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

St. Louis was a good experience, she said. “I taught all day long, all grade levels, three classes of each. In five years I taught the first grade book 15 times,” she said. Unlike most Ursuline Sisters, almost all of Sister Maureen’s ministries have been in large cities. “After St. Louis, the superior said, ‘Go find a ministry.’ My full-time focus on liturgy and music isn’t normally needed in small parishes.”

From 1974-79, she was music teacher and choral director at St. Pius X High School in Lincoln, Neb. “I liked the high school setting. I taught in six grade schools and the high school,” she said. “Whatever school didn’t have a qualified teacher, I taught. I drove around all morning to elementary schools and taught high school in the afternoon. After a year, I couldn’t do that anymore.”

She put in a semester liturgy course at the high school, but she hadn’t had much training in liturgy. “I loved Nebraska. They would have a blizzard and nobody noticed it. I liked the people and liked the school.”

She helped put on musicals with the drama teacher, and did programs with the “Pink Sisters,” the cloistered Holy Spirit Adoration Sisters. “The Pink Sisters and the Passionist Sisters in Owensboro were really instrumental in encouraging my interest in Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross,” she said.

Crystal glass in her back pocket


One of Sister Maureen’s roles on the leadership Council was serving on the Associate Advisory Board. Here she is pictured with the board in 2009, from left, Sister Nancy Murphy, Associate Mary Ann Schilling, Associate Paul Gray, Associate Michael Ziegler, and Associate Marian Bennett, director of Ursuline Partnerships.

In 1979, the community asked Sister Maureen to return to Owensboro as a full-time music education instructor and choral director at Brescia College (now University), but that full-time mission lasted only a year. She remained as an instructor at Brescia until 1985, but in 1980 Sister Mary Irene Cecil, the major superior, named her director of novices for the Ursuline community.

“I never thought I’d be novice director,” Sister Maureen said. “Mary Irene was so convinced and the council was so convinced. When Sister Mary Irene talked with me about the position, I felt as though she was telling me that I had a spiritual gift that I had not recognized … almost like a crystal glass in my back pocket. Suddenly life was different and I knew that I needed to pay more attention to what God was asking of me.”

Sister Mary Irene, who now does sewing for the sisters at the Motherhouse, said she knew Sister Maureen had what was needed in the ministry.

“She was a good religious, and was intent on being committed and faithful to her call,” Sister Mary Irene said. “She would be a good witness to those who came in. She still is that today. She has great influence on others, she probably doesn’t realize that herself.”

Sister Maureen said her selection as novice director encouraged her spirituality. “I thought ‘maybe I need to be more conscious of who I am and what I’m doing.’ I think my time with the Pink Sisters did more for my spirituality, to see what their interior life was like.”

There was no training to become a novice director in those days, and Sister Maureen was also in charge of the postulants, those in their first year of exploring religious life. “I learned how to do it by doing it. It was five marvelous years and five horrendous years all at once,” she said. “It’s like living with 12 girls who were preparing to be married. It’s a daily wondering if this is what they are supposed to be doing.”

Friction is inevitable as novice director, Sister Maureen said. “All the sisters have a preconceived notion about what young sisters should be doing,” she said. “Young sisters said, ‘How come the other sisters don’t do this?’ The hard part is questioning everything, you’re stuck in the middle. The novice director gets to ask hard questions like, ‘How come you’re not ready for class?’ or ‘How come you leave us to do the work?’ Part of it is teaching them what it means to live in community.”

Sister Aloise Boone, who died in 1995, was Sister Maureen’s novice director. “I said I became novice director because Sister Aloise didn’t think I did it right the first time, so I had to do it five more years.”

In 1983, Sister Maureen left as choral director at Brescia and became director of music and liturgy at the Mount for two years, while continuing with her formation ministry. “You have to let God be in charge,” she said. “Those years were very difficult, but wonderfully spiritually enriching.”