Sister M. Lourdes (Anna May) Kelly, CSC (1910-2019)
She Could Stop Traffic!
“It is usually a high compliment when a person is described as someone who had such personality that she could stop traffic. Not in the case of Sister M. Lourdes (Kelly). Her independence and determination caused concern. Well into her nineties, Sister’s daily prayer included a trip from the Saint Mary’s motherhouse over to the Grotto on the University of Notre Dame campus. If her ride did not show up promptly, Sister Lourdes headed out alone. Just as impatiently, she started across the highway with her rosary, not waiting for cars to slow down on the highway at the main entrance to Saint Mary’s. She brushed off those who would protect her by saying, ‘Don’t worry about the traffic, they will stop.’
“Sister Lourdes often engaged visitors in conversation at the Grotto dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes. She introduced herself to one visitor when she was ninety-three, explaining that she had hoped to receive the name Brigid, patroness of her native Ireland, at the time of her reception of the Holy Habit in 1936. ‘But my, how I was delighted to be named after the Blessed Virgin!’ Her genuine interaction and humanity touched those she encountered. More than one person remembers Sister’s promise of prayer. ‘It is all in the hands of God and the Blessed Mother. Give your life completely….’
“Sister Lourdes never lost her Irish brogue, having been born in Dublin, Ireland in 1910. Her father, James Kelly, was a railroad engineer. He had already died of pneumonia at 72 by the time of her initial profession as a Sister of the Holy Cross at age 28 in August 1938. Her mother, Frances Phelan Kelly, was 71 when her daughter Anna May Kelly professed her vows. She was the youngest of eleven children, all of whom predeceased her. The music for her Mass of Resurrection was the same as that for her sister Frances Kelly. Her sister Elizabeth, Sister Mary Martha (Kelly), CSC, did not think Anna May had a religious vocation but agreed to take her with her back to the United States to become a Sister of the Holy Cross. Sister Martha died in 1987. Sister Lourdes, after years of bureaucratic mix-ups, finally became a citizen of the United States in 1948 at age thirty-seven.
The young Anna May Kelly had only wanted to be a sister, assuming she would be a housekeeper like the Blessed Mother. As Sister Lourdes, she was shocked to be assigned as an elementary school teacher, beginning at St. Joseph School, South Bend, IN, in 1938, where there was a large Irish population. The children were thrilled to have her as a teacher. She was a successful teacher in parish schools throughout Indiana and Illinois. In 1973, she continued in Catholic education as a tutor for students who needed support, serving at Holy Redeemer School, Flint, Michigan, and at St. Paul’s School, Valparaiso, Indiana, in each for three years. In 1980, Sister Lourdes retired to Saint Mary’s Convent but continued in various ministries of prayer, including visits to the Grotto at Notre Dame, stopping traffic.
Sister Lourdes planned ahead—as did her sister Frances, who had arranged for thirty masses to be celebrated for Sister Lourdes upon her death. Sister wrote in December 1993 that she was ‘looking ahead to that great day.’ She wanted no memento at the vigil service, only a rosary recited for the repose of her soul. Sister Lourdes died at Saint Mary’s Convent, Notre Dame, IN, at the age of 109, having entered Holy Cross after leaving Dublin in the same month 84 years earlier. Her citizenship is now in heaven.” (Written by Sister Catherine Osimo, CSC.)