Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 24, 2008
Sr. Kelly's death stuns local Church
Leading sister died suddenly in Ireland
By RAMON GONZALEZ
"I could not believe that she would not come back."
- Sr. Carmen Monreal
"We called the ambulance immediately and in about 20 to 30 minutes they had come and tried to resuscitate her. They took her to the hospital (at about 7:45 a.m.) but she was pronounced dead on arrival."
An autopsy was scheduled to determine the cause of death. Kelly's funeral service will take place after Easter following release of the body.
"It was a such a shock because I've been living with her since I came to Canada (in 1988)," said Sister Carmen Monreal, who was to pick up Kelly at the airport the afternoon of March 16. "When I learned of her death early Sunday morning I was broken. I could not believe that she would not come back."
Monreal, who lived with Kelly and two other sisters in a west-end home, said Kelly's death came as a total shock because "as far as we know she was not ill and she was a person who really took good care of herself."
"I'll remember her as a beautiful, sensitive woman, full of humour who was also very spiritual, very balanced and very respectful of people," Monreal said. "She loved to learn. She loved to read. And she loved people. It was so easy to talk to her on all kinds of topics."
Travel was typical for Kelly, who served as formation director for the Ursulines of Jesus community in Edmonton. She was also chairperson of the Council of Women Religious for the archdiocese and was completing a doctorate in ministry at St. Stephen's College at the University of Alberta.
At one point Kelly spent nine years in the order's motherhouse in France and served her sisters in Africa and South America.
"I enjoy sharing freely of whatever I have or what I have learned," Kelly said in a February 2007 WCR interview. "There is a real joy for me to be able to share a discovery with others."
Ursuline Sister Mary Claire Stack, a former regional leader of the congregation, also learned of Kelly's death on March 16. "I was absolutely devastated, broken-hearted; that's the only way to put it," she told the WCR March 18.
Kelly had been facilitating discernment processes for several religious congregations and groups in Canada and was part of the Presence Program at Providence Renewal Centre.
- WCR file photo
Sr. Geraldine Kelly was frequently called upon to lead workshops and speak to groups.
"She was very, very involved and will be missed very much," Stack said. "She was a beautiful woman of the Church, a woman who lived the mystery of the incarnation very, very deeply.
"Geraldine knew how to enjoy life and to celebrate life well. She really celebrated the good and the beauty in life."
Kelly grew up in Edmonton and St. Albert, the daughter of a baker who became a plumber and a mother who worked in a bank.
She was always contemplative. As a child, she preferred walking to school to taking the bus as a way to clear her mind and focus. When she taught junior high home economics, she said the students taught her as much as she taught them.
"What I taught wasn't so much about cooking as it was about how to get along with each other," she recalled. "A lot of the students had learning disabilities. They taught me an awful lot about patience and being genuine."
Kelly also served as spiritual director and facilitator. "In spiritual direction, I try to put people in touch with the importance and significance of their relationship with God and other people - and about how that can be of service to the Church and others," she said.
Entering religious life was not something Kelly considered until her teens. Her parents used to say she and her brothers should look at all the vocations before they chose one.
In her mid-teens, Kelly moved in for a year with the Ursulines and attended Mount Carmel School. She decided the sisters were great people, but a religious life was not for her.
"I knew that when I was with the sisters, I was happy."
- Sr. Geraldine Kelly
She returned home to finish high school when a girlfriend, who was living with the sisters, entered the order. She asked Kelly to come and spend a weekend. She did and found a deep happiness.
"I knew that when I was with the sisters, I was happy," she recalled. "Why would I turn my back on it?" After six months, Kelly determined she had never been happier and stayed with the congregation.
Following a two-year teaching stint the order asked Kelly to consider youth and vocation ministry. She got involved in retreat groups around Edmonton and worked at the parish in Sherwood Park. She served as director of Star of the North Retreat Centre for two years before being asked to serve the order from France.
In 1991, she went and stayed for nine years. She travelled to Western Europe, Cameroon, Chile, Bolivia and Ecuador and eventually learned to speak to most of her audiences in their own languages.
"She was an extremely gifted woman who was very comfortable in English, French and Spanish so she could communicate well with many different peoples," recalled Stack. "She had a great respect for the individual and to his/ her own growth in life."
In her west-end home once a month from October to May, Kelly and two other sisters used to host Life Choices, a two-hour session of prayer and discernment for men and women. Some 15 people aged 20 to 40 now attend the two-hour sessions.
"I am very impressed with how Geraldine shared her gifts," said Sister Jeannette Filthaut, who worked with Kelly as vice-chair of the Council of Women Religious for the past three years. "Any of the learning that she has she takes it and puts into practice right away."
Filthaut, a member of the Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul, has also worked with Kelly in facilitation and was a recipient of her knowledge at the Presence Program at Providence Centre.
"She is a gifted spiritual director," she said. "She's given workshops internationally to a variety of groups of people and she's certainly given a lot to the archdiocese, not only in the vocations dimension. She is a woman who lived her faith passionately and fully as Jesus calls us to."
Lynnell Prediger, academic executive assistant at Newman Theological College, where Kelly also taught, first met Kelly over 20 years ago through their mutual involvement with the Christ Our Light youth retreat group.
"She was always available with a word of advice or a shoulder to lean on," she recalled in a March 18 email. "Her keen sense of humour and infectious laugh drew young people to her like a magnet."
Prediger and Kelly lost touch for a number of years, but were reunited six years ago when Prediger became the program coordinator at Providence Renewal Centre, where Kelly was a member of the spiritual direction team.
"She worked on many retreats and helped countless women and men to find God in their everyday lives through spiritual direction."
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