “All three of us are still sisters.”

There were more than 20 women in her novice class of 1965, and eight remain. (Sisters Mary Henning, Marie Joseph Coomes, Barbara Jean Head, Ann McGrew, Emma Anne Munsterman, Michael Marie, Elaine, and Maureen.)

She took the religious name Sister Anne Maurice, in honor of her deceased twin brother, but changed back to her baptismal name as soon as she could, before her first mission.

She earned a music education degree from Brescia College, when there were only five or six music majors at the time. “I thought the most I could ever do was teach piano,” she said.

Her first mission, from 1969-74, was as a music teacher at Seven Holy Founders School in Affton, Mo., a suburb of St. Louis. She also gave private music lessons. Before she began teaching there, she received the shocking news that her father died at age 63. “He had surgery (in Louisville) for colon cancer and was supposed to be fine,” she said. “I went back to St. Louis, my brother went to a conference in Chicago. It was very surprising.”

Seven Holy Founders was a school of 1,000 students. “It had a boys’ choir with quite a reputation in the city,” Sister Maureen said. “Sister Joseph Marian (Logsdon, the mother superior) said, ‘You can do anything you want, but you have to take the boys’ choir.’ I said, ‘I’ve never even heard a boys’ choir.’ I read a lot of books on boys’ choirs, I learned along the way.”

Her first piano student was an eye-opener as well. “I’d been there a day and a half, a woman called to say Linda was excited about taking piano lessons. I said tell her to bring the music she’s been playing,” Sister Maureen said. “She was a fifth-grader. She proceeded to play Bach Prelude and Fugue that I had just played as a senior in college. I called her mother and said, ‘We’ll find her a better music teacher.’”

Linda was the accompanist for the boys’ choir. “Anything I could play, she could play better,” Sister Maureen said.