Mount Saint Joseph Academy alums gather for the first time in more than two years

After more than two years apart because of the Covid-19 pandemic, about 100 women who attended Mount Saint Joseph Academy returned to Maple Mount on Aug. 29, 2021, for Alumnae Weekend.

The festivities were held in the Mount Auditorium, which was decorated with a Mardi Gras theme. Because of an increasing number of Covid cases in the area, masks were required and social distancing encouraged as much as possible. The alums didn’t let the safety protocols dampen their enthusiasm for seeing old friends. The last Alumnae Weekend was in May 2019. It was moved to August this year because the Maple Mount campus was still closed until June.

There was plenty of dual celebrating going on. Classes who couldn’t celebrate their significant anniversaries last year were invited to do so this year. The class of 1970 brought 11 people to celebrate 50 years – plus one, while the class of 1971 had a dozen members.

Two sets of Maple Leaf Awards were also presented, since no winner could be selected in 2020. Every year since 2000, at least two graduates have been selected for the award, given to those who “personify the values of their Mount Saint Joseph education in contributions to their local faith communities, civic communities, and/or Mount Saint Joseph.”   

The first honoree was also the most senior graduate present – Sister Louis Marie “Luisa” Bickett, class of 1947. Sister Luisa volunteered to be among the first Ursuline Sisters to minister in South America in 1965, serving there until 1983. From 1984-2011, she served the Hispanic population in nearby Ohio County. Ever humble, Sister Luisa said, “If you hang onto this life until you’re 91, everyone will recognize you.”

The second honoree was Kathy Ford Young, A70, from Lebanon, Ky. She is a former Alumnae Association officer who continues to use her creative skills by decorating for Alumnae Weekend each year. She is very active in her community and served on the committee to celebrate 100 years of Ursuline education in Marion County in 2012. She was joined by her husband and daughter in receiving her award.

For the past several years, Maple Leaf Award winners were told in advance of their award, so they could invite family members. For the 2021 winners, the presenters deviated from that plan to surprise the recipients – knowing full well that they would both be in attendance.

The sisters Mary Costello, A65, and Phyllis Costello Bresnik A66, were presented the award for 2021. The two California residents always travel the farthest each year to attend Alumnae Weekend, and once again took on the role of staffing the registration desk. Even after winning the award, Mary returned to the desk for last-minute duties.

Divine intervention seemed to initially lead the two siblings to Maple Mount. Their father was in the military and was stationed in St. Louis during Phyllis’ eighth grade year. The girls had been to a different school for three years in a row and were craving stability for high school. Phyllis attended the eighth grade at Seven Holy Founders School, where the Ursuline Sisters taught, and her mother became friends with the Sisters. When Phyllis’ class visited the Mount for a field trip, Mary, who was a freshman in high school, went too, and the sisters begged their parents to allow them to attend the Academy. Now they are some of the most well-known alums who return each year.

In a 2009 article for “The New Mount,” Mary described why the siblings return each year.

“I think I have stayed in touch and come back so often because the Mount was not just a school to us. It really was our family. I am not saying that it was all roses, but the bottom line was that the Ursuline Sisters really loved us, and the girls really were like sisters to each other,” Mary said. “It gives me a very warm feeling to be welcomed back by the Ursuline Sisters.”

In some official business, three of the four officers of the Alumnae Association were re-elected to their roles – Stephanie Warren as president, Jennifer Speaks McGee as vice president and Paula Chandler Gray as treasurer. Carolyn Drury McCarty did not seek another term as secretary, and was replaced by Mary Danhauer, A71.

During the business meeting, the Alumnae Association approved a $500 donation for Casa Ursulina, the longtime Ursuline ministry in Chile where Sister Mimi Ballard, A66, serves. For the first time, they also approved a $500 donation to the Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition, the organization established by Sister Dianna Ortiz, the 1977 Academy grad who died earlier this year.

Here are photos from Aug. 29, 2021, followed by class photos.

Below are Mount Saint Joseph Academy class photos.