Above: The photo of S. Lucille (aka Teresa Vincent) in habit was taken after she made perpetual vows in 1956.
I am Sister Lucille Phipps. I was born on June the sixth, 1932 in Fancy Farm, KY to Anna Beulah and John Walter Phipps. I was the third child of five children. My Mother told me that when I was born I was a blue baby. She didn’t think I was going to make it. Dr. Merrit, the little country doctor in our town kept spanking me and spanking me, and finally I let out a scream. I have two brothers and two sisters. My older brother is James Thomas Phipps. We call him Tommy. The oldest girl is Mary Elsie Phipps. I am the third. After me comes my younger sister, Georgia Isabel Phipps. She goes by Georgia. My younger brother is John Walter Phipps, Jr. He goes by Jay. My two brothers are deceased and I have two sisters left.
The group photo is Sister with her siblings (L-R: Mary Elsie Nagel, Georgia Uyder, Tommie Phipps, Lucille, and sister-in-law Julie.
My father told me that he attended school during the winter months only. During the growing and harvesting season, he worked on the farm. He said that he went to school until Sr. Generose Bryan, SCN told him he was too old to come. My father was also a veteran of World War I. He didn’t talk about his experiences in the army. However, after leaving the army, he had health problems and often spent time in the Veterans’ Hospital. After he got out of the army, he went to an agricultural school here in Kentucky, but I don’t remember which one it was. His health wasn’t very good, as I said, and as a young child, I can remember his going to the hospital several times.
When they first married, my father and mother lived on a farm. Since my father’s health wasn’t good, the doctor told him that if he wanted to see his kids grow up, he’d better stop farming. It was a difficult decision for my father to leave the farm which he loved. He was blessed to get one of his family members to work the farm as a share-cropper. He would frequently go to the farm and we children would go with him. Our new home had a big garden and an orchard. We had enough land to have cows, pigs and chickens, so we had fresh vegetables, fruits, milk, eggs and meat.
My mother had to stop school after the fourth grade. She was about ten years old. Her mother died, and she had to stay home and take care of the family.
In the summer, all the children worked in the garden and orchard. My mother canned or dried every fruit and vegetable from the garden which we didn’t eat. Dad and the neighboring men butchered the animals for meat. Dad got a share of the corn and the wheat that grew on the farm. He would take this wheat and corn to the mill and have it ground into flour and cornmeal, which my mother made into bread and cornbread. We bought very little from the stores. My mother even made dresses for us girls from the sacks in which the flour and cornmeal were put.
One afternoon when I came home from school, my mother told me to go out into the garden and weed the pea-plants. I didn’t want to do this. I wanted to play. I did go to the garden, and as I pulled up the weeds I also pulled up the pea-plants, thinking I wouldn’t have to weed the pea-plants again. Of course, my mother was very displeased, and I felt the results. From that day until I came to the Novitiate, I never ate a pea.
We kids loved to go to the garden, pick a ripe tomato off the vine, rub the dirt off on our clothes and eat it. Also dropping the watermelon on the ground to break it and eating the inside of it, as well was going into the orchard and picking peaches or plums off the tree and eating them.
As we grew, we had the duty to feed the chickens, gather the eggs and clean the barn for the animals. On rainy days, we played in the hay-loft. We made tunnels with the bales of hay and played games through these tunnels. In the summer evenings, the kids in the neighborhood would gather and play games; baseball, Annie-over, kick- the- can, red rover, hide and go seek and many other games.
When the berries were ripe in the summertime, all the neighborhood kids went berry-picking. Our mothers would give us little pails with our lunch in them, then we would fill the pails with the berries we’d pick that day. We had lots of fun as we went through the fields, especially swinging across the creeks on the grapevines. When our pails were full, we would return home dirty and tired. Our mothers canned the berries or made jelly and jams with them.
I attended St. Jerome School in Fancy Farm, Kentucky. I liked school. It was a public school, and the teachers were SCNs. The parish owned the school, but the teachers were paid by the public school system. I remember that each room had a pot-belly stove in it which furnished the heat in the winter. On warm days, the big windows were raised so we could feel the fresh air.
On the first Saturday of August, the parish had a big picnic. It still does – it’s very famous. My mother had a big table, and we three girls helped wait on the people who came to our table.
My favorite teacher was Sister Jamesetta Bowling, SCN, who taught me in seventh grade. Some of us girls often stayed after school to help Sister. We made copies of different things on the jelly-pad. When we finished, we had purple from the jelly-pad all over our fingers. We didn’t have copy-machines in those days.
Sister Jamesetta taught us how to crochet. She was the first Sister I remember teasing and she was great at teasing us back!
After graduating from high school, three of us girls went to St. Helena School in Louisville. That was my first time of being away from home for any length of time. I was so homesick! I remember one Sunday writing home to my mother and telling her how bad it was. I lived at the Visitation Home which was a home for working girls. They served succotash, lima beans and corn mixed together. I had never had succotash before. I told my mother they even served left-overs on Sundays which was terrible! After I completed my courses at St. Helena’s, I had planned to go to Chicago where my older brother and sister had gone after they graduated. There, I would get a job. During Thanksgiving of that year, I went to Chicago to see where I would live and where I would work. I did not like Chicago! When I got back to Louisville, I spent a long time planning how to tell them I didn’t want to go to Chicago. At Christmas time, I went home. I’d been wrestling with what I really wanted to do. Suddenly, the day after Christmas, I decided I wanted to be a Sister. There was no such thing in those days as discernment. Everyone, even myself, was surprised. There were two other girls going to Nazareth, Sr. Joan Marie Garland and Sr. William Ann Hayden. We traveled to Louisville by train, then to Nazareth by bus on July 18, 1951. Sr. Mora Rose was our Postulant Mistress. She taught a class in Bardstown during the day and had charge of us when she returned to Nazareth in the afternoon. In the early days when I was a Postulant, the rising bell would ring at five o’clock. We would jump out of bed, kneel beside the bed and say, “Benedicamos Domino”. Then we’d answer ourselves and say,”Deo gracias”, splash water on our face, get dressed and run down to the chapel for morning prayers. It was a fast waking up! We enjoyed our time together as Postulants, then advanced to become Novices in July of 1951. Sr. Helen Frances was our Novice Director. As we got the habit, we also got a name. Before I went to Nazareth, my mother said to me, “Whatever you do, get a name I can pronounce. If you get a name like Stanislaus Koska, I’ll never be able to tell anyone what your name is.” So I was relieved when Sr. Helen Frances came to me and told me my name was Sr. Teresa Vincent. I liked that name and I had it for several years. My mother was pleased with that name. As novices, we waited on tables, worked in the laundry and washed pans in the big kitchen. I made first vows in July of 1953. I was sent to Bardstown, KY. to teach fifth grade at St. Joseph School. It was a new school, and when the children came on the first day, we had a classroom, but there were no books and no desks. So each child was assigned a square on the floor. That was their space and they couldn’t get out of that square. They accepted that situation very nicely. At the end of that week our new desks came. I lived at Bethlehem Convent where about twenty-five Sisters lived. Another young Sister and I were given the responsibility of the kitchen. We had to buy the food and make the menus. Neither one of us had ever done anything like that. We learned in a hurry. I was given charge of the altar boys which meant teaching them the Latin responses, scheduling their days of services and checking the surplices to make sure they were wearable. Have you ever tried to get boys to hang up their clothes when you aren’t present? Forget it!
My next assignment was at St. Agnes in Louisville, Ky. in 1956. My first year there, I taught the fifth grade. The following years, I taught the seventh grade and then the eighth. From my classroom, I could see over the cloister wall into the Carmelite yard. I was privileged to have the altar boys again! Altar boys were needed at all the Masses at St. Agnes Church and also at the Carmelite Monastery. St. Agnes was located near the Passionist Seminary. I couldn’t understand why one of those men didn’t have charge of the altar boys instead of me.
The photo of the two Sisters in habits are Sister Lucille (Right) and Sister Joan Marie Garland (Left). Sister Joan Marie was Sister Lucille’s girlhood friend.
After seven years at St. Agnes, I got a thin letter telling me that I was assigned to Newburyport, Massachusetts as principal and superior. I was sure that Mother Bertrand had made a mistake. During the summer, Sr. Ellen Miriam Grimes lived with us at St. Agnes as we all went to summer-school at Spalding University. We were about the same height, so I was sure Mother Bertrand got us mixed up. I made an appointment to see Mother Bertrand at Nazareth to straighten this matter out. You know how we used to sit on those benches waiting your turn to go in. Well, I sat there very sure of myself. Finally I went in to her office and she said, “What can I do for you, Sister?” I said, “I got this thin letter that says I’m to go to Newburyport, Massachusetts as principal and superior. You know that people get Sr. Ellen Miriam and me mixed up. I think you got us mixed up too.” She looked at me and said, “No, Sister, we did not make a mistake.” To my sorrow, it was true. When I got to Newburyport in 1963, I was very homesick. I had never been that far away from home. I loved the people and the children there. I had never seen the ocean before and it was a wonderful experience. Newburyport is very close to Maine, so we would often go there and eat our supper on the beach.
One day at school, we were having a fire drill. While we were out on the sidewalk, a lady came up to me and whispered, “John F. Kennedy has been assassinated.” I couldn’t believe it! When we got back in school, I notified all the teachers and we turned on the TV to get the sad news. I’ll never forget that day.
Another memory of Newburyport is that the children found my Kentucky accent very different. One day, I was giving out spelling words and noticed one girl who kept looking at me. I gave out another word, and she whispered to me, “Sister, does it hurt your jaws when you say that?”
In August of 1969, I went to Hyde Park, Massachusetts as principal. I was there only one year, but what I remember about that was that at the end of that year, I went to Bonaventure University to study Theology. It was a wonderful, wonderful change for me. I loved it there and after four years I got my Masters in Theology. At Bonaventure, they didn’t call it Theology but Sacred Science, because the teachers in New York could use it as credit that would be accepted in their schools. So my degree says “MA in Sacred Science”.
In August of 1970, I went to South Boston. While there, schools were being integrated. We all knew this was going to happen. So the pastor and the schoolboard decided to accept children into our school until a certain date. After that date, which was the date that integration went into effect, we would not accept any more students. The parents found that very, very difficult, so we had some very bad days because integration was very difficult in South Boston at that time.
One night, I was in the office working on something getting ready for the next day when the doorbell rang. I was the only one downstairs so I answered it. It was the past president of the schoolboard. He said, “Turn off those lights real fast!” So I did, even the lights on the front porch. He came in and said, “I just came from a meeting with some people, and I want to warn you. They are saying that your Community from the south sent you up here just to make sure our school got integrated. They are planning to kidnap you and tar and feather you as a warning not to integrate the school.” I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. After he left, I pondered, well what will I do? I called the pastor, James J. Cullinan – I’ll never forget him! I told him I had something I needed to talk to him about. He came over, and I told him the message the man had given me. He said to let him think about it. After a couple of minutes, he said, “When you go back and forth to school, make sure you are with some other Sisters. I will take care of the rest.” So whenever I left the convent or the school, I made sure I had a Sister to accompany me. The next morning, I observed that on each street corner, there was a man from the parish just standing there, making sure everything went all right. The three priests were also very visible, in front, in back, to the side and always there, watching everything. I am sure they were observing all that was going on. This went on for some time, until the tension got better, but I will always be grateful to our pastor for that.
I never told the Sisters about this, until just a couple of months ago. I talked with some of the Sisters who were there and are now retired here. They knew nothing about it.
After being in South Boston for seven years, I was very privileged to have a sabbatical in Rome, Italy. I attended what they called the “ARC Program”. The Apostolic Religious Communities got together and raised funds so that Sisters from their communities could go to Rome to study Theology and Scripture. While I was there, there were Sisters from nineteen different countries and communities. It was a wonderful experience. On Saturdays, we went on field trips. A Jesuit from the States was there, and he planned these trips for us. They were wonderful. To help us find our way around Rome, he would give us a destination and we would have to figure out how to get there, what busses to take and so on. On holidays, we could take trips by ourselves. On one of the holidays, about seven of us went to Fatima and had a great time. We had scheduled everything so that we could catch the last bus back to where we lived. Well, the train was late, so we got into Rome after the last bus had gone. So there were the seven of us standing at the train station with our suitcases with no way to get home. We said, “Let’s walk and see if we can find a bus.” We walked a little way, and lo and behold a bus came by which was empty! We flagged it down. The driver was so accommodating! He took us all the way to where we lived – what a blessing.
Part of the program was to have a retreat in the Holy Land. That was a terrific experience which I will always remember. When I returned to Nazareth in August of 1978, I was assigned to start a retreat center at Russell Hall. With a staff of one and eight rooms on the first floor of C wing of Russell Hall, that was some challenge! About this same time, Sr. Mary Elaine Zehnder had just returned from a sabbatical in Colorado. Since neither of us had someone to be with, we joined together and off and on, have worked together for about thirty years. I was director of the retreat center only one year, then was made coordinator of the retired Sisters at Russell Hall. The mission of the Sisters who lived there was hospitality to those who came to Russell Hall.
After three years, I went to Ladislaus Convent in Columbus as pastoral associate to Father John Cody. My main responsibility was with the elder members. I learned much about St. Vincent de Paul work, because that was one of their work for the parish. I enjoyed working with the people and visiting the sick and in the hospital. But I felt I could do better if I had some training in hospital visitation. So I applied for and received a scholarship for CPE in Des Moines, Iowa. I lived with the Visitation Sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary. After completing CPE training in 1985, I became Director of Pastoral Care at Our Lady of Peace Hospital in Louisville. We had a marvelous staff there. The Pastoral Care was an integral part of the interdisciplinary teams of the hospital.
It was during this time that managed care came into existence, and the length of time that a patient could stay in the hospital was shortened. So the National Pastoral Care Department encouraged its members to take special care of patients outside the hospital since the patients hospital stay was so short, one couldn’t begin to touch the spiritual issues. So the Pastoral Care people in the SCN hospitals in the Louisville area got together with Dr. Carl Middleton and wrote a proposal for a Wellness Center outside the hospital where we could do Wholistic modalities for the patients. The proposal was approved and the Wholistic Center came into existence. At that time, Dr. Carl Middleton was director of Pastoral Care for CHI (Catholic Healthcare Initiative). He introduced healing therapy to the staff of the hospital. This was at the time Dr. Jack Kevorkian was encouraging assisted suicide, but it had been proven that clients really didn’t want to die. They just couldn’t stand the pain. So they asked for assisted suicide. If they could stop or reduce the pain, the clients would not ask for that help. Pastoral Care people, nurses, social workers and anyone else in the hospital were encouraged to take healing therapy. I was one among those taking healing therapy. I was fascinated and thrilled with this modality. This opened the door to my future of working with healing modalities. With the approval of the Wholistic Center, I was appointed as Director of the Center in April of 1996.
At this time, the president of Spalding University had a vision of establishing a Wellness Center at Spalding University. So the Wellness Center was opened at Spalding University. After two years of growth, Spalding found itself in need of space, so the Wholistic Center was moved to Our Lady of Peace Hospital. While the Wholistic Center was at Our Lady of Peace Hospital, Sr. Emma Ann Munsterman, OSU, a member of the Mt. St. Joseph Ursulines of Owensboro, Ky. joined the staff. Emma was one of the teachers at the Institute of Reflexology in Cincinnati, Ohio. That is where I met her. Emma was very helpful to those of us studying reflexology. She encouraged us to stick with the program and often assisted us in our studies when we gathered for review of upcoming exams.
At the Wellness Center, there was a need for an additional person on the staff. I approached Emma about joining. Emma had been looking for a position closer to her Community in Owensboro. The need of the Center and her desire to be closer to her Motherhouse fit together well. I was so delighted to welcome Emma to the Wellness Center! We enjoyed working together. It was a delight to be a part of the growth of the Center. We continued our studies in wholistic modalities and became certified as Doctors of Naturopathy in 2004. It was an exciting and challenging path. We had excellent instructors who not only taught us but also became wonderful friends even to this day!
At Our Lady of Peace, we had one room behind the chapel and one room for an office on. That was it! We often worked together on the clients.
We were looking for room to expand, so Emma Ann went to Nazareth, Russell Hall, at that time, and began ministering to the Sisters at Russell Hall. This has grown so that now she spends two-and-a-half days at Nazareth. I happen to be one of her recipients at this time.
We were at Our Lady of Peace several years when the director of Jewish Medical Center on Old Henry Road asked Emma Ann and me to bring the Wellness Center to Jewish Medical Center Northeast. We could suggest the kind of space we would need. We drew up our plans. He had told us we might not get everything, but he would help us. We had a lovely office, a nice waiting room, three client rooms – one for extra growth – and a bathroom all to ourselves. We worked out there and enjoyed every bit of our ministry.
One of my many clients who received healing modalities at the Center made a scrap book of the history of the Wellness Center which is available in the Nazareth Archives for perusal.
In 2010, I retired. Sad to say, I left Emma Ann by herself with a promise that they would replace me.
In November of 2012, Sr. Mary Elaine and I moved to Nazareth. Mary Elaine lives in Carrico Hall, and I in the Guest House. I lived there for a year and continued my practice of wholistic modality with the Sisters until July of 2013. At that time I was in need of an aortic valve replacement. I was scheduled to go to Jewish Hospital in Louisville. I was very excited about this because there was a new kind of surgery where they did not have to break open your sternum. They went up through the groin and made a small incision between the ribs to replace the valve. The surgery went fine and the heart was fine after that, but I happened to suffer a stroke that changed my whole life at that time. Since the stroke, I went to Frazier Rehab downtown, then to Nazareth Home for rehab. When I was able, I came to Carrico Hall where I continued to regain the use of my right side. I have made marvelous recovery, but still have muscles that need strengthening. Hope is eternal!
I marvel at God’s faithful and marvelous goodness to me during all these years. I’ve had a wonderful, exciting and enjoyable life. Being an SCN has given me many opportunities to serve God’s people while enriching my life at the same time. Even in my later years, there are opportunities to be of service by praying for the people of the world and even crocheting covers for water filters which are used by people in need of clean and pure water.
(Interviewed by S. Paschal Maria Fernicola)