For Cathy’s Grandmother

This blog is blessed with some thoughtful and articulate commenters. There are times when I think the format of the blog should be reversed, with the comments on top, our posts beneath them, as footnotes. Now is one of those moments. We just received an extraordinary account from cathyf in response to a post yesterday about St. Angela Merici, whose feast day it was. Please read her story.

Cathy writes:

In 1928, my grandmother was 13 years old. Her father had recently died, her older sister had died a few years before, and a brother and sister had died in infancy. My great grandmother had more or less a nervous breakdown.

My grandmother is descended from the English Catholic recusants who emigrated to Maryland in the 1600s and then to Kentucky in the 1780s. In the 1880, the Ursulines founded a girls’ school in Owensboro, KY, and her ancestors donated money and land for the school. One donated so much that any female direct descendants could go there for free. So my great grandmother sent her two surviving daughters (my grandmother’s sister was 11) to Mount St. Joseph as boarders.

My grandmother always said that those years from 8th-12th grade were the happiest in her life, and despite Thomas Wolfe, she proved that some people, at least, can go home again. When she retired, some 45 years after graduating and moving across the country and never even visiting, she found a senior housing complex down the road from the nuns and moved “home.” She spent lots of time at The Mount, until 12 years ago when the ever encroaching Alzheimers forced my parents to move her away from KY to be near them.

My grandmother passed away in the early hours this morning, at 94 years old, most appropriately on St. Angela Merici’s feast day. I’m sure that she was welcomed by St. Angela, just as 80-some years ago St. Angela’s spiritual daughters welcomed her and mothered her as she so sorely needed.


    Cathy, what a moving tribute to your grandmother and to the nuns who mothered her in her 'orphan years.' Can you describe for us any details of her daily life living under the protective wings of these nuns?? What was the charism of St. Angela Merici? I would love to hear more Cathy. Thank you.

  • El Bollio Tejano

    Magnificent story to start the day.

  • cathyf

    ML, I don't know anything about those years, other than that she was happy. Before the Alzheimers took her mind, she had an encyclopedic knowledge of Daviess County Catholics. One time in the mid-80s we got on a city bus and within minutes she had established how she was related to the driver and each of the other 1/2-dozen passengers. So in Owensboro she was always surrounded by family.(Oh, and the dangers of late-night writings… I do know that it was Hardy not Wolf who said "you can't go home again"!)

  • Webster Bull

    Cathy,Your editor at YIMC has your back. (Hardy har har)

  • Maria

    The Ursulines were the very first women's order to teach, with Catechism as their primary Apostalate.

  • Webster Bull

    Thanks again, Cathy. Your story reminds me of my maternal grandmother, Mary Morrison, of whom I wrote here. She is my only near ancestor who was Catholic, and like me she converted late in life (later than me). Her second husband used to joke to her that he wouldn't be cold in the ground before she became a Catholic, and he wasn't far wrong. The last time I saw her, she said, "Dearie, someday soon you will hear that I have died, and I just want you to know that I know that I will be fine."