We gather this evening to remember and say good-bye, for now, to Sister Mary Gerald Kiely of the Immaculate Conception. Eleanor Mary Teresa Kiely was born in Brooklyn, NY on July 11, 1921 and baptized at St. Theresa’s in Brooklyn. Her parents were Michael Kiely, born in Waterford, Ireland, and Nora Sheehan, born in Kerry, Ireland. Her brother, Gerard, pre-deceased Sister.
On February 11, 1942 Eleanor Kiely entered the Missionary Servants of the Most Blessed Trinity. Her first profession was made on August 15, 1943 and her final profession was made on March 25, 1947. As to her education, Sister attended Our Lady of Wisdom Academy graduating in 1939. She received a degree in Social Studies from Seton Hall Univ. in 1963 and a Masters in Social Work from the University of Pittsburgh in 1965.
Sister’s mission assignments began with Gillette, NJ; then Richmond Hill, NY; Harrisburg, and Greensburg, PA; Trenton and Fords, NJ; Philadelphia, MSBT Leadership; Dublin, GA -parish Ministry; Mobile, AL – CSS Director; Stirling, NJ – Coordinator of Visitor Ministry; Motherhouse– Volunteer at Inn Dwelling; and lastly assigned to the Ministry of Prayer at Mother Boniface Missionary Cenacle at Wesley.
Sister was elected to community leadership as a General Councilor in 1962. She continued her ministry in Catholic Charities in Greensburg, PA and came to Philadelphia for Council Meetings. She was elected as General Custodian in1968 and announced that she would not use the title “Mother.”. The entire council was new and the very first leadership team to have no one who actually knew Fr. Judge! This was a major change for community. The thought being: “How could these ‘newcomers’ possibly carry on the work of Fr. Judge!”
Sister was re-elected in 1972. This was the time following Vatican II. Her leadership service took place following the release of the Vatican II documents. Which became a time of massive rapid change, resistance, and tumult in the Church, in general, but especially in religious life. (Many of us remember those days!)
Sister Mary Gerald inherited the financial aftermath of completing several building expansions all at the same time. These being the need for funds for completing the Retreat House in Holy Trinity (Sr. Mary Alice’s project), St. Patrick’s School in Phenix City (Sr. Mary James’s project); the Mother Boniface Building in Philadelphia (Sr. Mercedes project), and the expansion of HNJMC …all at the same time. We don’t need to review that part of our history but we need to be grateful for the major changes that Sr. Mary Gerald guided, accepted, supported and those she resisted. One of those forward thinking decisions was the decision to sign up for Social Security, which involved borrowing money from our Priests and Brothers to buy into Social Security. She went to Fr. Stephen, then the Custodian General, who generously loaned $325,000.00 to our Community and then later forgave the debt. This was a bold move and it has served us well. We are benefitting greatly today from that decision to go into Social Security. The decision to revise our Constitutions was another of Sister’s initiatives resulting in the 1970 “Interim Constitution”.
Over the years, Sister Mary Gerald has maintained a strong commitment to assist in the development of the laity, the encouragement of the other branches of the Cenacle Family, strengthen community life, and encourage ongoing learning. Her deep faith in the providence of God and His Immaculate Mother, Mary, sustained her.