Sister Kathleen Sholette

Written on: February 4, 2014

Sister Kathleen Sholette The following reflection was given by Sr. Julia Lanigan, GNSH at the Funeral Liturgy on February 7, 2014

As the Psalmist so rightly exclaimed, “Precious in the eyes of the Lord is the death of God’s faithful ones….” How easy it is for all of us to proclaim this about our dear Sister and friend, Kathleen Sholette!

Those who attended the wake service Thursday evening heard numerous stories of Kathleen’s ready smile, prayerfulness, concern for others, good humor, faithfulness, playfulness, dependability, simplicity, dedication to walking, love of God and of people—and her special love of Ogdensburg and the St. Lawrence River.

In addition, Kathleen was a consummate social being. She loved life and delighted in spending time pursuing simple pleasures and relaxing with family and friends. She maintained friendships with quite a number of people throughout her life and was deeply committed to and supportive of the few whom she counted among her closest ones. She loved the Church and, though aware of its shortcomings, had great respect for its teachings and its leaders, whether local or worldwide. She was a consistent planner, attending to the details of each day with regard to her life and work. She mentally mapped out her days, moment by moment as attentively as she mapped out the exact route she was going to take on her walks, her long-distance drives, or a routine trip to the store. She delighted in trying new things with others, but when on her own was happiest with regular routines and practiced paths. Though deeply rooted in and respectful of the traditions of her family, her community and her ministerial endeavors, Kathleen was also curious about new things, willing to learn and to grow, and eager to notice and rejoice in the beauties of nature and the gifts and talents of others.

Kathleen Elizabeth Sholette began her life in Ogdensburg, NY, as the first child of a grocer, Nelson Sholette, and his wife, Katherine. Her brother, Nelson, joined the family two years later and henceforth maintained pride of place in Kathleen’s heart. We deeply regret that Nelson was unable to be with us today because of his own health issues, but we know he and his wife, Judy, are with us in spirit and in prayer.

Kathleen graduated from St. Mary’s Academy in Ogdensburg and went on to D’Youville College in Buffalo where she earned a Bachelor’s degree in nursing. After that she returned to Ogdensburg to work for a year as a graduate nurse at A. Barton Hepburn Hospital. When she applied in 1953 to join the congregation, she already had a long relationship with the Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart, professional training and experience in health care, and a strong dedication to caring for the sick—physically, mentally and spiritually—which persisted throughout her life.

Kathleen’s outlook was always ministry-focused. After the novitiate, she was sent back to Hepburn where she served as a staff nurse and then as operating room supervisor. From there she went on to get a master’s degree in nursing at Case Western Reserve and served as Assistant Dean of Nursing at D’Youville College before returning to Ogdensburg to serve as Administrator of St. Joseph’s Home for 18 years. During those years she also served on the Boards of St. Joseph’s Home and of Hepburn Hospital and on many other civic and Church committees and boards. During the last five of those years she also served as a member of the General Council, happily commuting to the monthly Council meetings wherever they were held. In 1988 she left Ogdensburg to assume the position of Secretary General and happily commuted back to Ogdensburg monthly for meetings of the Hepburn Hospital Board. After serving ten years as Secretary General, Kathleen returned to Ogdensburg in 1998 to follow Sister Agatha Doe in the position of Patient Advocate at Claxton-Hepburn Medical Center, returning once more to the Yardley in 2005 to become one of the Assistant Coordinators at the Motherhouse. Her final ministry was the ministry of quiet presence and supportive outreach to the staff, visitors and other residents of St. Joseph Manor.

A listing of her ministries, however, falls far short of describing Kathleen Sholette, the Grey Nun of the Sacred Heart whom we all knew and loved. Though ministry-focused, Kathleen faithfully balanced her ministry with community life and prayer. We all know well the words that Marguerite d’Youville left as a legacy to us:

“My dear Sisters, be constantly faithful to the duties of the state
that you have embraced. Walk always in the path of regularity,
obedience, and mortification. But above all, let the most perfect
union reign among you.”

Was there ever a Grey Nun who embodied this more fully than Kathleen Sholette? Her “regularity” is legendary as we heard last night. You could literally set your clock by the times that Kathleen went to meals, prayed in chapel or took her daily walks. Her sense of obedience may be less well known, but those close to her knew that Kathleen graciously and immediately accepted any assignment she was asked to undertake. She would simply say, “I’ll do what I can.” And then she simply did it with a smile—and with considerable competence. In reflecting back on her ministries, Kathleen said that her favorite ministry site was Hepburn. To quote from something she wrote, “For me, life as a Grey Nun has been wonderful. I’ve liked all the ministries I’ve been asked to do—some more than others.” That’s about as close as Kathleen ever came to a negative comment.

With all that’s been said, however, it was Kathleen Sholette, the gentle, joyful, outgoing, and thoroughly “centered” person who left a powerful impression on everyone she encountered. Just a few examples of what others said of her will better describe the Kathleen we all know and love:

• When she was leaving Ogdensburg, where she was truly a pillar of the community, to become the Secretary General, Chuck Kelly, editor of the local newspaper, wrote the following in his column:

“It’s impossible to write in a few words what this lady has meant to
St. Joseph’s and Ogdensburg. She is an outstanding person with a
million dollar smile….You can be sure the Mother General selected the person she felt was the very best qualified for such a key position. When addressing her in the future it will still be Sister Kathleen, it won’t be “General” Sholette.”

• When she was leaving her position as Patient Advocate at Claxton-Hepburn in 2005 to come to the Motherhouse, Rev. Walter Smith, Pastor of the First Congregational Church, wrote the following in a letter to her:

“I know that religious go at the call of God and that somehow they
must need you more than the patients and staff at the Ogdensburg hospital. But I wanted to say how much your gentle ministry has meant to so many here. Your steady and reassuring presence has played a part in the healing of many people and all the clergy, staff, and patients are in your debt. You have also brought a gracious ecumenism to a situation where by its very nature all denominations and faiths must be present.”

• Sister Diane Bardol had this to say about the impression Kathleen left on the people of Kodiak when she came for a pastoral visitation while on the General Council:

“Before Vatican II, when most of us entered “religious life,” one of the theological, spiritual and verbal expressions of the time was that of “dying to the world.” Today we have a totally different understanding. Today we love “the world” as the sacred stage in which the reign of God is evolving and where we are sent to be part of that evolutionary process. Kathleen knew that in her very bones a long time ago. I remember when she came to Kodiak on visitation (in the “80’s?). She participated whole heartedly in everything that was going on as if it were all absolutely essential to her well-being. For years after, people would ask about Sister Kathleen. In her very bones she knew that her wholeness was bound up in theirs and they got the message very clearly. The reign of God is doing well wherever Kathleen walked. Thank you, Kathleen.”

• But perhaps the words of a birthday song prepared by her community companions here at the Motherhouse say it best of all:

You are our sunshine, our special sunshine.
You share your faith, your joy, your love.
God’s grace is with you and shines right thru you,
You’re a blessing from above.

Thank you, Kathleen, for the blessing you have been among us and for the joy and sunshine you showered on us all!

Sister Kathleen Sholette, GNSH , 83, died at St. Joseph Manor, Meadowbrook, PA, on February 4, 2014 in the 61st year of her religious life. For 34 years Sister Kathleen served in the Diocese of Ogdensburg, NY as registered nurse, nursing home administrator, and patient advocate. She was a Head Nurse and OR Supervisor at A B Hepburn Hospital (now Claxton Hepburn Medical Center) and returned years later as patient advocate at the Medical Center. Sister Kathleen was the Administrator at St. Joseph’s Home in Ogdensburg for 18 years and previously served as Assistant Dean in the D’Youville College School of Nursing, Buffalo, NY. She was a member of the Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart Leadership Team for five years, followed by nine years as Secretary General. For three years she served as an assistant coordinator at the Motherhouse in Yardley.

Former Board memberships include the Board of Trustees at D’Youville College and Board of Directors of A B Hepburn Hospital; a member of the Board of Managers at St. Joseph’s Home and Secretary of the St. Joseph Home Foundation. She was a Board Member of the New York Association of Homes and Services for the Aging and a member of the Board of Directors of United Way of St. Lawrence and Franklin Counties.
Sister Kathleen received her BSN from D’Youville College and her MSN from Case Western Reserve in Cleveland, Ohio. Memberships included the American College of Nursing Home Administrators, the American Nurses Association, and National League for Nursing. She was a member of Zonta and Sigma Theta Tau.

Born in Ogdensburg, she is survived by her brother, Nelson Sholette and his wife, Judy, who reside in Ogdensburg. She is also survived by her religious congregation. A Wake Service is scheduled for Thursday, February 6th at 7 PM in the Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart Motherhouse chapel where a Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 9:30 AM on Friday, February 7th. Burial to follow in Resurrection Cemetery. Arrangements by Beck-Givnish. In lieu of flowers, donations in her memory will be gratefully received by the Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart, 1750 Quarry Road, Yardley, PA 19067.

May she rest in peace!

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