Sister Julie is a force to be reckoned with and her passion for helping those most in need is well known in Kentucky and beyond.
Impelled by the love of Christ, Julie Driscoll, SCN, is a pioneer, willing to take risks and reach out often when others do not. For example, during the early days of the HIV and AIDS crisis in the 1980s, she stepped up. Her heart went out to those seeking care and support when little was known about the infection, and many were often shunned.
She was part of a group that felt state laws should change in order to open up additional care to those with HIV and AIDS. As a result, SCNs were the first in Kentucky to open up their nursing home to patients with HIV and AIDS. And in the early days, when another ministry to help those living with HIV and AIDS was founded, House of Ruth, Sister Julie served as its first director. House of Ruth was the first non-profit in Kentucky serving women and children with HIV and AIDS. Sister Julie recalls an early client, a struggling mother of five. The woman needed help with exhausting self-care demands and the care of her children. Sister Julie helped her juggle multiple medical appointments, obtain, sort, and scheduled medicines. She also helped the woman with transportation and made sure she maintained her independence and dignity. Sister Julie talks with great reverence for that client, Winnie, who became a dear friend. She recalls the woman’s dying days. “Toward the end, when we would say, ‘Winnie, how are you?’ Winnie would respond, ‘I’m blessed.” Sister Julie was humbled by that response in the face of all her suffering. “My heart aches for those who already struggle under the heavy burden of poverty and then are stigmatized because they suffer from HIV/AIDS,” says Sister Julie. “I am grateful to these beautiful people for all they taught me.”
Sister Julie grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, and loves her hometown. Blessed with many friends and a close-knit family, she is well known in many parishes and by many organizations. As a teenager, she attended Presentation Academy which was a ministry of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth at that time. After graduating, she followed a desire to join the Sisters and to dedicate her life to service and God. “Being in mission as an SCN has been a challenging, exciting and at times demanding experience,” but a life decision says Sister Julie, for which she is deeply grateful. She has been missioned in the small western Kentucky town of Owensboro, in the city of Boston, Massachusetts, and in rural areas of southern Maryland and five counties in northwest Alabama. She has experienced the cultures and people of Venezuela, Belize, Mexico, India, Botswana, Mozambique, and Nicaragua.
Sister Julie has served in a number of capacities including teaching elementary school, serving as a principal, as a director of religious education, a pastoral associate, Vocation Director, Associate Director of the Archdiocese of Louisville Peace and Justice Office, and her role as Executive Director of House of Ruth.
As Vice President of the congregation, from 2003-2008, one of Sister Julie’s responsibilities included being spiritually present to the members of the Congregation, and visiting ministries throughout the world. She reflects that her experience with persons with HIV and AIDS helped her to understand and support the Sisters struggling against this pandemic in Botswana, Africa. At one time, one in three people was infected or affected by the infection. She felt blessed to walk with a number of Sisters in ministry. She also held a leadership role with the Charity Federation.
In recent years, Sister Julie has taken an active role in advocating against human trafficking. She works closely and as a board member with the People Against Trafficking Humans Coalition (PATH) in Louisville, whose vision is to create a community united in its resolve to end human trafficking. An outspoken advocate, she has attended hundreds of protests/prayer vigils on civil rights, gender equity, refugee rights, and a myriad of social justice issues.
Sister Julie authored the fifth volume in the book series “Impelled by the Love of Christ, Sisters of Charity of Nazareth Kentucky” which depicts the period of time from 1960-1972, the term of office of Mother Lucille Russell. This period of time was an exciting and transforming time in the history of women religious. It brought the Civil Rights Movement, the Vietnam War, and the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., John F. Kennedy, and Robert Kennedy to the forefront of daily lives. Sister Julie recalls that carrying out research and writing this book was a labor of love, “I was surprised when I was asked to do the book, but if I had a choice of any of the Mothers to do, I was glad to try to do Mother Lucille. I was drawn to her time of leadership as a time of many changes, coupled with both deep hope and significant struggle.”
Sister Julie says that two experiences of mission stand out over all these decades. The first is when she experienced living with the poor and learning from them in 1974 in the barrios of Caracas, Venezuela. What she had considered “human” before that experience, she came to identify as white middle-class values. From that day to this, she continues to learn from the poorest persons in our world and yearns to change the structures that continue their oppression. She sought to do this by beginning the Central America solidarity efforts in Louisville in 1980 and by starting, with her brother Dan, a sister parish relationship with a parish in Nicaragua in the mid-1980s. Both of these efforts are flourishing and their leadership was handed over to others years ago. Most recently, Sister Julie has been reaching out to immigrants, going down to the Greyhound bus station to greet those relocating to Louisville, or to help others transferring to another bus, headed for other destinations. As she is fluent in Spanish, she is able to answer questions and provide guidance and a welcoming presence.
Sister Julie is beyond grateful for the scope and variety of the ways she has ministered throughout her life. “This may sound unsettled but I have experienced the journey as a natural progression from education to pastoral care to vocation ministry to peace and justice ministry.” A woman of courage and boundless passion for justice, Sister Julie works tirelessly to effect systemic change as she lives out Christ’s mission in our world.