Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Nashville native celebrates 70 years as cloistered nun

Sister Mary Joseph, O.P., who grew up in St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Nashville, recently celebrated the 70th anniversary of her joining the community at the Dominican Monastery of St. Jude in Marbury, Alabama. During her 70 years as a religious, Sister Mary Joseph has twice served as the Mother Prioress at St. Jude.

(The Marbury community is beloved to me. Below is the full article from the Tennessee Register -- I couldn't get the picture to copy.)

Briana Grzybowski
Religious sisters have been a constant part of Mary Louise Orr’s life. She was educated by the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament from her elementary school days at St. Vincent de Paul School in Nashville all the way through her time as a student at Xavier University in New Orleans. Their influence inspired her to enter the religious life herself in 1947, and June 10, 2017, she celebrated the 70th anniversary of the day she joined the convent, under the name Sister Mary Joseph of the Infant Jesus. Sister Mary Joseph and her siblings were in the minority when she was growing up. They were African-Americans attending segregated schools in the time of Jim Crow and were surrounded by Protestant neighbors. Their mother was Baptist. But she and her siblings were Catholic and attended St. Vincent de Paul Church and School, which had been established by St. Katharine Drexel and the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, the order she founded to serve African Americans and American Indians. Growing up, Sister Mary Joseph thought the religious life was the special niche that God has carved out for her. From the time she was in elementary school, she told her parents that she wanted to be a nun, and she followed that calling throughout her formative years. “After deciding that God was calling
me to the religious life, I had to consider what type of order I wanted to join,” she said. “I really did not feel drawn to teaching as the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament did, or to nursing, as some
Sisters did. I discussed the matter with the principal of the high school (Immaculate Mother Academy), Mother Ignatio. She listened and went to one of the book shelves and handed me a book. It was the life of the Little Flower, St. Therese of the Child Jesus. I read it, and sure enough, it hit the spot. Her contemplative life was the life I felt God was calling me to.” A visit to the Dominican Monastery of St. Jude in Marbury, Alabama, confirmed her decision. The monastery had just been established three years earlier and was the first cloistered convent open to women from minority racial backgrounds. “I went to Xavier University in New Orleans for one year. During my spring break, the Sisters encouraged me to stop by the Dominican Monastery of St. Jude in Marbury, which was newly founded. I met Mother Mary Dominic. It was love at first sight. She was kind and gentle, and listened with full attention. She accepted me for the postulancy. After I got home, Mother sent me the necessary paperwork. I entered the Dominican cloister on June 10, 1947.” She took the name Mary Joseph, after the name of one of Mother Mary Dominic’s close friends. “Mother Mary Dominic had a friend, a nun, who was a beautiful Religious,” she said.  “Mother used to tell us stories about this Sister. Her name was Sister Mary Joseph. I admired her so much and wanted to imitate her. Mother Mary Dominic
took note of it. I was delighted, when I received my religious name, to be told I would henceforth be called Sister Mary Joseph of the Infant Jesus.” Since then, Sister Mary Joseph’s life has been one of contemplation, silence, and constant prayer. The Sisters pray the Liturgy of the Hours six times a day, attend daily Mass, pray the Angelus three times daily, and devote significant amounts of time to spiritual study, reading, and doing work around the convent.  “Our ministry is prayer,” she explained. “Contemplatives are to be at the heart of the Church, as St. Therese put it, for the whole Mystical Body of Christ. In His own mysterious way, God uses our hidden life as a source of grace for others.” Sister Mary Joseph strongly encourages all young Catholics to prayerfully consider entering the priesthood or religious life. “Pray every day to the Holy Spirit and the Blessed Mother,” she said. “Especially pray the Rosary asking for guidance in choosing the vocation that is God’s will for you.” During her 70 years, Sister Mary Joseph has twice served as Mother Prioress at St. Jude. The anniversary Mass at St. Jude Monastery, which was attended by family and friends, many of them from Nashville, was celebrated by Bishop Joseph Perry, an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Chicago and a cousin. 

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Nashville native celebrates 70 years as cloistered nun

Sister Mary Joseph, O.P., who grew up in St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Nashville, recently celebrated the 70th anniversary of her joining th...

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