Sister Pauletta McCarty has always been at home with the Ursulines


Ursuline Sister Pauletta McCarty’s favorite picture depicts Jesus walking with his disciples on the road to Emmaus, but they don’t recognize him. “I think it’s wonderful that Jesus joins us wherever we are,” Sister Pauletta said. “I say, ‘Jesus walk with me.’”

Sister Pauletta calls Maple Mount home these days, but that’s nothing new for the sister who grew up just three miles down the road in the tiny town of Curdsville.

“I came here when I was a month old to see my aunt take the habit,” she said. “I didn’t go in the chapel, I stayed on a bed in the infirmary, they tell me.” Her mother’s sister became Sister Mary Florentia Mahoney. Sister Pauletta also had an aunt who was a Sister of Mercy, her grandfather’s sister was a Sister of Loretto and her dad had a sister who was a Poor Clare Sister. Three of her cousins, the Powers brothers, are priests. “I’ve been around religious all my life,” she said.

There was never any doubt which order Sister Pauletta would choose, once she decided to become a sister. She was taught by Ursuline Sisters at St. Elizabeth School in Curdsville. Her favorite teacher was the late Sister Georgetta Higdon.

From left, Father Joe Mills, Father Aloysius Powers, Sister Pauletta McCarty and Henry Luckett gathered after lunch at the Mount on Jan. 4, 2012. All but Father Mills were members of the 1935 graduating class of St. Elizabeth Grade School in nearby Curdsville.

“She taught me a love for reading,” Sister Pauletta said. “She did things with us. If we talked about the sea, we’d have sand and put a little water in it.”

When she completed the eighth grade, Catholic students were prohibited from riding the public school bus. Her parents sent her to boarding school at Mercy Academy in Louisville for two years, but following the 1937 flood, Sister Pauletta was very homesick and returned to spend her final two years at Mount Saint Joseph Academy. She graduated in 1939, making her the oldest living graduate of the Academy among the sisters.

She didn’t join the convent immediately upon graduation, taking two years before entering in 1941, one of 12 novices that year. This is her 71st year as an Ursuline Sister. “I just felt the call,” she said. “I liked what the Ursuline Sisters were doing and I wanted to be a part of it.”

She was born Helen Marie McCarty, the third oldest of eight children, but the community already had a Sister Helen Marie. Her grandmother recommended mixing her father’s name, Paul, and her mother’s, Nettie Rose, to make Pauletta. Because the Mount had always been home to her, in the ensuing years, she took it upon herself to make new novices feel welcome. “I wanted them to love it as I did,” she said.

From left, Heather McCarty, Family Resource Center coordinator at West Louisville Elementary School; Father Mark Buckner, pastor of St. Mary Magdalene Church; Sister Pauletta; Debi Hopkins, pastoral associate at St. Mary Magdalene; Ursuline Sister Mary Sheila Higdon; and Brother Kenny Stone, pastor of Pleasant Grove Baptist Church pose for a picture at the school. They represent the main groups that have contributed financially and/or manually to the Weekend Feeding Project that seeks to send nutritious food home on the weekend for qualified students at the school.

Sister Pauletta was a teacher for 36 years, serving in seven Kentucky cities, the St. Louis suburbs and in Nebraska. She loved teaching sixth grade the best.

“They were neither babies nor grownups,” she said. “They understood what you were talking about.” The longest place she ministered was Blessed Mother School in Owensboro, Ky., where she taught under her favorite principal, the late Sister Mary Damien Abell. “She recognized you. She was so very helpful,” Sister Pauletta said.

Sister George Mary Hagan lived with Sister Pauletta and taught with her those seven years at Blessed Mother.

“Sister Pauletta is a loving, caring, kind and especially prayerful person,” Sister George Mary said. “She always has a ready smile for all. A wonderful teacher, she loved all of her students, retaining friendships throughout the years and still encouraging them on life’s journey. I consider her a dear friend who has also mentored me much in life.”