Below is the homily/eulogy written and delivered by Margaret Rodericks, SCN, at Patricia Kelley, SCN’s funeral on Thursday, April 26, 2012.
St. Vincent Church, Nazareth
Readings: 1 Pet. 1:3-9
Namaste! Greetings! The God in me greets the God in you!
I visited Pat a week ago Thursday, the first day that she was put on oxygen. There were others in the room, including her nieces, Anne and Becca. We came out of the room after a while and they suggested that I go back into the room and have some time alone with Pat. I had the opportunity to thank her for my SCN vocation, for being a vital part of my formative years as Director when I was a candidate and a Junior Sister and for being my prayer-partner for as long as we have had prayer-partners in the Congregation. I recalled the time of my candidacy and said that we were “badmashs” (loosely translated as “rascals”). She quickly added, "But we had a good time”.
On another occasion after the Central Leadership Team had visited her I teased her and said,
“I heard that the Central Leadership Team came to visit you; you must be special.” With a twinkle in her eye and a big smile she replied, “You knew that.” Just a few days ago toward the end of my visit I said, “Pat, I’ll love and leave you.” Spontaneously she responded, “Charles Miriam”. Because this was a favorite expression of Sister Charles Miriam (Mary Holt), principal and superior at Nazareth Academy, Gaye, while Pat was missioned there.
The history of the missionary activity of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth is indeed a response in faith. The story began in December 1947, when 6 Sisters from Nazareth, KY arrived in Mokama, India, the Diocese of Patna, in the State of Bihar, North India, at the invitation of the Bishop of Patna. The invitation was for medical work because at the time there were no medical facilities between Mokama and Patna, about 2 hours by train. Mother Ann Sebastian Sullivan, Mother General at the time, sent a letter to the Congregation announcing this bold move to foreign missions. She ended the letter reminding us that she was mindful of the help needed in established missions in the US and added, “…but if we wait until all obstacles are removed we shall never venture.” Today, that small band of pioneers has grown to more than 200 Sisters. This growth is in large measure due to the early missionaries like Sister Patricia Mary Kelly, Pat, as she is known to us or Aunt Trish as she is fondly known to her family, and to whom we owe a huge debt of gratitude.
Pat left the US in October 1952, and arrived in Bombay (Mumbai) on the feast of St. Francis Xavier, patron of India, December 3. Her first assignment was Gaya. She was in formation ministry as Director of Candidates, Director of Junior Sisters and Director of Novices.
Our readings today exemplify Pat as a person, an SCN, a missionary and a loving aunt.
In the first reading, Peter makes it clear that of all things for which he is grateful there is one thing that is paramount: the gift of Jesus Christ. Peter praises God for giving us a new birth through the resurrection of his Son, Jesus. Baptism, new birth, is not enough in itself; we have to claim it by faith and a living hope. This is the starting point of Christian life in the face of anxiety and danger. The heart of our faith is that we are born again into Jesus – our living hope. Faith is refined by trials as gold is refined by fire. Peter invites us to rejoice, believing that trials are meant to prove the genuineness of our faith so that we can hope for the reward of eternal life that awaits us.
The selection from John’s gospel has three significant aspects:
- Mary of Magdala is seeking a dead Christ therefore she could not find him; he was not dead, but alive.
- It was not Mary who found Jesus; rather Jesus found her and called her by name. The whole point of our Christian life is God constantly seeking us and calling us.
- She did not recognize him; this was not her fault. The risen Christ was very different from the Jesus she had known.
Often in life we tend to accept difficulties and are not sure where God can be found in them. In all such circumstances, God is calling us by name to service, fashioning us into the instruments he needs for a particular mission.
As Mary was called by name, Pat was called over and over again – to her SCN vocation, to be a missionary for 25 years in India, to the ministry of formation, to be a pioneer in our Sokho novitiate; then came the call to return to the US, to go to Nazareth Home and the final call to the embrace of a loving, faithful God. When individuals were discerning whether or not to remain in religious life, Fr. Anthony deMello, S.J. would say that it is not important to be in or out of religious life. What is important is to follow the call at all times. Pat’s response was always a whole hearted, faith-filled, loving, “Yes”. She recognized Jesus in every person and event. When she had to go to Nazareth Home and I heard the news, I called her and said that I thought this was really hard for her. She replied, “Margaret, this is what God wants.” A few weeks ago toward the end of my visit with her at Nazareth Home she said, “Margaret, I’m dying.” I asked her why she said this and her response was that her doctor informed her that she had such a bad heart that she could go at any time. Total acceptance till the end.
She had her share of trials. I’m sure, dealing with candidates and young Sisters from various parts of India and varied cultures was a challenge. As was starting the novitiate (ashram) in Sokho, a malaria-infested area. The novices got the illness and so did she, not once but repeatedly. While she was in the US she had an attack of malaria and the only place at that time, where the medication, quinine, was available was at Fort Knox. Sometime later, at the Province Assembly, came a decision to close the novitiate in Sokho. She was tested by fire. Later she remarked to me, “Margaret, we are closing the novitiate because of one tiny mosquito” (echoing the words of Fr. Dan Rice, S.J.). Through it all her faith never wavered and her hope remained steadfast.
As Mary of Magdala was called and then sent on a mission, so was Pat. After each of the many calls, she was sent – to Nazareth to join the SCNs, to Mokama, to Gaya, to Sokho, back to the US, to Belize, various other missions in the US, again to Nazareth, to Nazareth Home and now called to her final resting place, the holy ground of Nazareth. Pat was sent with a charge, “Go and tell them…..I have seen the Lord…” For 71 years she had been telling us and continues to do so. May we have the grace to listen!
Thank you, Pat, for bringing us the good news not by word but by example, by a life of fidelity to your commitment, by being a witness to who and what we are called to be as followers of Jesus and daughters of Catherine.
Yes, indeed, Pat, we had a good time. As you go, prepare a place for us and please continue to have a good time; enjoy never-ending bliss with your family, the SCNs who have gone before you and with your beloved, Jesus,
And so, as Charles Miriam would say, “We love and leave you.”
Written and delivered by: Margaret Rodericks, SCN
It is certainly appropriate that the first Women of Courage Award be presented to Sister Antoinette Kostelnik, SCN. Sister Antoinette has indeed kept our heritage alive and continued the legacy of Vincentian Academy while furthering the mission of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth. Sister herself is a Vincentian graduate from the days when it was an all girls’ boarding school. She returned to teach at Vincentian in 1978 just a few years after the school had become co-ed.
Sister Antoinette began her teaching career 4 years before I was born, yet there have been many days, even during this current academic year, which was her 67th year of teaching, when I was put to shame by her energy and enthusiasm.
Sister’s teaching ministry included a number of years in various Catholic grade schools in the Pittsburgh and Greensburg dioceses as well as a few years in Missouri. Then after some years at Bishop Boyle High School in Homestead she came back to Vincentian. Throughout her career in all of those places, her goal was to teach her students the faith and how it applies to their present lives and in the future for which she so lovingly prepared them.
Sister has always seen the good in young people, helping them to realize their potential for holiness, greatness, and love. I remember that Sister Antoinette has said that she looks forward to one day meeting her students in God’s Kingdom where they will see Him face to face, but I know that there are literally thousands of Sister Antoinette’s students who have seen the face of God when they interact with her.
It takes a woman of courage to lead young people on their journey of faith, to help them learn how to respond with generous hearts as they build character and learn to make sound moral decisions. Sister Antoinette Kostelnik is definitely a woman of great courage in today’s world and it is a great pleasure to present the Women of Courage award to her this evening. Congratulations Sister!
The Women of Courage Award captures the richness of our roots as an all-girls school and the courage of two women and their companions living in different centuries whose lives intersected along the Ohio River between Pittsburgh PA and Louisville, KY with the merger of the Vincentian Sisters of Charity into the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth in November 2008.
Mother Emerentiana Handlovits and her companions were missioned in 1902 from Szatmar, Romania to Braddock, PA to minister to the Slovak immigrants. Mother Emerentiana became the first Provincial Superior of the Vincentian Sisters of Charity because she was the first to volunteer, an act of great courage to travel to a distant land in response to an expressed need of the people for education in their native language.
Mother Catherine Spalding migrated as a young girl with a group of Catholic families from southern MD to Bardstown KY. At the young age of 19 she became the first elected superior of the small band of Sisters of Charity of Nazareth founded in 1812. She too courageously embarked on an effort to respond to the educational needs of her time.
The lives of these women of courage, along with the graduates of our school, inspire us to continue the mission of excellence in education handed down through the centuries in a powerful blending of the charism of charity.
It is our hope that Women of Courage will become a prestigious award not only because of the legacy of the Vincentian Sisters of Charity and the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, not only as a powerful reminder of our roots as an all-girls school, but also because of the individuals who will receive the award because they give life to the legacy and spirit it represents.
to visit the SCN Ministry Fair, Saturday, May 12, at O'Connell Hall, from 10 a.m. - 3 p.m. Exhibits will feature displays from 15 non-congregational groups, as well from our congregational ministries. There will be items for sale, such as quilts and quilted gifts, bath and body products, fresh milk and eggs. Beginning at 4 p.m., presentations by three ministries will be held in the Art Gallery and Drawing Room:
- Thistle Farms - A woman telling her story of transformation from the brutality of the streets;
- Ministry Formation Program, the only program of its kind in the States, training Catholic deaf adults to become lay leaders;
- Plowshares Farm Center for Education and Spirituality, exploring the evolution of our kinship with the Earth
At 7:30 p.m. in St. Vincent Church, the Tutwiler Community Education Center will offer an hour of "Voices from the Heart of the Mississippi Delta" in song and poetry reading.
Vincentian Academy celebrates 80 years of history this year. We remember that we are connected to a world-wide ministry of providing education to thousands of young people so that they can develop to their fullest potential.
St. Vincent de Paul, patron of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, and for whom the school is named reminded the Daughters of Charity in 17th century France that, “Grace has its moments.” This moment of grace celebrating 80 years of educational excellence at Vincentian Academy is one of many graced moments in the 200 year history of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth.
We indeed hold a precious legacy as we stand on the shoulders of giants. We remember the first Vincentian Sisters of Charity who arrived in the U. S. to provide education to the Slovak immigrants in Braddock. After their long journey they arrived there only to find that the housing promised them had not been arranged. They spent their first nights with the Sisters of Mercy.
We remember the first Sisters of Charity of Nazareth who began their community at St. Thomas, Kentucky in a log cabin.
These early Sisters did not let circumstances keep them from their commitment to provide education to those in need. Little did they imagine that their beginning ministries would evolve into a worldwide mission. They planted the seeds and we continue to reap the harvest. As we walk in their footsteps we are inspired to continue this mission in our time.
Ephesians 5:20 calls us to “Give thanks to God always and for everything.” Knowing that without God we could do nothing, let us give thanks for these 80 years of ministry at Vincentian Academy and for God’s continued blessing on our future.