The Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph celebrated their 100th anniversary as an independent community Oct. 13 with the sisters who gave them their start, their “city cousins” from the east, the Ursuline Sisters of Louisville.
“When I was first told that the city cousins were coming, I said, ‘Are we going to pray in English or in German?’” said the Most Rev. William Medley, bishop of the Diocese of Owensboro, who celebrated Mass with both communities. “We can laugh about that now after 100 years.”
The Ursulines of Louisville came down the Ohio River via flatboat to what is now Maple Mount in 1874 to open Mount Saint Joseph Academy. Over the next 20 years, several of the Academy graduates wanted to join the Ursuline Sisters, but did not want to move to Louisville, where the sisters spoke primarily German. An English-speaking novitiate was opened at Maple Mount in 1895.
When an effort was put in place to close the novitiate at Maple Mount beginning in 1910, the sisters petitioned Rome to become an independent community. That permission was granted on Oct. 12, 1912, creating the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph.
To celebrate the Centennial, all of the Ursuline Sisters of Louisville were invited to Maple Mount for Mass, lunch and bunco. More than 25 Ursulines from Louisville came, and were surprised when after Communion, they were each embraced with a prayer shawl by an Ursuline of Mount Saint Joseph. Sisters, Ursuline Associates and friends have been working on the shawls all year so that every Ursuline of Louisville could have one. Extra shawls were sent back to Louisville for those sisters who could not attend.
During his homily, Bishop Medley talked about the human need to belong to a community larger than ourselves. “Today we gather under the Ursuline flag,” he said. “The real flag of the Ursuline Sisters is the cross of Jesus Christ.”
He spoke of the children taught by the sisters who carry the Ursuline charism wherever they go. (Bishop Medley was taught by the Ursulines of Mount Saint Joseph in St. Francis, Ky.) In all that they do, Ursuline Sisters are “still renewing the face of the earth,” he said.
Referencing the Gospel reading, Bishop Medley said, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these, you did for me. Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam,” which means ‘To the greater glory of God.”
“How beautiful you all look,” Sister Sharon Sullivan, congregational leader of the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph, told the sisters from Louisville. “You have been our mothers, our city cousins, our neighbors, our friends and our travel agents for the flatboat trip down the Ohio River. Yet we have always been sisters, sharing Saint Angela’s DNA, and sharing the mission of Christ.”
She spoke of the sisters in Louisville planting the saplings in 1874 that gave birth to the community today. “Perhaps it was a painful birth, but what births aren’t?” Sister Sharon said. “We are sending extra prayer shawls home with you to wrap, enfold and support each other in prayer and love.”
The sisters went to the dining room for lunch and bunco. Sister Lynn Jarrell, president of the Ursuline Sisters of Louisville, told the sisters of Mount Saint Joseph, “Your faithfulness has been an inspiration to all of the Louisville Ursulines. Well done, faithful daughters of Angela Merici.” She then presented the sisters with a lithograph of St. Joseph Hall, the first building at Maple Mount, which the Louisville Ursulines commissioned for the Centennial. “You’ll all be getting greeting cards with this lithograph on it,” she said.
St. Joseph Hall is now part of the Mount Saint Joseph Conference and Retreat Center.
Following a few games of bunco, the sisters from Louisville returned home. The next day, Oct. 14, the Ursulines of Mount Saint Joseph celebrated with Mass and the game “100 Years of Hysteria,” in which sisters were given historical items from the museum and instructed to build a story around them.
The Centennial year continues until Dec. 31, with fasting and prayer service days on Nov. 12 and Dec. 12, and the culmination of Centennial Service Projects that have been ongoing all year.