Interviewed by Sharon Cecil, SCNA
May 9, 2016
William Martin Burns and Mary Thelma Maratta Burns had five children born two years apart. Then there was a span of five years before they became the proud parents of twins born on April 2, 1936, in Louisville, Kentucky. They named them Blanche Eleanor and Paul. Blanche’s other brothers were William Jr., Richard, Phil and Charles. Her sisters were Patricia, Mary, Jean and Catherine. Blanche’s sisters entered the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, Mary in 1947 and Jean in 1949. However, Jean withdrew after eighteen years.
Blanche had loving and caring parents. Her dad owned Burns Motor Company and later it became Burns Ford dealership. Her mom had a housekeeper who did all the housework except the cooking. Blanche’s brother-in-law owned a meat market so the Burns family always had fresh meat.
Blanche’s parents did not have a lot of extra money since they were raising ten children. All the children worked when they were old enough. But Blanche’s father always helped anyone who was in need.
The Burns family lived in a six bedroom, two bath home on East Magnolia in Louisville, Kentucky. Blanche’s mom wanted her children to walk to school so the family moved around the corner to a home on South Floyd. The children were able to walk across the street to St. Philip Neri School.
Blanche and her twin were called Sissy and Bubby at home so when they began school they did not respond when their names were called. The teacher called their parents and asked why they did not respond when their names were called? Their Mom told them they were to respond to the names Blanche and Paul at school. Blanche and Paul would ask to go to the restroom and then they would walk out the door and go home. Their Dad would then take them back to school. Finally, the teachers caught on to what they were doing and would walk them to the restroom!
During high school Blanche worked at the parish office of St. Philip Neri; she counted and recorded the Sunday collection. In the summer months she worked at her dad’s car dealership. Throughout her grade and high school years Blanche played volleyball and bowled for her school. She also took piano lessons for six years. Blanche went to her senior prom at Presentation High School.
Blanche and a group of her high school friends were always together and were mischievous. They were called The Frivolous by Sister Ann Patrick McShane. The girls had tee shirts and put Pres’s Frivolous on them. Later, when Blanche was a Sister, she attended the wake service of Sister Ann Patrick and told the story of the tee shirts. A niece of Sister Ann Patrick asked if she could have the shirt and Sister Charles Mary gave it to her.
Blanche’s brothers were salesmen for their dad and one was a policeman who later worked in an office at the Ford Motor Company in Louisville. Two of her brothers went to high school at the seminary. One went to St. Meinrad in Indiana and one went to St. Mary’s in Marion County in Kentucky. Her sister Mary worked at the telephone company and her youngest sister, Catherine, worked at a car dealer.
Blanche’s sisters entered the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, Mary in 1947, and Jean in 1949; but they did not encourage her to join the community. It was the example of her mom being a daily communicant that influenced her. She too was a daily communicant. Blanche felt she chose to join the Sisters of Charity rather than another community because her sisters were already a part of that community.
Blanche entered the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth on September 24, 1954 and received the habit on July 18, 1955. She made first vows on July 19, 1957 and perpetual vows on July 19, 1960. She chose Charles Mary as her religious name. Her name was in honor of her mother, Mary and four year old brother, Charles.
In the novitiate Sisters Charles Mary made the rosary side beads that the Sisters wore. She did this for three years and enjoyed it. She found it easy to do because she had been making rosaries since she was in the sixth grade.
Memphis, Tennessee was where Sister Charles Mary began her first mission in 1957. She taught the first grade. A fun time she had here was after a big snowfall, a lay teacher brought sleds to the convent and she and the parish priest pulled the Sisters around on the sleds. What a good time they had!!!
St. Joseph in Tiltonsville, Ohio was Sister Charles Mary’s next mission. She was here from 1967 until 1973. She taught grades one and two and each summer, working with Trinitarian priests, she taught Bible School. She made her first Cursillo retreat while in Ohio. In 1973, St. Joseph closed and Sister Charles Mary went to Spalding College to work on her Master’s degree.
Sister Charles Mary lived with her mother while she was studying. She also was a lab teacher for student teachers for the nursery and kindergarten that was being developed at Spalding College. She did this until 1989.
In August of 1989, Sister Charles Mary began a sabbatical at Marist College in Dayton, Ohio. She took Hospice training courses for two months then returned to Louisville where she did substitute teaching while on her sabbatical.
Nazareth Home in Louisville was Sister Charles Mary’s next mission. She worked in Community Service as a contact person for two years, leaving in December of 1992.
Fancy Farm, Kentucky is where we find Sister Charles Mary going next. She worked in senior outreach ministry for the parish of St. Jerome. She served on the American Red Cross Board and was involved with activities of the Daughters of the American Revolution. She left Fancy Farm in May 1996.
Sister Charles Mary went to Owensboro, Kentucky in May of 1996 until December of 1997. She worked for Hospice for a year. She told of having to feed her patients breakfast and supper. She shared the story of one lady telling people that the Sister who brought her breakfast was nice but the Sister who brought her supper was mean. (Sister Charles Mary must have a double personality)
In January of 1998, Sister Charles Mary became Director of Transportation for the Motherhouse. She was in charge of providing transportation for 150 Sisters with 35 cars and 12 drivers. This was very challenging for her. Sister Charles Mary worked with the Conway Ford dealer in Bardstown when she needed cars. Bill Conway, one of the owners, had been trained by her brother.
Sister Charles Mary told of being called for Nelson County jury duty while transportation director. She requested to be excused stating that she was responsible for the cars at Nazareth. She stated that she worked with insurance companies when wrecks occurred and communicated with the police. She was excused from jury duty.
Sister Charles Mary retired from active ministry in 2008. However, she continued as a volunteer for Hospice and at Nazareth Village. An honor that Sister Charles Mary is very proud of is being named a Kentucky Colonel. A significant event for her was moving from her Nazareth Village apartment to Carrico Hall in 2016.
Sister Charles Mary tries to make a retreat each year when her health permits it. She has attended some of the Associate weekends and is supportive of the Associate Relationship. Sister Charles Mary has only two siblings living. Six siblings died with cancer and one with a heart attack. Her sister, Sister Mary, lives at Nazareth Home in the Alzheimer’s unit. Sister Charles Mary visits her often.
Today Sister Charles Mary takes each day as it comes. She tries to keep smiling. Recently she has started driving for some of the Sisters.