Ursulines honored with three-day event in Marion County

The Most Rev. Charles Thompson, bishop of the Diocese of Evansville, Ind., speaks to those gathered for Mass on April 27 at St. Augustine Parish in Lebanon to kick off the weekend of celebration for the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph. Bishop Thompson grew up in Marion County and was taught by the Ursuline Sisters.

The ceremonies began April 27 with a 6 p.m. Mass celebrated at St. Augustine by the Most Rev. Charles Thompson, the new bishop of the Diocese of Evansville, Ind. Bishop Thompson was taught by the Ursulines at St. Francis of Assisi.

On April 28, all the sisters who taught or who are from Marion County were invited to a reception at the St. Augustine Parish Center. There are 37 living sisters who ministered there and seven more who are natives. Of those, 19 sisters were present, with several other sisters who came to show their support.

Jane Ballard was a planning volunteer from Holy Cross Parish, and recalled having Sister Sylvester Marie Allen as her 8th grade teacher at Holy Cross and Sister Cordelia Spalding at St. Francis High School. “Sister Mary Carl taught me and she later taught my daughter at Marion County High School,” Ballard said.

As was the case throughout the day, many memories were shared. Ballard and Sister Emma Cecilia Busam recalled the day in the late 1950s when Holy Cross School caught on fire while Sister Emma Cecilia was watching the students during the lunch hour.

Sister Sharon Sullivan, congregational leader of the Ursuline Sisters, hands a plaque to Hugh Spalding honoring his 37 years as superintendent of the Marion County Schools, and for being a “super hero” to the Ursuline Sisters. Looking on are Judge-Executive John G. Mattingly and Sister Mary Lois Speaks.

A special part of the celebration was honoring Hugh Spalding, who was superintendent of the Marion County Schools for 37 years. When an effort was made to prohibit the Ursuline Sisters from continuing to teach in the public schools, Spalding went to the state capital to fight for the sisters’ right to keep teaching, and was successful. Spalding will turn 100 this August and was presented a plaque by Mattingly that called him a “super hero” of the Ursuline Sisters.

Sister Alfreda Malone, a native of “Little St. Joe” in Marion County, was Spalding’s secretary for seven years before she joined the Ursulines. She was present for the April 28th events.

Among the volunteers were Ursuline Associates Sid Mason and Pat Wilson, who made the trip from far western Kentucky to help. They are longtime friends of Sister Mary Lois and Troutman. “It’s wonderful to hear all the good things people are saying about the sisters,” Mason said. “Sometimes you’re gone before people say these things.”

Associate Phyllis Troutman dances with Terry Thomas as The Monarchs played.

More than 50 people were present for the afternoon reception, and about 150 filled the Centre Square later that evening for a dinner and dance that featured the legendary Louisville band, The Monarchs. During a break in the action, State Rep. Terry Mills read a proclamation approved in the Kentucky House of Representatives honoring the Ursuline Sisters. “I went to St. Charles for 12 years,” Mills said. “The sisters taught me how to spell and how to diagram a sentence. Today, when anyone asks me how to spell something, I straighten up.” Mills said the most important lesson the sisters taught him was humility.

Also during the break, the first of 100 special edition bottles of Maker’s Mark bourbon was auctioned off for $300 to the high bidder, Mo Edelen. The bottle has the wax seal in Ursuline colors of blue and yellow, with a stamp that says “1912-2012” and the inscription, “In Recognition of 100 Years, Ursuline Sisters Ministry in Marion County.” Later in the evening, Dennis Russ of Springfield, Ky., won a quilt completed by Ursuline Sister Eva Boone in honor of Sister Cordelia Spalding, who taught in Marion County.

Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of the Archdiocese of Louisville, right, Deacon Dennis May, center, and Bishop William Medley, bishop of the Diocese of Owensboro, prepare for the entrance procession for the Mass on April 29th honoring the Ursuline Sisters.

On April 29, Mass was concelebrated by Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of the Archdiocese of Louisville, and Bishop William Medley, leader of the Diocese of Owensboro who was taught by Ursuline Sisters at St. Francis of Assisi. It was Good Shepherd Sunday, and Kurtz quoted the philosopher Carl Jung, who said, “In the mystery of self-sacrifice, a person discovers anew their life.”

“The vow of poverty, chastity and obedience the sisters take is making Christ, and Christ as he appears in others, the center of their lives,” Kurtz said. “We acknowledge all the places the Ursuline Sisters have put the needs of others ahead of their own.”

The Ursuline Sisters memorial, with the David R. Hourigan Government Office Building in the background.

Following Mass, those present walked three blocks to the David R. Hourigan Government Office Building for the unveiling and dedication of the monument to the Ursuline Sisters. The monument features two stones with a cross between them. One stone honors the Ursuline founder, Saint Angela Merici on one side, and features a star on the back with the words from Daniel, 12:3, “Those who lead the many to justice shall shine like stars for all eternity.” The other stone has the Ursuline logo and honors the service in Marion County, and has the Ursuline Coat of Arms on the back. The cross has the Ursuline core values of Prayer, Service, Justice, Empowerment and Contemplative Presence.

There are smaller stones that list each city and parish where Ursuline Sisters served. In all, there have been 1,583 assignments to Marion County, Sister Mary Lois said.

Kurtz said it was fitting that the monument was in a public square. “Not only in our Church, but in our society, we are blessed by the service of the sisters,” he said. Sister Sharon Sullivan, congregational leader, compared the people of Marion County with being the loom on which a beautiful garment was crafted.

The ceremony ended with several of the sisters present singing “The Hymn to Saint Angela,” the official centennial hymn, and “The Magnificat.” A reception followed in the government building.

Photos from the three-day event: