At the start of staff meetings, Sister Kathleen would say, "I am  going to tell you the same thing Elizabeth Taylor used to tell her husbands: I won't be keeping you long." As you can see, Sister Kathleen had an Irish wit. Further, she recognized that her religious vocation necessitated a life committed to the nuts and bolts of directly helping others.

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Sister Kathleen was Mercedes' aunt. In total she had 21 nieces and nephews. That's not counting the many grand-nieces and grand-nephews who also knew her as Aunt Kathleen. Sister Kathleen entered the Sisters of Saint Joseph in 1944 when  was she was 20 years old and remained a faithful member of the order until her death in 2012. She had many religious assignments; she lived for 8 years after surviving an aortic aneurysm; she attended every family gathering that was held ever, even when she had to use a walker to get there. She was indomitable like so many nuns of her generation.

For Mercedes and her six siblings it wasn't always easy when Sr. Kathleen would come to visit because she would stay at the convent where they all went to school. Usually one of  the kids would hear from a nun at school, "Sr. Kathleen will be in town this weekend. She will be staying at the convent. We will be sure to show her your work and your papers." For some, this was a good thing; for others, well, it could be sheer terror.

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Today there are not as many nuns, and many children have never met one. Our children and their cousins grew up knowing Aunt Kathleen and were able to visit her at her convent and later at the Saint Joseph Villa in Flourtown, Pennsylvannia, where she resided in her final years.

Being a nun today is considerably different than when Sister Kathleen entered religious life. In those days, she had a different religious name. She was known as  Sister Miriam Therese. Her habit evolved in the years after Vatican 2, going from the long black habit that covered everything except her face to the modern nun's blazer and knee-length skirt.

Mercedes' mother and father with Sister Kathleen McPeak, SSJ Mercedes' mother and father with Sister Kathleen McPeak, SSJ

Many people have their own memories or stories of nuns who impacted their lives. While there are fewer nuns today then there were back then, these important servants of the Church continue to inspire young people today. Whether it be the Director of Religious Education at your parish church or a teacher at a Catholic school, these Sisters are still giving their all!

No one sums it up better than Aunt Kathleen herself who said:

"When I look back on my life I feel it has been a mosaic made up of all the tiles of my years as a Sister of Saint Joseph. I thank God for all his gifts of family, of my faith, of my friends and especially of my community of the Sisters of Saint Joseph."

Aunt Kathleen, Sister Kathleen, Kate, you are missed.

Sister Kathleen in her later years Sister Kathleen in her later years

Copyright 2016 David and Mercedes Rizzo.
All photos copyright 2016 David and Mercedes Rizzo. All rights reserved.