Sister Kathleen always loved the Sisters of St. Dominic while attending St. John the Baptist School in NY. She was their little helper. “I would run my legs off doing errands for them,” she said. “I wanted so bad to be a nun!”
When she was 13 years old, she begged her parents to send her to the Dominican Sisters Juniorate in Watermill. “Please, I want to go with the Dominicans!” Her father William was against it but her mother Mariah said, “Let her go; she’ll be back home on the next train.” She never got on that train: Sister Kathleen professed her vows on August 20, 1938.
In Religious life, she felt like she lacked skills that other Sisters had like cooking and sewing. As a child, her overprotective mother had not let her near the stove or sewing needles. She decided to remedy that. She took courses at Singer to learn how to sew. She went to a culinary school to learn how to make delicious meals for her fellow Sisters. She went to night school to learn how to type! “I always wanted to learn!” she said.
Her favorite ministry was at Wassaic State School in Duchess County where she taught adults that were physically, emotionally, or mentally challenged. She had a classroom of 10 students, mostly non-verbal, with different issues ranging from being blind or deaf to having cerebral palsy and more.
“I loved working there,” she said. “They were the best 14 years of my life. The students were anxious to learn but they never had the opportunity.” “Some faces were so deformed, but I didn’t see them like that,” she said. “I saw beautiful hazel eyes peeking out from over a bib.”
She set up stations around her class to help her students practice skills. One girl with “spastic hands” would spoon rice from one bowl to another while Sister Kathleen guided her hands. One day, the student pushed Sister Kathleen’s hands away as if to say, “I can do it.” Sister Kathleen cried with pride.
As Sister Kathleen prepares for her 100th birthday, she said, “I would do it all again,” referring to her choice to board the train to Watermill. She has treasured the extraordinary women she has lived and served with.
She passes on her mother’s advice, “Whatever you do, do it with your whole heart and soul.” Thank you Sister Kathleen for 100 years. You are a treasure!