|James and Katherine Pulley received the Franciscan Sacred Heart Providence Medals from their former pastor Father John Eaton on March 5. Father Eaton, who now serves in St. Louis as development director for the Franciscan Province of the Sacred Heart, made the trip back to Nashville to present the medals to the Pulleys. Photo by James Callahan|
Sometimes the people who have the most to say, speak the least. And in the case of James and Katherine “Kitty” Pulley, longtime members of St. Vincent de Paul Church on Heiman Street, they’d like to keep it that way.
“My wife and I don’t like praises,” Mr. Pulley said. “We’re just doing what we know as Christians.”
Nonetheless, others felt as though they deserved praise for their decades of service to God and church, and on March 5, their former pastor, Father John Eaton, OFM, presented them with the Franciscan Sacred Heart Providence Medals for most exemplifying Franciscan values. A simplified, Gospel-led life serving others, especially the poor and marginalized, is one way to explain Franciscan values.
The Pulleys’ “compassion, humility, and willingness to get involved,” Father Eaton said, is why they were chosen about 25 years ago to be Franciscan affiliates and most recently to receive the medals.
The medals, Father Eaton explained, are new in the last year or so and were instituted to provide a tangible expression of the affiliate status. The Pulleys were nominated to become affiliates by their pastor back then, Father Arthur Anderson, OFM, and today, are the only living Franciscan Province of the Sacred Heart affiliates in Tennessee. But their service began more than a half of a century ago.
Both are converts to the faith, but Mrs. Pulley was first to become Catholic. Now married 58 years, Mr. Pulley, who had been a Methodist, said his wife’s example of service he saw during their courtship not only convinced him to marry her, but was also the impetus for bringing him into the Church.
At her suggestion, he began attending Mass and the pastor thought it would be a good idea for him to take Catechism classes before marriage. During that courtship period, he said he saw, “Christianity in her and knew that was the kind of person I wanted to marry and raise my children.”
During their marriage, raising a family, and running their own printing business, the Pulleys continued to serve God through the Church and reaching out to others. Although Mr. Pulley is in weak health, he still does as much as he can, but his history of service speaks for itself.
“If I had to point out one example (of Franciscan exemplification), I couldn’t do it,” Father Eaton said. “I’ve never heard him complain, brag, or put anyone down.”
As members of St. Vincent de Paul for about 55 years, Mr. Pulley has served as president of the parish council and PTA when the church’s school was active. He was also the first African American in Nashville to join the Knights of Columbus.
“I just think of it as being an active Catholic,” Mr. Pulley said.
Deacon Bill Hill works closely with Mrs. Pulley, affectionately known as “Ms. Kitty,” visiting the sick, elderly and homebound each Wednesday. Together, they begin at 9 a.m. and go until 4 p.m. visiting those in need.
Mrs. Pulley is an extraordinary minister and takes Communion to shut-ins and Deacon Hill marvels at her empathy. He calls her “Mother of Mercy and Compassion.” He said she has visited hundreds of people, especially the sick and elderly. Frequently, he said, that when she goes to a nursing home, she sees that so many of the people look lost.
“She’ll go over and hug them,” Deacon said. He recalled receiving some coaching on home visits and was advised to stay aware of time management, keeping visits to five minutes in order to get to everyone.
“Not Ms. Kitty,” he said, noting that she might spend 45 minutes with someone if they need her and mentioned a woman they visit who is confined to a wheelchair due to quadriplegia. “She just sits there with her and does whatever she needs.”
He also marvels at her unwillingness to take a break, even to eat. Other than a pack of crackers, she refuses to stop for a meal. Without him on Friday, Mrs. Pulley continues to her visits to the sick and elderly.
“She’d go more often if she could (still) drive,” Deacon Hill said. “She never, never, never gets tired.”
With her tirelessness comes a cheery optimism. From sweeping the church to setting up the altar, no job is too big or too small.
“She’ll just do what needs to be done,” Deacon Hill said. “She doesn’t ask. She just does it.”