Sr. Albertine Paulus, long-serving diocesan religious, dies

Sister Mary Albertine Paulus, RSM, died peacefully on Oct. 23 at Mercy Convent in Nashville. She was 93 and had served as a Sister of Mercy for 73 years.

Sister Albertine was preceded in death by her parents, Dr. Albert and Ella Paulus, and her brother, Jim Paulus. She is survived by her beloved family: brother T.J. Paulus, sister-in law Sue Paulus, seven nephews, a niece, great-nieces and great-nephews, and a great-great-niece as well as her cherished community of the Sisters of Mercy.

Sister Albertine was born in Ithaca, N.Y., but grew up in Knoxville, where her father was a professor at the University of Tennessee. After attending UT for a couple of years, she entered the Sisters of Mercy in February 1949. She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mathematics at Edgecliff College in Cincinnati and Peabody College in Nashville.

Untold numbers of elementary, high school, and college students received instruction from her in her 32-year teaching career in schools in Nashville, Memphis, and Knoxville, and in Cincinnati and Toledo in Ohio. While serving as coordinator for St. Bernard Convent in Nashville, Sister Albertine began her close association with St. Mary’s Medical Center in Knoxville, where she served as a board member in 1977.

In 1986, Sister Albertine was asked to serve the Diocese of Nashville as director of the RENEW parish renewal program. When that program ended in 1989, the bishop of the newly formed Diocese of Knoxville invited her to establish the Office of Evangelization, where RCIA programs implemented in each parish nurtured the faith of thousands of new Catholics throughout East Tennessee. Sister Albertine held this position until 2009.

Sister Albertine’s involvement with diocesan pilgrimages began as the Jubilee Year of 2000 approached, and Pope John Paul II encouraged Catholics to make a pilgrimage to Rome. Her experience leading student trips since 1971, along with her keen organizational and teaching skills, prepared her for a fruitful ministry of planning and coordinating more than 30 pilgrimages. Hundreds of people participated in journeys to the Holy Land as well as to Rome and Assisi, Ireland, Poland, Spain and Portugal, and France, and shrines in Greece and Turkey.

Love of music was an integral part of Sister Albertine’s life. She began playing the organ in the fifth grade and became the parish organist at age 13. She planned the liturgy and played at numerous church, Mercy community, and diocesan gatherings, and helped plan the music for the ordination of two of the bishops in Knoxville.

In recognition of her dedicated work in areas of evangelization, Sister Albertine received the prestigious honor of the Cross Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice, which means “for church and pontiff,” in 2006.

At her diocesan retirement in 2009, Sister Albertine said she didn’t plan to dwell on her legacy.

“We all do what we can while we’re here on this earth. It’s about doing the best you can while you have the chance. After that, it’s all in the Lord’s hands because it’s His work, not ours,” she said.

“There was something indomitable about Sister Albertine—smart, open-hearted, generous. She was a servant, single-minded in doing the good God called her to do. She continues to live in our memory as passionate, joyful, loving, brave, and daring to believe she could change the world—and she did—person by person,” said Sister Mary Martha Naber, who served in the Sisters of Mercy with Sister Albertine and was speaking for the Sisters of Mercy.

Bishop Richard F. Stika remembers Sister Albertine as a “dynamo.”

“I can remember meeting Sister Albertine for the very first time. She oversaw part of the liturgy at my ordination as bishop and she had a whole list of things that she wanted to do, so we ‘negotiated.’ She had definite opinions and ideas. There were other times, such as when I was leading one of her pilgrimages and she made it clear to me about departure times— ‘if you are not there we are going to leave,’ she would say. I think she really would have left without me. She was very good at keeping the pilgrimages organized,” Bishop Stika said.

“She represented her community very well, and she was very involved in the diocese, and she will be greatly missed. The Catholic student center at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville is named after her parents. Her family will always be greatly remembered,” the bishop added.

The large assembly room at St. John XXIII University Parish, where Sunday Masses are celebrated, is called the Paulus Room in memory of Sister Albertine’s mother and father, Albert and Ella, who were instrumental in starting a Catholic parish on the University of Tennessee campus.

A funeral Mass for Sister Albertine was held on Oct. 31 at the Cathedral of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. A private funeral was held at Mercy Convent in Nashville, followed by burial at Calvary Cemetery. See the December issue of The East Tennessee Catholic for coverage of Sister Albertine’s funeral.

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