Ursuline Sisters of Louisville  
 
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Jubilarians
YEAR:  
Sister Jean Anne Zappa, OSU
1968-50 years
Current Ministry:Mission Advancement Coordinator at Shively Area Ministries, Louisville

Previous Ministries:Religion Teacher, Angela Merici High School, Sacred Heart Academy (both in Louisville), religion department chair at SHA, Director of Mission Effectiveness of the newly incorporated Ursuline Campus Schools, Pastoral Associate at St. Athanasius Parish in Louisville Councilor for Ursuline Sisters, President of Ursuline Sisters, intern at Network in Washington D.C .

Much like a team that has just won the Super Bowl, when asked what she wants to do if she ever retires, Sister Jean Anne Zappa answers, “Go to Disney World!” In fact, when she turned 65 in 2015, she participated in the Disney Princess 10k at the Magic Kingdom. “Some folks get depressed about age; I want to celebrate it,” says Sister Jean Anne. She appreciates the Disney mindset. “I went there for a leadership workshop about six years ago,” she recalled. “Their mission is simple—keep people happy and safe.”

When you spend a little time with Sister Jean Anne, you begin to understand why this makes perfect sense for this Ursuline Sister who is celebrating her 50th Jubilee this year. She is a self-described “Italian extrovert” who freely gives hugs and has a warm smile for everyone she meets, bestowing on each person the gift of feeling loved and appreciated.

A native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Sister Jean Anne grew up in a large Catholic Italian family with five children. She lived only eight blocks from Ursuline Academy, from which she graduated in 1967. She credits the Ursuline Sisters there with her decision to join the Ursuline Sisters of Louisville. She said they inspired her not so much by what they did, but how they did it. She also gives a lot of credit to her family who nurtured her call to religious life. She says her family lived hospitality, generosity and service through their actions. Her first call came from God, through them, from their example of love.

When asked what she is passionate about, Sister Jean Anne answers, “Life! Relationships and people.” Her ministry through the years has been evidence of this, as well as her enthusiasm, joy and energy. She entered the Ursuline community in 1967, during a period of great change in the Catholic Church and in the Ursuline community as a result of Vatican II. Religious communities were told to renew themselves, to go deep into their charism.

Sister Jean Anne recalls, “It was an exciting time—there was a buzz around the community.” As a novice, she was asked to step in to be the chair of the vow committee when the chairperson got sick, and that was so exciting to her. Sister said that is a perfect example of how her ministry changed over the years; always by invitation from others. The Ursuline Sisters did this by drawing out her gifts, and she states that, “I have been blessed and have received many graces as an Ursuline Sister. I have experienced God’s fidelity, wonderful relationships, and have had spiritual opportunities that have touched and shaped my life tremendously.”

With a bachelor’s from Bellarmine and a master’s from St. Meinrad School of Theology, Sister Jean Anne taught for twenty years, and then served in pastoral work, and terms in Leadership, as well as an internship with Network in Washington, D.C., Sister Jean Anne has been with Shively Area Ministries (SAM) as Mission Advancement Coordinator since 2009. SAM responds to persons in poverty and crisis in the 40216 zip code in Louisville. It provides food, financial assistance, education and counseling to over 20,000 persons each year. In fact, it is the second largest food pantry in Kentucky.

During her tenure, Sister Jean Anne has played a key role in the success of SAM. She proposed, oversaw and completed a successful three-year capital campaign for SAM, exceeding the $600,000 goal, as well as raising an additional $23,000 to build a Habitat for Humanity house.

She also started a Partner in Ministry program, which began with 40 donors who contribute monthly, but is now up to 200 donors. Sister Jean Anne says, “I love the people we work with, and I love working with the donors, staff and volunteers.” Gary Copeland, the Executive Director of Shively Area Ministries, says, “Sister Jean Anne is well known to be an effective fundraiser because it comes from the heart. She has a passion and a commitment to our clients—what it takes to serve is what she does.”

Sister Jean Anne has also been a successful fundraiser for her own community, having most recently served as Chapel Preservation Coordinator for a 3.5 million dollar capital campaign that ensures the 100 year-old Motherhouse Chapel will be preserved into perpetuity.

Sister Jean Anne believes that Angela’s charism is a very strong charism— to have survived since 1535. She sees the future of the Ursuline Sisters of Louisville as evolving into something closer to the way Saint Angela and her original companions lived: freely among the people they serve, to be leaven to all.

Sister believes that the point of religious life is to share the charism with others, spread the gospel and serve the marginalized. Through her many and varied ministries over the years, Sister Jean Anne has definitely done just that.

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Sister Lelia Lee Kirchner, OSU
1948-70 years
Current Ministry: United Crescent Hill Ministries, Louisville and Centro Latino, Shelbyville, Kentucky
Previous Ministries: Teacher, St. George and St. Raphael schools (Louisville), Saints Peter and Paul school, Cumberland, MD, St. Raphael and St. Helen schools (Louisville) Co-founder of St. Angela Merici school in Carmen de la Legua, Peru, Pastoral ministry at San Miguel in Cajamarca, Peru

Sister Lelia Marie Kirchner (Sister Mary Placidus) celebrates her 70th Jubilee this year. She was born on June 13, 1929, the eighth of thirteen children born to Mary and John Kirchner, who raised the family on a farm in Lyndon, Kentucky. After the Great Depression and 1937 flood, the family had to give up the farm and move into the city, where they joined St. Joseph Parish.

Sister Lee (as she is called), recalls, “I missed the green, open countryside and spacious home on the farm, but I really loved being able to participate in school and church activities, which were not possible before, due to the distance.”

Sister Lee entered the Ursuline Community joyously after high school graduation from Ursuline Academy (UA) in Louisville and received the name Sister Mary Placidus on July 4, 1948. She taught at St. George and St. Raphael schools in Louisville while attending Ursuline College. Immediately following her final profession, she took a train to Cumberland, Maryland and taught second grade for five years at Saints Peter and Paul Parish School. She loved the community there. Always a sports lover, she tells the story that she and another Sister hung back after evening Mass to watch the Harlem Globetrotters from an upper window in the school gym, for which they did not have permission from their superior. She had to kneel on the carpet in front of the superior as punishment, but she said it was worth it to see the Globetrotters!

From Cumberland, Sister Lee then returned to Louisville to teach at St. Raphael and St. Helen parish schools for a total of thirteen years. While she enjoyed teaching and loved her students, she always carried in her heart a love for ministry with the poor and marginalized.

In 1963, Pope John XXIII asked religious communities to send 10% of their members to serve in Latin America. For several years, the Ursulines had sent out a questionnaire to the members asking if they would be interested in missionary work. Every year, Sister Lee would mark “yes”.
Sister Lee says that in 1964 she was “surprised, overjoyed and at the same time almost in a daze as I received by phone my obedience to go to Lima, Peru, with three other sisters to begin a mission there.” Sister Lee and Sister (Joseph Marie) Mary Martha Staarman were told that they were starting a school from scratch in what was a slum area, Carmen de la Legua. The other two Sisters would teach English at a Navy school. Neither Sister knew Spanish or the culture. She had some concerns, but deep in her heart she was very excited—this is what she had wanted all along! Sister Lee felt she was living like a queen in the U.S., and what she truly wanted was to be with the people that were living as “the other.” So, off she went on July 8, 1964, for the biggest adventure of her life.

After a three month crash course in Spanish (over time they became fluent in Spanish), Sister Lee and Sister Mary Martha set about their monumental task. Sister Lee recalls, “I felt so zealous until I saw our mission, Carmen de la Legua, which was a slum area of 30,000 poor families that lived along a dried-up bed of the Rimac River in straw huts and spoke another language. Oh, my Jesus, guide and keep me.” They had no electricity, running water, sewers, basic medical care or transportation. The area had a lot of mosquitos, scorpions and vermin, and disease was rampant.
In 1965, after a lot of red tape, they were able to open St. Angela Merici School. They started it with 75 children in two first grade rooms, one box of chalk and two erasers! Enrollment quickly grew as it was the only Catholic school in the area.

Sister Lee was with St. Angela Merici School from 1964 to 1988, including ten years as principal. Through her pastoral ministry she empowered Peruvians to take over leadership positions in the school, in women’s family programs and in youth/young adult groups. Sister cherishes the support they had from other missionaries, and especially from Sisters Joanna Krupa and Martin de Porres who became her soul mates.

Sister Lee embraced Vatican II’s views on Gospel values, particularly the preferential option for the poor, all while witnessing first-hand the struggles of her Peruvian friends. These experiences helped lead Sister Lee to a deeper trust in Jesus, and the courage to face all of the isolation and difficulties she faced while ministering in South America, including twelve years of revolution.

In 1988, Sister Lee moved to the rural mission of San Miguel in the Andes Mountains of Cajamarca, Peru, where she worked in pastoral ministry until 2005. Sister Lee says, “What a blessing it was to return to my country roots, and to be among humble, gifted, faithful people who lived contemplatively. Our sisters were the first religious group to ever share our lives with them and acknowledge their many gifts as leaders in the church and villages.

Sister Lee says that from 1964-2005, “I spent the most unbelievable, difficult, happy and rewarding years of my life. Forty-one years of every kind of experience enriched my spiritual journey of serving and sharing God among some of the poorest, unattended, struggling, faith-filled, happy people I know and love. In Peru I began to realize what my call as a religious really was.”

In 2005, Sister Lee returned to the states, where she continues in ministry. She and Sister Annunciata Muth serve at United Crescent Hill Ministries in Louisville, preparing meals on wheels and serving senior citizens who eat lunch there. Sister Lee also volunteers with Centro Latino in Shelbyville, Kentucky. Centro Latino is a non-profit organization that serves Latinos in five counties with legal assistance, donations of food, clothing and educational services. She helps coordinate their free clothes closet and leads 30 Latina women each month in prayers, reflections, sharing, and exercises that help to relieve stress and concerns of daily living.

Sister Lee’s personal symbol is a yellow butterfly, Sofia, for the wisdom of the Holy Spirit. What an appropriate symbol for a young girl who missed the outdoor life of her family farm, and then as an Ursuline missionary no doubt saw many yellow butterflies in the mountains of Peru, when riding on horseback to carry the Blessed Sacrament to a village or minister to a sick child. The butterflies must have seemed to her to be messengers from Heaven.

In closing, Sister Lee says, “My final thoughts are so full of love, gratitude, pardon and promises. I thank God for His faithfulness to me in my times of light and darkness. My family, friends, benefactors, Associates, and especially my Ursuline Sisters are the most precious gift I can appreciate, share and enjoy.”