Sisters serving alone hope to spread Ursuline seeds

Sister Laurita Spalding helps a second-grade student with a math problem at Holy Name School in Henderson, Ky. in 2011.

Sister Laurita Spalding, a teacher at Holy Name School in Henderson, Ky., said, ‘Being true to  myself in my daily dealings with students,  parents  and parishioners with whom I serve, hopefully, that (Ursuline) spirit is already apparent.”

Her entire 46-year ministry has been in an elementary classroom. “I feel that a classroom filled with ‘eager minds’ is an ideal place to plant seeds that will help the charism of the Ursulines grow now and for years to come,” Sister Laurita said. “I only pray that I can spark the spirit of simplicity and prayerfulness in all I touch through my teaching and through my ministry.”

Some of the sisters who are ministering by themselves are in small communities in western Kentucky where there are few Catholics.

Sister Alicia Coomes plays her guitar as server Michael Turner holds her music during the Feast of Corpus Christi at St. Ambrose Church, Henshaw, Ky.

Sister Alicia Coomes is the director of liturgy for parishes in Marion, Henshaw and Sturgis. “I am not just the only Ursuline, but the only woman religious in the two counties I serve, Union and Crittenden,” she said. “If people are going to know and experience the Ursuline charism, I have to be the one who helps them do that.

“I believe the gifts of hospitality and welcome are very present in my ministry of music and liturgy,” Sister Alicia said. “More recently I have found that Angela’s care for the widows/widowers has been an example for me as I have been present to a number of them.  Their need to just have someone to talk with is so very important.”

Sister Alicia invites other parishioners to join her in visiting the homebound. “This not only brings more of the faith community to the homebound, but helps the companion see what I am doing in my ministry among them,” she said. “It helps them to see the necessity of ministry to the homebound as essential to parish life.”

Another avenue is playing with and being present to children. “I don’t ‘teach’ religious education, but I am there before their classes to pray with them,” she said. “After Masses I try to be attentive to the little ones, whether that be the babies or the younger girls I let ‘play’ my guitar.”

She also finds it important to join in family times, whether for meals or to watch a University of Kentucky ballgame with them.

“The families here really want me to be a part of their lives in more ways than just ‘church’ time,” Sister Alicia said. “I feel very blessed by their welcome and inclusion in their families.”

Sister Teresa Riley, left, shares a smile with Shirley Mangan at the Calvert City (Ky.) Convalescent Center on March 6.

Sister Teresa Riley is carrying on a 30-year Ursuline tradition of serving in outreach in Benton.

“I continue to try to do this by following the example given us by Jesus Christ, living a simple life and being present to those with whom I come into contact, as I think Angela did,” Sister Teresa said. “Although there are few Catholics in Benton, I feel very much accepted by people of different faiths for who I am. When I first came to Benton to live about 2 ½ years ago, many people who are not Catholic said to me, ‘Are you our new sister?’ That gave me a feeling of belonging right away, and it helped me to know that the sisters who have preceded me have ‘sown good seeds.’”

Sister Teresa is fortunate to be in close contact with the very active Western Kentucky Associates, who meet four or five times a year for prayer, discussion and support.

Sister Martha inside St. Jerome Church in Fancy Farm, Ky.

Aside from being director of vocation ministry for the Ursuline Sisters, Sister Martha Keller is also pastoral associate at St. Jerome Parish in Fancy Farm.

“I am always looking for opportunities to share my life as an Ursuline Sister,” she said. “I have been a part of the summer youth camp here at Saint Jerome, called ‘Camp Connect.’ The service to the Catholic community and beyond was quite impressive. The event offers what I would consider ‘Ursuline-like’ opportunities to promote service, formation in the faith and community building. I am looking forward to participating again this summer.

“I also jump at the chance to speak about my vocation as a sister,” Sister Martha said. “I spoke to the second-grade parish religious education program when invited to respond to their question, ‘What is an Ursuline Sister?” It was a humorous and touching experience. They were very interested in where I live in Fancy Farm, and when I said my home faces the ball diamond, they said they knew exactly where to find me.”

Sister Martha strives daily to create an atmosphere of hospitality in her ministry among the people and readily prays with others in various situations.

“I strive to live a life of simplicity, sharing my space and anything that is needed to assist others in their needs,” she said. “I find myself looking for ways to build community and find that this faith community of St. Jerome readily initiates and strives to build a sense of community. I try to be visible within the community through participating in church events, public gatherings and family gatherings. The community is family-orientated and I am welcomed into their homes and family events frequently.”