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Sister Virginia (Mary Virginia) Petty

Sister Virginia Petty

“So, if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” (Colossians 3:1)

“Sister Virginia chose these wonderful words of St. Paul for our consideration this afternoon. These words reflect so well the ideal that was the deepest desire of her heart and ours as well,” said Sister Joan Slobig in her commentary for Sister Virginia Petty, who died June 8, in Edgewood, Ky.

“Virginia Ruth Petty began her circle of life in Central City, Ky., where she was born Dec. 13, 1913,” said Sister Joan. She was one of three children of John and Virginia (Harlan) Petty. She attended grade school at Nazareth Academy, Nazareth, Ky., and high school at St. Mary Academy, Paducah, Ky. She entered the Congregation Sept. 24, 1935, and received the name Sister Mary Virginia. She professed first and perpetual vows Aug. 15, 1938, and 1944, respectively. Sister Virginia earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College and a master’s degree in history from Loyola University, Los Angeles.

Sister Virginia began teaching at St. Elisabeth, Van Nuys, Calif., in 1938. Her other California classrooms included St. Anthony, Gardena; St. Therese, Alhambra; and El Segundo High School, El Segundo. She also spent several years in Illinois at St. Andrew, St. Mel, Our Lady of Mercy and St. Genevieve, Chicago; St. Joseph, Downers Grove; and Immaculate Conception, Norwood Park. Sister Virginia taught three years at Cathedral, Indianapolis, and two years at St. Ann, Washington, D.C.

“From 1967 to 1988, Sister Virginia taught at El Segundo High School. These were the years during which the Congregation widened its circle of ministry beyond the tradition of teaching in Catholic schools. These years offered her many opportunities to reach out to her students, instructing them as both a teacher of English and history, two areas that she loved. She found great satisfaction and joy as she accompanied the many students she taught, motivating them to love learning,” continued Sister Joan.

“Greater than her love for teaching was her desire to focus on — as St. Paul tells us — ‘the things that are above, where Christ is.’ Retiring in 1988, she spent two more years in California before returning to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods in 1990. Her years of retirement at the Woods afforded her time to read and reflect, to pray and to deepen her longing for God.

“She knew the frustration of diminished eyesight and used this experience to set her sight more clearly on the things above. St. Paul’s ideal challenged her in her daily struggles to bear with others and to forgive when hurts came her way. While her life was often perceived by others to be one of withdrawal from the center of activity, she did not lose sight of the things above. And on those occasions when she provided us with a little Scott Joplin, we had a glimpse of the songs, psalms and hymns that lifted her spirit and could lift ours, too!” said Sister Joan.

“Sister Virginia completed the circle of this life quite suddenly on June 8 in Kentucky, the place where her life began. She has come full circle. For her, the circle of this life is complete. Christ is now fully revealed to her. I suspect that she has stepped gladly into glory!” said Sister Joan.

The Mass of Christian Burial for Sister Virginia was celebrated June 14, with the Rev. Bernard Head presiding. She was preceded in death by both of her brothers.

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  1. Avatar Laurette on July 6, 2015 at 7:15 pm

    I was a student of Ms Petty’s at El Segundo High School in 1973. She was a very beautiful lady and was an excellent teacher. She made history come alive for her students. Though she was much older than her students, she could relate to us and we enjoyed her very much. I’m glad she is with the Lord.

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