Sr. Patricia Kelly of the Immaculate Heart of Mary was born to John and Helena Kelly in Scranton, PA on April 1, 1937. She was baptized at St. Peter’s Cathedral parish on April 11, 1937. Pat was the third of four children. Her three brothers are John, Jerry (deceased), and Jim. Pat was also close to her sisters-in-law and to her nieces and nephews.
Pat was a member of the MCA for two years before she entered the MSBT on August 5, 1963. She received the name of Sr. Paul Ignatius on entering the Novitiate. She made her first profession August 15, 1965 and her perpetual profession on March 25, 1971.
In a letter Pat wrote in 1957 to Mother Sebastian she spoke about the film she saw on a visit to the Motherhouse, ‘What Richer Life’, and how deeply it impacted her. Up until that point she hadn’t been aware of the apostolic work of our sisters. In the letters she wrote to Mother Sebastian she always mentioned her good friends Sisters Marie Gaffney, Andrea Marie and Anne Regis. (She didn’t want them to know she was writing to Mother Sebastian, nor that she was interested in entering though.)
Sr. Pat received a BA in Elementary Education from Marywood College in 1959 and an MSW from Catholic University in 1976. Pat was a lifelong learner and attended many conferences, especially the annual Catholic Charities Conference and various workshops throughout her life as an MSBT.
Pat served in various ministries. After Novitiate and while in the Juniorate, she was missioned to Holy Redeemer School in Philadelphia. From there she went on to teach at St. Patrick’s in Phenix City, Alabama, then to Coamo, Puerto Rico, as an English teacher. For two summers, Pat did census work one summer in Plainview, Long Island, NY and later in Gallup, NM. Pat had requested a ministry change from education to Social Work and from that point on she stayed in that field. She was missioned to Catholic Charities in Birmingham, Alabama, then to Catholic Social Services, Parish Ministry in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In 1982 Pat became a Parish Associate at Sr. Bernadette’s Parish in Severn, Maryland, and then to St. Francis Parish on Long Beach Island, New Jersey, as a Counselor. In 1991 Pat was missioned to the Metuchen Diocese as Director of Maternity and Adoptions. In 1994, Pat returned to the Catholic Social Services in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and ministered in Parish Social Outreach in Chester and Montgomery Counties, most recently in Norristown, Quakertown, and Pennsburg, coordinating Parish Social Outreach. In 2017 Pat retired from Catholic Social Services and continued to serve as a volunteer in the Levittown and Bensalem Offices until she became too ill to continue.
Although we associate Sr. Pat with Parish Social Ministry, she had other ministries, as well. In an interview about her ministry, Pat said, “People come to the parish for more than they used to, things like counseling, bereavement care, financial needs- they see the parish as a resource and it’s very important when they come that we help them in somewhat or at least direct them to where they can go for help. A large part of Parish Social Ministry is the recruitment of volunteers and the empowerment of the laity for the various ministries in the parish. Pat said this about the recruitment of volunteers for the parish, “parish is where the people are, and it is the most natural place for us to respond to our baptismal call to serve each other”.
Pat served in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia for many years. In 2017 Archbishop Chaput advanced Sr. Pat Kelly’s name for official recognition by the Holy Father, Pope Francis, with the Cross Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice. The letter from the Archdiocese stated that “Her (Sister Patricia’s) service to the Church has been exceptional, influencing a great many people for the better and the Archbishop would like to see her witness appropriately acknowledged for the benefit of the whole diocese.” She received that honor on January 21, 2018 at the Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul.
Pat was always eager and anxious to serve the MSBT community in some way. She served in Regional leadership, the Extended Council as local custodian, and on various committees; the Education Committee, Peace and Justice Committee, the Life Transitions committee and she was also named to the Missionary Cenacle Family Area Council.
Pat had more than one bout with cancer, as well as open heart surgery in 2016 and other health challenges. She was resilient. When she had been missioned to the Motherhouse following her heart surgery, she continued to volunteer for different responsibilities. She drove sisters to medical appointments or shopping and volunteered to organize more activities for the sisters at the Motherhouse. I found a note that Pat had written after the 2018 Chapter volunteering for the Governance Committee, citing that due to her own experience as a local custodian she would have something to contribute.
As we know Pat was very social and had a wide network of friends. Her application to enter the community is very telling of this, responding to the question, “Do you have an experience in leadership?” Pat answered, ‘Yes, Girl scout leader, Camp Counselor, Chairwoman of the entertainment Committee.” When she was writing to Mother Sebastian about entering the community, she asked Mother Sebastian to call her but added, “I’m usually hard to get in touch with on the weekends though.”
Pat had a full and rich life as an MSBT. When interviewed for an article about her vocation in 2011, while she was Administrator of Parish Outreach for St. Philip Neri Church in Pennsburg, she said, “I never thought I was made for a religious vocation until I met these women. Their way of life called me into a relationship with Jesus Christ because it finally made sense to me that if you truly love God, you are going to serve his people.”
Pat, you have fought the fight, you have finished the race, the crown awaits you with all the Cenacle Saints.
Thank you for all you have been to us and to God’s people.