Sister Andrea was born Annie Kelly in Glasgow, Scotland in 1922. Her family emigrated to Clifton, New Jersey, USA, in 1927 and she completed her first level education (grade school) there. When Andrea was eleven the family returned to Glasgow and she obtained her GCE and trained as a nurse-midwife. She worked in Glasgow as a health visitor for five years and as a district midwife for five years and before joining the Medical Missionaries of Mary in 1959.
She was assigned to Kenya in 1962. She described how Mother Mary sent for her that January and asked Andrea, ‘How would you like to go to Africa, dear?’
Andrea said, ‘These words of Mother Mary caused my heart to leap for joy. I said, “I am patiently waiting, or I should say, impatiently waiting, to be sent, Mother.”’
This was to be MMM’s first mission in Kenya. Bishop J. B. Houlihan, SPS, and Bishop Dominic Conway of Propaganda Fide requested that Sisters be sent to work in the Turkana Desert. A severe drought followed by continuous torrential rains had resulted in great loss of life, both of the Turkana people and their cattle. The people were starving.
It was an enormous challenge. Initially Sisters Andrea and Elaine (Campion) Campbell were assigned. They worked with the Saint Patrick’s Fathers in coordination of food procurement, transportation and distribution. The desert was a cruel environment: remote, barren and very hot. When the crisis was over, MMM started other missions in the country, in the desert and elsewhere. Andrea served for eighteen months in Lorugumu and for almost four years in Mount Elgon Hospital in Kitale as a nurse.
She returned to Ireland in 1967 and helped in the novitiate kitchen, in office work, in the Motherhouse infirmary, and as a nurse in the IMTH. She helped to nurse Mother Mary when she was ill before returning to Kenya in 1973.
Andrea was to spend over twenty years in Kenya, mainly in remote missions in the Turkana region. These included Kataboi, Lodwar, Nakwamoru, and Kakuma. She served as assistant bursar in Subukia. She was Area and local bursar in various missions for several years. She helped in administration and was responsible for running a nursery school. She provided hospitality for visitors in Kitale and Nairobi. A great deal of her time was devoted to the advancement of women, including improving maternal and child health and training women in leadership and development. Services were started according to the needs. She greatly loved the Turkana people and was very happy serving among them.
In between she also helped with mission awareness work in England for two years.
Towards the end of her time in Kenya, Andrea spent two and a half years in South B, Nairobi as a volunteer hospice nurse, helping people to die peacefully and painlessly.
She was a highly organised person and took great care in the many projects with which she was involved. She was also very musical and brought her mandolin with her wherever she went. It was a great asset at parties and other social gatherings.
Sister Andrea returned to Ireland in 1999. She helped as sacristan and telephonist in the Motherhouse. She learned to play the organ under the tutorship of Nancy Crilly, the head of the Drogheda School of Music and practised diligently every day. She loved to accompany the community at Mass and the Divine Office. It broke her heart when her eyesight began to deteriorate and she had to stop playing.
Because of deteriorating health Andrea moved to the nursing facility, Áras Mhuire in January 2016 after a short stay in the hospital. Her last days were not easy, but she was supported by the caring Áras Mhuire staff and by visits from the Motherhouse community. She died peacefully on 6 February 2016.
Her funeral was a celebration of her life. Three friends came from Scotland, representing her only surviving sister, Rose, who was unable to attend because she is in a nursing home. Her good friend John Moore, with whom she provided the music for the Sunday Mass in the hospital for many years, also attended and accompanied the choir on his guitar.