Sister Patricia Kelly

Written on: March 21, 2018

Reflections on the life of Sister Patricia Kelly, GNSH

Funeral Mass – Holy Redeemer Provincialate Chapel

March 24, 2018

Sister Eileen White, GNSH


There are so many consoling messages from God in the scripture and the hymns Pat chose as her final gift to us.  

Be not afraid.   Do not let your heart be troubled.  Don’t worry. You are mine.  I go to prepare a place for you.    I have called you by name. 

Pat, we have also been privileged to call you by name –  sister, sister in-law, Aunt, friend, companion, co-worker, Grey Nun Sister, partner in advocacy for justice and peace – Pat, Patricia, daughter of Ireland’s Daniel and Mary Kelly and long ago even, Marie Renee, after the mother of St. Marguerite.  And perhaps the most deserved –  Daughter of Marguerite.

Pat had several re-incarnations in her 81 years- teacher, missionary,  social worker, and finally enthusiastic retiree. I came to St. Leo’s just as the then Sister Marie Renee was leaving  to go off to our mission in Peru, first to Puerto Rico for language school, and then off to Lima. Behind her were 10 years of teaching in grade schools — at Melrose and in Corona and Jackson Heights – 5th 6th, and 7th grade –  Before her was a foreign land, a different language, a new ministry, and a culture which she learned to love so much that she once said about it,

You never come all the way back from Peru.”

Pat did all kinds of new things in Lima – became newly bilingual; taught ESL; became principal; taught religion; ran the catechetical program; learned to drive that Datsun with its stick shift, and not to freak out too much when they stole the tires right outside the convent. Karen told me that Pat was especially kind and helpful to her when she was brand new in Peru. She was also a calming influence in handling the drama that sometimes characterizes community life!  (I’ll say no more about that. We Peruvians know)  Norbertine friend Father Rod Fenzel wanted us to know that one of the Bible Study groups that Pat started are still in existence.   She made dozens of good friends, both Spanish and English-speaking. She learned to play the guitar and sang with the youth choir. And along the way, she enjoyed leisure time, too — traveling – seeing the whole coast of Peru and traveling into Ecuador, enjoying sunset on the beach in December summer, relishing every vacation day.

I shared only five years of Pat’s 15 years in Peru, including a celebration of hers and Maureen Quigley’s silver jubilee at Parroquia San Norberto. Her niece told us the other night that

Pat arrived at the airport one time from Peru in bell bottom trousers, with pierced ears, and a guitar slung over her shoulder. Molly said that Mrs.Kelly almost had a heart attack. 

Many of us might have thought that Pat would be lost when she returned after all those years to the U.S. But, we forgot for a moment about Pat’s unfailing embrace of whatever life asked of her – joy, sorrow, pain, pleasure, loss, abundance – Pat had an unbelievable tranquility about her that made her such an asset in community and ministry.  For her, Divine Providence was, as St. Marguerite said, indeed wonderful!  She put all her trust in it.

Through the endless seasons of all time, you have always been, you will always be, In every age, O God, you have been our hope.”

Pat’s third re-incarnation lasted the thirty plus years after she returned in ’83 to Pennsylvania. Mention Sister Pat Kelly to anyone who knew her as parish social minister at St.Henry’s or Incarnation Parish in Philadelphia or anywhere near the Catholic Social Services offices in Levittown or at Our Lady of Fatima in Bensalem and they will light up with the memory of her goodness and her graciousness and her ability to listen long and hard to needy people and then find resources to alleviate their suffering.  Hispanics were thrilled to find a social worker who was a Sister who spoke Spanish!  Anglos were equally thrilled to know a Sister who combined knowledge of resources with compassion. Pat went from 7th grade teacher to social worker par excellence the way many women did such things – learning as she went. But she was no slouch.  All along the way, she took advantage of opportunities that the congregation and circumstances offered her, studying at the Mexican American Cultural Institute in San Antonio in the 70s and at Maryknoll, NY when she returned to the U.S.  She earned her M.A. – in Bicultural Studies with the Urban Social Work Tract –at LaSalle University in the early 90s. Pat helped the community to fund those studies with a Gundaker Foundation grant. I want to read you a selection from the letter she received from the chair of the grant committee:

“While all the applicants were outstanding, you should take pride in knowing that you have been selected for this grant because of the Foundation’s determination that you have shown outstanding accomplishments not only academically, but in service to others and in the demonstration of leadership”.

Karen and Pat had a grand graduation party as I recall – another of Pat’s loves– parties!

Make me a channel of your peace.  Where there is hatred, injury, doubt, despair, darkness or sadness – let me bring love, pardon, faith, hope, light,  and joy.  

The experience of living in Peru gave Pat a passion for peace and social justice.  As a social worker, she was committed to direct service of those made poor. As a member of the Derby Group, the Ecology Spirituality group, the Peace and Nonviolence Committee, and the Philadelphia area Catholic Coalition for Justice and Peace, Pat gave her wholehearted support to efforts to wage peace, care for the earth, and promote justice. Pat reached out to the local Associates and I heard Diane Bardol say that they feel a big hole in their meetings at the loss of Pat. If you worked on any committee with Pat, you knew that she would pull more than her weight. She knew how to plan, how to organize, how to make a thing happen, and she forgave me – and others, no doubt – for our tendency to procrastinate, even though she was one for getting right to it.

The local area government group that Pat belonged to had an annual retreat for women at the Motherhouse for about 15 years. Pat and Mary – a phrase we will have a hard time letting go of – almost always took care of ambiance. I suspect they complemented each other’s creativity, and we always had a simple, but meaningful visual at those retreats. Mary told me that Pat was 61 and Mary was 50 when they started camping and neither had ever camped before. Some of us noted that it was good to check with Mary and Pat when they were going camping because it was a sure sign that there would be rain. Pat never complained about the rainy weather. Pat and Mary complemented each other in so many ways in their years of faithful, inclusive friendship. We were all beneficiaries of that friendship.

When Pat finally retired and moved to Lafayette, she was, as Mary Charlotte put it, “a welcoming presence”.  I learned again from Mary that she volunteered for the Welcoming Committee and the Wellness Committee.  She was a Fire Captain and visited sick residents.

“In my Father’s house there are many rooms and I go to prepare a place for you…”

In these last weeks of living and dying, it seemed that Pat continued to embrace whatever life asked of her – joy, sorrow, pain, pleasure, loss, abundance. As she so often prepared a place – at Luis Espejo in Santa Catalina, Lima; a classroom at St. Joan’s; a prayer space at Emmaus House on Broad Street, the camping tent in the pouring rain with Mary; ambiance at Sacred Heart Chapel, guest rooms in Jenkintown – as she so often prepared a place, we believe that there is a place prepared for her with the God who promised her and all of us,

I shall come again and take you to me, that where I am, you also may be.”

Go now in peace faithful friend of God, as you take our love into paradise.


Sister Patricia Kelly, GNSH (Sister Marie Renee), 81, in the 64th year of her religious life, died in Holy Redeemer Hospital Hospice care on March 20, 2018.

Born in Philadelphia, PA on April 26, 1936, she was one of four daughters of Daniel M. and Mary Catherine Conlon Kelly.

From the field of education to social ministry, Sister Patricia influenced the lives of countless individuals both in the United States and Lima, Peru.

After teaching for ten years in Jackson Heights and Corona, NY and Jenkintown, PA, she volunteered to serve at St. Norbert School and Parish in Lima, Peru. For 16 years this missionary was a teacher, principal, and pastoral worker.

Returning to Philadelphia in 1983 she was engaged in Parish Social Ministry for Catholic Social Services for more than 32 years. In 2002 she participated as a member of the 10th Synod of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

Sister Pat earned a BA in Spanish from D’Youville College, Buffalo, NY and an MA/Bilingual/Bicultural Studies, Urban Social Work Tract from LaSalle University. She undertook additional studies in a variety of venues, including a year of study in Lima at the Family Promotion Institute and was a member of Sigma Delta Pi Spanish Honor Society.

Sister Patricia is predeceased by her parents and sisters Mary Walsh and Nancy Fox. In addition to her religious congregation, she is survived by her sister Rita Fenerty and several nieces and nephews.

Funeral Arrangements:

Saturday, March 24, 2018 beginning at 9:30 a.m. with a gathering/sharing of memories at Redeemer Sisters Chapel, 521 Moredon Road, Huntingdon Valley, PA 19006 followed by a Memorial Mass at 10:30 a.m. Internment, Resurrection Cemetery, 5201 Hulmeville Rd, Bensalem, PA 19020.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations in Sister Patricia’s memory may be made online to the Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart, or by mail at the following address:14500 Bustleton Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19116-1188.

Funeral arrangements by Beck-Givnish Funeral Homes, Inc.

4 thoughts on “Sister Patricia Kelly

  1. Ursaula Hoile says:

    I knew the Grey Nuns in Sta. Catalina when they invited us to their home while we did Language School in San Borja. No words can convey my gratitude to Pat, Karen, Maureen, Eileen and Connie. An amazing group of women. Rest in Peace Pat.
    Ursula Hoile
    Sister of St Joseph AUSTRALIA

  2. Ann Crossin Larkin LCSW says:

    I had the honor of working at Catholic Social Services with Sister Pat Kelly and she was a valued colleague, a warm hearted and hard-working woman whose Christian values were a shining light to others, coworkers and clients alike. From your new home with our Creator , Sister Pat, please keep an eye on us and say a prayer for us.
    Until we meet again,
    Ann Crossin Larkin LCSW

  3. Friends at CSS says:

    “Our Sister Pat” was a term of endearment used often at the office at Catholic Social Services when speaking of Pat Kelly, GNSH. She was always present for the many individuals and families that walked through the doors over the years and still is in many ways. She had a clear mission and we are better for her influence, insight and gentleness. While she worked hard for those she served and served with, she played just as hard. She brought countless stories and laughs to the days at CSS and will be missed dearly. God has gained a faithful servant in heaven. May her works continue from above.

  4. Kathleen Clotfelter says:

    Sister Pat was delight to work with. We shared time teaching in Corona and Jackson. There was also a special connection since we were both from Philadelphia and graduated from Little Flower. May God shine upon her and may she rest in peace.

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