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St. Elizabeth Parish honors their religious sisters and priests

St. Elizabeth Parish in the tiny community of Curdsville, Ky., is only 3 miles from Mount Saint Joseph, and the church was built just 13 years after the Ursuline Sisters arrived in western Daviess County.

Yet it was a surprise to Laquita McCarty to discover just how many young women who grew up in the parish went on to become religious sisters – 15 Ursulines of Mount Saint Joseph, plus a few more sisters in other communities.

“We have six priests from our parish, but I didn’t know we had so many sisters,” McCarty said. “We’re trying to get our history out for everyone to enjoy.”

It was McCarty’s idea to start the project earlier this year of identifying the religious from the parish, and she has received assistance from parishioner Sue Hamilton, a former Maple Mount employee. A history of the parish from 1987 listed only 10 religious sisters from the parish, but when McCarty asked Ursuline Sister Martha Keller for assistance, archival records at the Mount produced seven more sisters, McCarty said.

She and Hamilton are scrambling to gather and frame photos of all the sisters to place in the hallway of the St. Elizabeth parish hall by the first weekend of June 2024, before their pastor, Father Anthoni Ottagan, leaves for his new assignment. There are also plaques with the Sisters’ names, as well as a plaque for the priests from the parish.

The location of the photos is fitting for the Ursuline Sisters – the parish hall is the former St. Elizabeth School. The church opened in 1887, with the Ursulines opening the original school in 1911. Ursulines taught at the school until 1973.

The two living Ursuline Sisters from St. Elizabeth are Sisters Nancy Murphy and Jacinta Powers. The first school at the church was replaced by the current building when Sister Nancy was in the 8th grade, 1954-55.

“Before then, the Sisters who taught at the school lived at the Motherhouse,” Sister Nancy said. “The parents had to take turns driving the Sisters to school. I looked forward to riding with my daddy to pick up the nuns,” she said.

The school was so small that there were only two classrooms – one for students in first through fourth grades, the other for fifth through eighth. Each room had about 30 children, Sister Nancy said. In her class, there were five girls and three boys.

All of her teachers were Ursulines. It didn’t surprise Sister Nancy that so many vocations came from St. Elizabeth.

“If you look at places like Curdsville, Knottsville and New Haven (small Kentucky towns where Ursulines taught for decades), they were all influenced by the Sisters who taught there,” Sister Nancy said.

Sister Jacinta attended St. Elizabeth in the 1960s, and said there were always opportunities for holiness – May processions and church visits. One of her memories of her school days was having Sister Louis Marie “Luisa” Bickett as her fifth-grade teacher.

“We thought it was odd that she never came outside during recess,” Sister Jacinta said. “She stayed inside to listen to these records that weren’t music and weren’t in English. It turned out they were in Spanish,” she said. Sister Luisa did not return the following semester, instead becoming one of the first group of Ursulines to serve in South America.

The 15 Ursuline Sisters who came from St. Elizabeth are:

  • Sister DeLourdes Mattingly
  • Sister Genevieve Pike
  • Sister Elizabeth Kelley
  • The Purdy sisters – Sisters Dolorosa, Mary John and Jean Catherine. (A fourth Purdy sister, Sister Mary Ephrem, was an Ursuline of Louisville, making her final vows just a few months before the Ursulines of Mount Saint Joseph became an independent community.)
  • Sister Florentia Mahoney
  • Sister Mary Brigid Fulkerson
  • Sister Mary Clement Greenwell
  • Sister Charles Borromeo Calhoun
  • Sister Pauletta McCarty
  • Sister Vincent Mary Pryor (she served 26 years and left the community in 1978)
  • Sister Nancy Murphy
  • Sister Elaine Byrne
  • Sister Jacinta Powers

Sister Mary Patricia McCarty was a Franciscan Poor Clare, and Sister Martha Angelica Molohon was an Our Lady of Victory Missionary Sister.

The six priests from the parish are the three Powers brothers – Father Aloysius, Monsignor Bernard and Father Richard, uncles of Sister Jacinta – as well as Father Martin Mattingly, Father Carl McCarthy and Father Bruce McCarty, who is Laquita McCarty’s brother-in-law.

Laquita McIntyre grew up in St. Alphonsus Parish, where Ursuline Sisters taught her. She then attended Mount Saint Joseph Academy, graduating in 1974. Her class is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. Her late husband Steve McCarty was raised at St. Elizabeth, so Laquita McCarty joined the parish 48 years ago.




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