Sister Julie was born Anita Urban in Medford, MA, USA in 1927. She had a twin sister, Anna. Her mother was from Florence, Italy and her father was from Yugoslavia (now Montenegro). Her parents met and married in the USA and made their home in Medford, MA. Julie also had a brother, John, and two more sisters, Elizabeth and Irene. All preceded Julie into eternal life.
After high school Anita worked as a clerk and secretary at the John Hancock Insurance Company in Boston for six years. Through a co-worker who had become a guild captain, she heard about the Medical Missionaries of Mary, who had come to Boston in 1950. Our first house in the USA was officially opened on 3 October that year. Julie was asked if she would become a member by contributing something each month for MMM.
Julie remembered, ‘A few weeks later, she asked me if I would be interested in seeing their film Visitation. I had already seen some of the Sisters at Our Lady of Victories Church on Isabella Street and was intrigued to know more about them and their work, and so I went to see the film and meet the Sisters. This led to my having the film shown at a ladies’ sodality meeting in my parish hall in December 1950 [and] more getting to know [them].’
Three young women asked to be accepted as postulants in 1951 and Julie joined in August; the others arrived in September. They later formed the first group of MMM novices in the USA, the first postulant having gone to Ireland for her novitiate.
Julie continued, ‘When the first American postulant rang the doorbell of 36 Commonwealth Avenue, at 4 pm, there was no answer!’ After about a five-minute wait, the doorbell was rung again. Still no answer. What to do? Was this a sign that entering was not meant to be?
With her parents, brother and sister-in-law, she sat in the car, wondering what to do next. After twenty minutes the telephone rang in the house. They could hear it because the windows were open, so they decided, ‘When the telephone stops, let’s try the doorbell.’ This brought results. The Sisters had been entertaining a guest in the parlour and with the door closed could not hear the bell. They’d been wondering what was keeping their first arrival!
After profession in 1954 Julie was assigned to Ireland. She worked in the outpatients department in the IMTH in Drogheda as a medical secretary. In 1959 she went to Anua, Nigeria, where she was secretary and bursar in Saint Luke’s Hospital.
Returning to Ireland in 1962, Sister Julie was our secretary general until 1970 and then assistant to the secretary general for four years. She worked very closely with Mother Mary during that time. She went to Winchester, MA, USA in 1974 and spent nine years in fundraising. In 1984 she was assigned to Chicago, where she spent ten more years in fundraising, as office manager and as local business administrator. From 1994 to 1999 she was business administrator in our nursing facility, Áras Mhuire, in Drogheda.
Julie returned to the USA in 1999 and was local business administrator in Somerville, MA, for eleven years. During this time she also served in local MMM leadership. When she retired in 2011, she helped as a Eucharistic minister and reader in her local parish. She began to recognize her need for more rest, which she found difficult because she had always been a very active person.
When ill health necessitated regular nursing care she moved to Sancta Maria Nursing Facility in Cambridge, MA in 2015. Her condition slowly declined and in mid-July 2017, the medical staff at Sancta Maria discussed the possibility of transitioning Julie to hospice care at the same facility. Her MMM health care proxies, in consultation with her community, agreed with this. Julie remained conscious and comfortable, happy to see and keep up a conversation staff, family members, nieces, nephews, MMM Sisters and anyone else who came to visit her.
On the morning of 31 July, the MMMs with her found her exceptionally cheery and bright. Her niece, Kathie, and Kathie’s husband, Peter, arrived from New Jersey and Julie was radiant, delighted to have them with her. After they left, Julie entered a deep sleep until she slipped away peacefully on 1 August 2017.
The Little Sisters of the Poor at the Jeanne Jugan Residence across from our MMM house in Somerville generously agreed to let their premises be used for Julie’s wake and funeral Mass. Father Pat Universal, chaplain for the Little Sisters, celebrated the Mass. Father Luca, a priest from Rome, who knew Julie from his summer assignments at Saint Catherine’s Parish, concelebrated. He said he wanted to be there because Julie was so good to him for fifteen summers.
Sister Ann Flynn offered the homily, using the theme of Psalm 25: ‘To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.’ She spoke of Julie’s life from the day of her joining MMM in the USA in 1951. She was the first American Sister to go to Ireland, and a few years later, to go to Nigeria. In all these situations, Julie lifted her soul to God and was very dedicated to MMM. Ann invited the congregation to discover one of Julie’s favourite Scripture passages by reading Isaiah, Chapter 42.
At the gathering after Mass, one question was asked repeatedly: ‘Were you in Nigeria with Julie?’ Some parishioners remarked how dedicated Julie was as a reader and Eucharistic minister for so many years.
Sister Julie’s remains were cremated; she was the first MMM in the USA to request this. On the morning of 15 August, the Feast of the Assumption, she was buried in our MMM plot at Holy Cross Cemetery in Malden, MA.
Sisters who were with Julie from her early days in MMM said that she had a reputation for always being early and being first to arrive at anything, whether for prayer or work. She loved cooking and her expertise at the barbeque was legendary. Before a big day like the Fourth of July, she prepared everything the night before and was very precise about the cooking times. She was an avid sports fan and especially followed the Boston Red Sox. A baseball and baseball cap were placed near the coffin at her wake.
Julie had a beautiful smile that endeared her to many people, even on difficult days at Santa Maria Nursing Care Facility, where she was cared for with great skill and love. That smile became radiant as she prepared to enter eternal life with the God she loved and served so well.