Holy Family says farewell to Sister Walsh

Published 9:34 am Wednesday, May 23, 2007

It would be easy to imagine the young girl Kathleen Mary Walsh running through the countryside east of Limrick, Ireland.

At 84, she sparkles with energy and laughs heartily at her attempts at jokes.

The oldest member of the Sisters of the Holy Spirit and Mary Immaculate still in the field, Walsh leaves Natchez today for San Antonio, Texas, where she will join others in her order who moved there to retire.

Email newsletter signup

Off and on for 26 years, she has worked with Holy Family Catholic School. Clearly, she has loved the school, the church, the people and Natchez since she first came in 1953.

“I have worn many hats here,” she said. “I started here in 1953 and stayed until the 1960s. Then I came back again. I’d work six, seven or eight years at a time.”

This last time in Natchez, she came to stay a very short time, but it didn’t work out that way. “This last time was supposed to be six months. It turned into six years,” she said.

On Tuesday, Walsh sat in her favorite chair in the Holy Family convent and reminisced. As a girl, she never imagined that she would become a nun.

In fact, she recalled a visit with the children at Holy Family earlier in the day. “I said to the children, ‘behave yourself for the summer,’” she said. “Did I always behave myself? No,” she said, laughing.

“Somebody prayed for me,” she said. “I can’t take any credit. It was all the Holy Spirit.”

As a teen at her school in Limrick, she heard that nuns from Texas were looking for young women to enter their convent.

“First we had to look up where Texas was,” she said. “I said, ‘I’m going to go.’”

About 33 girls signed up to join the order. “But I was the only one who came,” she said.

She and her father rode bicycles to the train station. She boarded the train for the port where she would take a ship to America. She has no regrets, she said.

Margaret Mary Healy Murphy founded the order in 1893, with a focus on ministering to the poor and needy. Founder Murphy was inspired to start the order on a Pentecost Sunday, the day in the church that celebrates the gift of the Holy Spirit.

This weekend, Walsh will celebrate Pentecost with fellow members of the order in San Antonio.

Walsh knew from the beginning that the work would suit her. It certainly has, she said.

“There have been ups and downs, but mostly ups,” she said. “I don’t even remember the downs.”

She has taught more than one generation of students at Holy Family School. She has directed plays and taken roles in all facets of school and church life. And she has enjoyed the work and the people.

“A lot of good kids have come through the school,” she said.

When she made her brief farewell remarks to the school, she promised continued prayer for the church and the school.

But she couldn’t resist telling a joke, also.

“I will conclude with borrowing a line from that joke Father Michael told you some Sundays ago,” she said to them.

“Jesus brought me here; Jesus is now taking me away. And the choir will sing, ‘What a friend we have in Jesus.’”

Walsh will not be idle at her new home. She will be working along with other retired sisters to contribute to the community around them.

“You can see the beauty of the Holy Spirit working through your life,” she said.

She paused and smiled broadly. “Sometimes it takes 40 years to understand that.”