Out of the thousands of young women who have arrived at the Motherhouse over the decades intending to become Adrian Dominican Sisters, only one is known to have done so hiding on the floor of a car: Kathleen Donnelly.
As she related the story in her autobiography, she was sixteen years old when Mother Gerald Barry visited Florida, where the Donnelly family lived, and Mother Gerald brought her back on the train with her. A man met the train at the station in Toledo, Ohio, to drive Mother Gerald to the Motherhouse, and when they got there
I was told by Mother Gerald to hide on the floor as she had not told anyone I was coming. Many sisters and postulants and novices were waiting outside for her when she arrived. After they departed I was told to get out of the car. Mother Gerald had told no one that she was bringing a new postulant with her and wanted to surprise the Sisters, especially Sr. Mary Philip (Ryan).
Kathleen Donnelly was born October 7, 1921, in West Palm Beach, Florida. Her father, Charles Henry Donnelly, was a professional baseball player for several teams and became an umpire when his playing days were over. When he was hurt during a ballgame in Toledo, he was taken to the hospital where he met a young, pretty nurse named Kathleen O’Hare. The two ended up eloping, and when Charles was sent by his ball club to find a winter practice facility and chose West Palm Beach, the couple settled there.
Read more about Sister Kathleen (pdf)
Memorial gifts may be made to Adrian Dominican Sisters, 1257 East Siena Heights Drive, Adrian, Michigan, 49221.
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5ister Kathleen was my Principal during my studies at St High. With my Brother and cousin's and other classmates I am in debt for her love for God and His Church. I will remember her in my prayers during Holy Mass tomorrow.God rest her soul.
Sr. Kathleen is the reason we chose St. Hugh in Coconut Grove, FL, for our children. During our school tour, we marveled at the warmth and genuine love she showed for each child that she encountered as she walked the halls, calling to each by their name, asking how their siblings or parents were doing and how their day was going. We wanted our children to experience that caring too. She was a strict disciplinarian, but the love and compassion shone through. Her example was a lesson in itself. Sister, we were blessed to have met you and you will be greatly missed.
Rest In Peace Sister Kathleen... ✝️She was a strict educator; we need more school Principals like she was...
There are no words than can describe the heartbreaking loss my family is feeling right now for our beloved Aunt K as we so lovingly referred to her as ( I would be remiss if in fact I did not say right now that she would be reprimanding me at this moment for referring to her in such a flippant way) She was hard as nails sometimes on us when it came to our education , manners and respect of our elders but at the same time we knew that she loved us all so deeply and was as fierce as a Momma Lion when she was standing in for mother. I spent many summer vacations with her at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs taking summer school classes and staying in the Convent with the Sisters baking breads, playing the piano and getting in trouble sliding down the waxed halls in my socks with my sisters. I know that she definitely has made her mark in life on many many people but the mark she made on my life I cannot put into words and will treasure always.Love you dearly Aunt K, give Momma, Daddy, Nana and Grampie kisses from me and may you soar high with the angels.Until we meet again,Darlene
The community of St. Hugh grieves the death of our beloved Sr. Kathleen. Our cherished memories of her will bring moments of comfort and peace. She gave her life in service to God and shared her love of teaching to us all. Our church and school will always be filled with her spirit. I was blessed to have worked with her for 25 years. She was a mentor, friend, mother and a true example of a Catholic educator. Sister, your life was a blessing, your memory a treasure, you are loved beyond words, and will always be in our hearts. May you find comfort and peace in the arms of Jesus! Love your friend, Mary E. Fernandez and the community of St. Hugh Catholic Church and School.
I am so deeply moved as I watch this wonderful video. I am so blessed to have met and known Sr. Kathleen. Sister was Principal at St. Hugh in Coconut Grove, Florida when I was an Assistant Principal at St. Brendan in Miami. Sister was caring and loving. She demonstrated a great love for God and neighbor. Her entire life was dedicated to Catholic education. I still recall her sweet kind demeanor, always a true professional. May God grant Sister Kathleen eternal rest, where she will continue to teach I am sure.
She will be missed!
It is with tremendous awe that I have found this obituary and tribute to Sr. Charles Mary (as I knew her), so recently after her passing. I ordinarily do not spend time searching for people from my past online. But someone recently asked on Facebook if I could remember the name of my first-grade teacher, and of course I could, Sr. Norman Marie O.P., and I began a search for her name. I did not find Sister Norman Marie, but I did come across this tribute Sr. Kathleen Donnelly, whom I also knew as Sr. Charles Mary, the principal of the elementary school I attended for eight years in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Our Lady Queen of Martyrs. I was a student there at the time when she and many of the other sisters were changing their names, and habits. This was back in the 1960s. I turned 60 last December and couldn't imagine that any of those dear sisters who gave me such an outstanding education could possibly still be alive. How I wish I had known that Sr. Kathleen was still living. I live in Columbus, Ohio now and would have gladly made the trip to see her, though I doubt she would have remembered me. She touched the lives of so many children on their way to adulthood. Throughout my life, I have always given credit to the exemplary education I received from the Adrian Dominican Sisters at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Elementary School in Fort Lauderdale. Those formative years gave me a solid foundation for life and set me on the path to an extraordinary journey in which I have carried the lessons I learned deep within my heart and soul. I was in the principal’s office frequently back in those days. I was given many reprimands from Sr. Kathleen. But I knew in my heart that she always cared, as she always displayed genuine warmth and affection in conjunction with her stern admonishments. The world needs more people like her, and frankly more people like the good sisters who educated the millions of us back in the 1960s. I am so very grateful for Sr. Kathleen and for all of the sisters (each of whom I remember by name). What a magnificent and worthwhile life she had. Sr. Kathleen made a tremendous impact on me as a child. She was a powerful personality and a brilliant administrator and educator. Our loss is most certainly heaven's gain.
I am the teacher that I am because of you. You were a tough Irish cookie as principal at St. Hugh and as a student I took that and carried it with me. God bless your family.
Our Adrian Dominican cemetery with its circular headstones is a beautiful place of rest for women who gave their lives in service to God—and a peaceful place for contemplation and remembrance.
We will post memorial reflections on our faithfully departed Sisters and Associates. If you would like to reflect on a Sister or Associate who has gone before us, please send your reflections – no more than 500 to 600 words – to
We invite you to meet some of the wonderful women who have recently crossed into eternity.