This month of December, 2020, in the California Region, invites us to honor in a special way Sister Kathleen Newell who will celebrate her 100th birthday on December 13th. Sister Kathleen was one of the five pioneers who came to California over sixty seven years ago, in September 1953, at the invitation of Cardinal McIntyre, to minister in Elementary Education in St. Cornelius Parish School, Long Beach, in the diocese of Los Angeles.
Sr. Kathleen writes in the Annals of those first years, "The welcome we received from the parishioners of St. Cornelius was beyond all expectations and their kindness, generosity and appreciation continued."
She also records with great love and humor the challenges of learning a new language and culture and of trying to understand a different educational system. Sr. Kathleen a;ways reached out to new sisters when they came to Los Angeles and encouraged and guided them as well as the lay staff. She wanted her teachers to be experts and be dedicated to the students. Being a social person Kathleen had no trouble making friends and some of them continue to visit her regularly.
Sr. Kathleen has lived through many changes and has seen the sisters' ministries develop over the years as they responded to the needs of the people, in the Dioceses of Los Angeles, Orange and Gallup, with new expressions of our charism.
The following are some expressions of appreciation for Sister Kathleen and for the gift she is to the Congregation and the Region all these years:-
"It is with great joy that I remember my unique relationship as a community member and friend of this most gracious servant of God, whose hospitality, profound faith, wise counsel and sincere humor has nurtured my life for 58 years and counting. If walls could yield hidden stories they would sing of Kathleen's loving and sincere attentiveness to all she encounters. Wishing you, dear Sr. Kathleen, God's most Gracious Blessings as you continue in loving service wherever you are. I am so blessed to have you as a dear friend and supporter whose endless prayer keeps me focused on Jesus.
"As my first principal, Sr. Kathleen was very spiritual and kind. She did alot for people in a quiet way.
"Kathleen, you are always compassionate and very generous with your time. You helped me greatly with English grammar when I returned to college as an adult. Many thanks, Kathleen.
"As long as I have known Sr. Kathleen she has been a gracious, deeply spiritual person who is always fully engaged with our Region and its various ministries. Last time I called her, knowing that i was involved in Education, albeit on a smaller scale, she gave me a hint as to how to teach the 13 colonies to junior high students. Her story began with George having 2 sisters Caroline, and so it continued until all the colonies were named in a funny story line I shall never forget. No technology can match that! and coming from a 100 year old still baffles my mind. Thank you, Kathleen.
"Sr. Kathleen is a deeply spiritual and caring friend, confident and teacher, whose loving, compassionate, humble ways have touched me deeply. Thank you for sharing your well-lived life and for modelling what it means to be grateful for any kindness shown.
Sr. Kathleen was my neighbour and was always kind and very hospitable no matter who came along. She had the ability to communicate with people old and young and always made people feel welcome."
For several years after retiring from her position as Pastoral Care person at Marycrest Manor, Kathleen attended daily Mass at Holy Cross Cemetery driving herself there until about 5 years ago. She endeared herself to the community there and they always kept an eye out for her and asked,"Where is Kathleen, is she Okay"? if she was missing. Always wanting to be helpful Kathleen would weekly pick up the chapel linens from the laundry, meticulously fold them and return them to the sacristy at Holy Cross.
Given the restrictions at present in Skilled Care Facilities due to Covid-19, the plans for a Birthday party for Sr. Kathleen are not yet finalised. Tune in to the next edition of enews.