Sister Kathryn Ann Connelly, SC was born in Cincinnati and raised in Price Hill. She placed education at the heart of her ministry as a Sister of Charity of Cincinnati for over 18 years. She was the assistant principal and later principal at Archbishop Alter High School, the principal at Seton High School and the Superintendent of Schools and Director of Educational Services for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati until her retirement in 2003.
S. Kathryn first got involved volunteering with Santa Maria during her high school years at Seton. Santa Maria was located on 13th Street in Over-the-Rhine at that time. Later, in the mid-1950s, S. Kathryn was assigned to care for preschoolers at Santa Maria during the summer.
“I had been teaching elementary and I really had no experience with little kids. I was youngest in my family. I was youngest of my generation. So, I was never around small kids. I had no idea what to do when I went down there,” S. Kathryn said.
The sisters wore habits back then (see photo above), and it was a very hot summer, S. Kathryn recalled. She sought some advice for keeping the preschoolers occupied on such a hot day. Someone told her, “If you get some buckets and whitewash brushes – fill the buckets with water, take the kids out and paint the sidewalk. By the time you get to the building it will be dry and you can start over. It will keep them busy all day.” And that’s how S. Kathryn spent part of her summer that year.
S. Kathryn continued her service with Santa Maria for many years. She was good friends with S. Jane Ellen Shappelle, who was the Executive Director of Santa Maria from 1973-1986. While S. Kathryn was principal at Seton High School, Santa Maria ran a daycare program on the property. She even served on Santa Maria’s Board of Directors in the early 2000s. S. Kathryn also received the Sister Blandina Award from Santa Maria in December 2013 for being an incredible proponent of education in Cincinnati.
S. Kathryn has seen Santa Maria change a lot over the years. “The needs have changed, but Santa Maria has attempted to meet those needs,” she said. “One of the things I’ve admired about Santa Maria is that it has remained faithful to its mission…while family structure and needs may have changed over the years, Santa Maria has been clear to their ministry and their mission.”
S. Kathryn is pleased to see Santa Maria celebrating 125 years of serving families in Cincinnati and hopes it will be around for a long time to come. “The families that have been touched by Santa Maria – it’s not just once – a shot in the dark – what Santa Maria does is meet the long-term needs of people. They don’t say ‘we’ll put a Band-Aid on your needs’ – they get people to make a difference in their lives.”
Santa Maria would like to thank S. Kathryn for sharing some of her Santa Maria memories with us!
Photos courtesy of Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati