Sr. George Marie Morgan, OSU, who died in New Mexico at the age of 25. Buried in New Mexico, her remains have yet to be returned to rest in God’s Acre, the cemetery of the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph. COURTESY OF MSJ ARCHIVES
God’s Acre: One of our most holy places
BY EDWARD WILSON, ARCHIVES
The archives gets a lot of questions about cemeteries. Most of the questions are for genealogical purposes. However, cemeteries have much more to tell us than just who is buried there. They are like libraries, holding countless stories. More than that, the cemetery itself has a story to tell. Of all our Catholic cemeteries, my favorite is without a doubt God’s Acre. Unless you know quite a bit of local Catholic trivia, you may have never heard of God’s Acre. God’s Acre is the name of Mount Saint Joseph’s cemetery. With this article we will delve into archival records and learn about a few of the stories it can tell.
With God’s Acre being a convent cemetery, many would assume that only Sisters are buried there. That, however, is not the case. Most of the people laid to rest in the cemetery are of course Sisters but there are also priests and even one of our bishops, Bishop John J. McRaith. Perhaps even more surprising is that there are a few laypeople buried in the holy ground.
One of the most interesting details about the cemetery is who was the first person buried there. Lena Houser was the daughter of Dr. John Houser, the editor of Louisville’s German-Catholic newspaper, the Katholischer Glaubensbote. At the age of two, Lena was orphaned and left in the care of the Ursuline Sisters of Louisville. She received her education at Mount Saint Joseph. Dying almost 10 years later, in 1901, she received the honor of being the first person buried in the new cemetery on the Mount’s grounds. So, not a Sister but an alumna was the first person to be buried at the Mount.
There are countless holy individuals buried in the cemetery but perhaps the saddest tale is the one that isn’t. A stone stands in the cemetery for Sr. George Marie Morgan, OSU, but her body does not rest in the loving embrace of Kentucky soil. At 22, Sr. George Marie was sent to teach with the Mount Saint Joseph Ursulines in New Mexico, with the hope that the dry air would help with her tuberculosis. Sadly, she passed away at the young age of 25. She was buried in Waterflow, N.M. Though the MSJ Ursulines, including her sister, Sr. Rose Alice Morgan OSU, made several attempts to have her body transported to Kentucky to be laid to rest in God’s Acre, those requests were denied. Her remains are still in New Mexico. Only three other MSJ Ursulines are not buried in God’s Acre; two at another Ursuline convent, and one with family, all by request. I am sure that one day Sr. George Marie will find her way back home.
November is a month when we as Catholics are to pray even more intently for the deceased. There are few better places in the diocese to pray a rosery for those who have died than God’s Acre, surrounded by our very own saints. There may be no better diocesan pilgrimage; let Fr. Paul Volk (founder of the Mount), Mother Aloysius Willett (first Mother Superior of the Mount), Bishop McRaith, and all the holy Ursulines lift your prayers to Heaven.
Note: For information on these and more stories of God’s Acre, see “Hope and Firm Faith: The Story of the Ursulines of Mount Saint Joseph” by Dan Heckel and “A Souvenir of Mount St. Joseph’s Ursuline Academy.”
Edward Wilson is the director of the Diocese of Owensboro’s Archives and the Archives of the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph. Comments and questions may be sent to [email protected].
Originally printed in the November 2023 issue of The Western Kentucky Catholic.