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Meet Sister George Mary Hagan and the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph

TAMMIE BEASLEY

Messenger Staff





I met Sister George Mary Hagan in 1988 when I began working at the Staff Chaplain’s Office at Fort Knox, Kentucky. Sister George Mary was the Director of Religious Education, a position she held from 1984 until her retirement in 2004. Sister and I became fast friends as well as co-workers. I am not of the Catholic faith but I did have some knowledge of it as I had a grandmother who was Catholic and friends who were Catholics. I learned a lot more about the Catholic faith as well as other religions when I went to work at the chaplain’s office. Sister George Mary became a cherished friend to me and my family. Along the way, she gained the reputation for knowing just about everyone so I am sure that many people in Meade County may know her as well.

When Sister retired from her position at Fort Knox, she went to live at the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph Motherhouse at Maple Mount, Kentucky, which is only about 10 miles from Owensboro. She worked part-time as the Director of Religious Education at St. Alphonsus Catholic Church which is located across the highway from the Mount Saint Joseph Motherhouse from 2005 to 2009 and served as the driver to take the Ursuline sisters to doctor appointments and other errands. When she joined the Noviate nearly 50 years before, she had attended Mass at St. Alphonsus. When she walked back in as the Director of Religious Education, she said she felt as though her entire life had passed by since she first walked through those doors. In 2009, Sister left her ministry at St. Alphonsus but continues to serve as a driver.

Working in a distillery for a year and spending 20 years on an Army base at Fort Knox is not on the typical resume of an Ursuline Sister, but then again, there’s not much typical about Sister George Mary Hagan. Sister George Mary was born Francis Lucille Hagan in the area of bourbon makers, train whistles and scenic beauty at New Haven, Kentucky, near Bardstown, Kentucky. Sister was called Trudy by her whole family. The story goes that her namesake, Aunt Lucille, took one look at her and said, “Oh she’s a Trudy” and the name stuck.

When she joined the Ursuline Sisters in 1955, it was customary for a Sister to take a parent’s name as her own and since her father was George and her mother Mary, that became her name. After Vatican II, sisters were allowed to return to their baptismal names if they chose, but Sister did not have a reason to since no one called her Frances or Lucille.

Her father was a telegraph operator for the L&N Railroad for 50 years in New Haven. It was a thrill for Sister and her siblings to get a pass to ride the train to Louisville. Her mother raised eight children, two of whom died when they were small.

After graduating high school, Sister went to work as a secretary at the J.W. Dant distillery in Gethsemane and worked with a lot of different type people there. When the distillery closed after a year, she started taking classes at Ursuline College in Louisville on weekends and began teaching at St. Joseph School in Bardstown. She enjoyed teaching and decided she wanted to do it for the Lord. She said she had been thinking of becoming a sister her whole life and being taught by the Ursuline Sisters for 12 years in New Haven led her to choose the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph. Sister was almost 21 when she joined the novitiate, just a few years older than her classmates just out of high school. She said she was glad to have the extra years to mature and have more life experiences, which she believes gave her more confidence that she was making the right choice.

Her first teaching job as an Ursuline Sister was in 1958 at St. Peter of Alcantara in Stanley, Kentucky. She spent a year there and over the next 11 years would teach at five other small schools in Kentucky, most of them within an hour of the Mount. She played the organ so she said they were always moving her around. She then taught at St. Anthony School in Axel, Kentucky. After leaving S