Sister Margaret Ann said Sister Monica has strengths similar to her mother. “She gives to others, has a deep faith, and is an all-around good person,” she said. “She has a love for the older sisters and is very happy when she’s at Mount Saint Joseph, or wherever she is ministering.”
Sister Michele Intravia said after listening to Sister Monica talk about her life and knowing what a great spiritual influence her mother has been, she had no doubt that she would be an asset to the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph. “What an inspiration she has been to so many young people in Owensboro,” she said.
Sister Monica’s mother was hesitant at first when her youngest daughter, then 25, told her she was entering the convent. “I was so nervous to tell her,” Sister Monica said. “I told her it was her fault, she taught me to be nice to everybody.”
Her mother is happy with her decision now, but it took some convincing. “I said, ‘Why do we have that vocation prayer on our bathroom mirror, is that for someone else?’” Sister Monica said. “My mom has always been the one who held the family together. She’s my best friend.”
The reaction of one of her dearest friends, Cindi Wilkerson, surprised Sister Monica the most. “She said, ‘I’ve been waiting for you to say that for 10 years.’”
Wilkerson, who lives in Owensboro, said Sister Monica’s faith was deeper than anyone else she knew.
“She was in a different place than the rest of us,” Wilkerson said. “We used to tease her in high school, even a teacher called her ‘Sister Monica.’ I’m sure she’s bringing a fresh sense they haven’t seen in awhile.”
Sister Monica marches to her own drummer, Wilkerson said. “When we get together, the years just fall away. We fall into giggling, 14-year-old girl mentality.”
Living in community
Sister Monica lived at Maple Mount for two years during her novitiate, which convinced her she was in the right place. “I got to hear the stories of the retired sisters,” she said. “They paved that road so I don’t have to overcome some of their struggles.”
One peculiar element of her formation years is that one of her housemates is Sister Michele Morek, congregational leader. A decision was made to create a formative community for Sister Monica to live in, but six months after that began, Sister Michele was elected congregational leader. They decided there was no canonical reason to end the living arrangement.
“It really has been great. She’s a super intelligent person,” Sister Monica said. “When she’s here she’s just ‘Michele,’ my sister.” She also lives with Sister Joseph Angela Boone, chancellor of the Owensboro Diocese, and Sister Barbara Jean Head, who also serves on the Leadership Council.
“It’s probably more of a challenge for them to live with me,” Sister Monica said with her trademark laugh. “Sister Joseph Angela’s wit is so great, I’m always saying, ‘I have to remember that.’”
Sister Michele said she’s told the younger sisters for years that the scrutiny on them is harder than it was on sisters of her generation. She joined the Ursulines as a novice in 1962.
“We had classes of 18,” Sister Michele said. “Everybody is watching (a single sister).”
Sister Monica said she doesn’t feel inhibited by so many eyes on her. “I try to be a real person. I’m Monica, who happens to be an Ursuline Sister.”
Sister Jacinta’s advice to her is, “Don’t worry about people watching you, keep your ear tuned to the spirit of God. That’s the steady rudder of our life,” she said. “That’s what she attempts to do.”