Kathleen Keller, SNJM
My life has been a rich journey of many twists and turns; always being led in new paths of deeper trust. After my mother died when I was 8 years old, my sister and 2 brothers were raised by our father in Clearwater, FL. We spent our summers with my grandmother in her house across the street from the Gulf of Mexico so the Florida sun and beaches are very much a part of my identity. I learned early to care for others and to share my gifts with those less fortunate. Nature and the care of the earth was very much a part of this training also.
The Sisters of the Holy Names had just started St. Cecelia’s School in Clearwater, FL when my older brother and sister were ready for first grade. I had the privilege of being in the first class in the new building. Since a Catholic high school was being built, the Sisters added on grades 9 and 10 so that our class could go all through Catholic schools. We were in the first graduating class of Clearwater Central Catholic High and to this day I am the only graduate to enter the convent.
I entered the Sisters of the Holy Names in Albany, NY as a group of 12 postulants, but I am the only one who made final vows. I was privileged to teach elementary schools in Clearwater, FL and in Albany, NY. As I was unique in teaching enough health education in the elementary classroom, Russell Sage College gave me a full scholarship for a Masters in Health Education. I was working as an Administrative Assistant in the Arts Center on Holy Names Campus, Albany, NY when I was invited to consider going to serve in our mission in Peru. I spent 6.5 years there working first as secretary and catechist in a parish in Arequipa and then as helping to start our house in La Curva, serving as pastor of a parish of five towns. Scripture came alive for me in Peru and total dependence on God became a way of life.
Returning to the US in 1985, I first worked at our High School in Silver Spring, MD and then at Catholic Charities Health Care Network. I also studied Massage Therapy and after graduating taught at the Massage School in Washington, DC for over 20 years receiving the first ever Teacher of the Year Award from the American Massage Therapy Association. I also began ministering at St. Luke Institute in Silver Spring, MD, bringing the special qualities of a vowed religious woman and a touch therapist to other religious men and women, especially those who suffer from abuse issues and PTSD.
I have volunteered with Prison Ministry Outreach, share my love for singing as a cantor at St. Michael’s parish and am an active member of our anti-trafficking group here in Maryland.
Throughout this journey, I have counted on and am grateful for the support of our Sisters who have helped guide and encourage me, keeping my focus on the primacy of the love of God, sharing this love with those most in need as we respond to the call, and as Mother Marie Rose invited us to, extend a hand to one another as we walk this same path.