Sister Kathleen was born in Newpark, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland in 1935. She attended a local primary school and went to the Loreto Convent in Omagh for her secondary education. She qualified in psychiatric and general nursing and in midwifery at Belfast City Hospital. She had an adventurous spirit and after a year’s experience in Ireland, she worked in Zambia as a lay missionary. She spent two years there as a nurse and matron. In 1971, shortly after her return home, she joined the Medical Missionaries of Mary.
After profession, her first assignment was to Leon, Spain for a year. She then worked in Kitovu Hospital in Uganda for two years. This was followed by two years helping in the guest department and infirmary in the Motherhouse in Drogheda.
After final profession Kathleen was assigned to Kenya where she served for twenty-seven years. She loved life in the Great Rift Valley. She was part of a team that developed a community health care programme in Subukia, where she had a particular concern for children with disabilities. She worked in Aror and later joined the team in an integrated development project in Kipsaraman. The roads in these areas could be treacherous but Kathleen never got stuck as she drove to the various villages. She taught many MMMs how to drive in slippery, muddy conditions. After Kipsaraman, she moved to Nairobi. There she worked in a health centre in the overcrowded conditions of the Mukuru slums.
Sister Kathleen was very popular with the local staff and patients and had the gift of passing on her skills. She was a very organised, intelligent and determined person, traits that helped her as she helped poor communities improve their lives and enjoy better health.
Kathleen was an easy person to live with and was very compassionate and understanding of people’s limitations. She was very hospitable and sociable. She wasn’t afraid to speak her truth even when it was different to the general opinion but she would always do so in a calm way.
Sister Kathleen returned to Ireland in 2007 for health reasons and lived in the Motherhouse community for nine years. She missed Kenya but her family had always been important to her and she would be able to spend more time with them. She wanted to live life to the full and so was always pleased to go on an outing. She enjoyed her weekly trip to the local day centre. She enjoyed shopping expeditions, which invariably included a cup of coffee. On all occasions she wore her Pioneer pin and was proud to receive her Golden Pin and certificate.
Kathleen was a happy person even when she became very sick in her later years. She was transferred to the nursing facility, Aras Mhuire, at the end of 2016. She spent her last days in the company of her nieces and MMM sisters and died there peacefully on 10 January 2017.
Three Mercy Sisters from Kenya joined MMMs, her family, and Fathers A. McCrystal, SMA, and Pat Kelly, SPS, in celebrating her funeral Mass. The Sisters sang many parts of the Mass in Kiswahili. It was a joyous celebration of her life and mission.