Sister Mary Albertine Paulus, a Sister of Mercy who established the Office of Evangelization for the Diocese of Knoxville, died peacefully at the Mercy Convent in Nashville on Sunday, Oct. 23, 2022. She was 93 years old and served as a Sister of Mercy for 73 years.
A public funeral Mass will be celebrated at the Cathedral of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus in Knoxville on Monday, Oct. 31. Visitation will be at 1 p.m. followed by the Mass at 2 p.m. The Mass will be livestreamed at dioknox.org and on the Cathedral’s YouTube channel. A private funeral will be held later at Mercy Convent in Nashville, followed by burial at Calvary Cemetery.
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. Sister 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, as well as Cincinnati and Toledo, Ohio.
In 1977, Sister Albertine was serving as coordinator for St. Bernard Convent in Nashville when she became a board member for St. Mary’s Medical Center in Knoxville, which had been founded by the Sisters of Mercy. Her role on the board began a long association with the medical center.
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, France, and shrines in Greece and Turkey.
“She was just a dynamo,” Knoxville Bishop Richard F. Stika said of Sister Albertine.
“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,” Bishop Stika said.
“There were other times 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,” he added. “I think she really would have left without me. She was very good at keeping the pilgrimages organized.”
“She represented her community very well and she was very involved in the diocese, and she will be greatly missed,” Bishop Stika added.
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 retirement from her roles with the Diocese of Knoxville in 2009, Sister 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.”
“There was something indomitable about Sister Albertine – smart, open-hearted, generous,” recalled her fellow Mercy Sisters. “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.”
Sister Albertine was preceded in death by her parents, Albert and Ella Paulus, and her brother, Jim Paulus. She is survived by her brother T.J. (Sue) 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.