The much loved and respected Sr Pat Kenny has died aged 91. Representatives of the extended Kenny family, friends from the Catholic Charismatic Movement, members of the former Hesed Christian Community and Sisters of Mercy gathered recently to celebrate the life of this truly remarkable woman. She is universally remembered as a woman of selfless kindness, tireless commitment to the disadvantaged and genuine holiness.
Sr Pat Kenny was born in Streaky Bay on the Eyre Peninsula and was always proud of her West Coast origins. After attending boarding school at St Aloysius College in Adelaide, Sr Pat joined the Sisters of Mercy in 1945 and made her final profession in 1950 as Sr Pauline.
In her early years Sr Pat taught at Mercedes College, and later at St Aloysius College. She was a versatile and gifted person who could put her hand to most tasks. In 1962 she undertook nursing training and later trained as a social worker. She was uniquely qualified to practise three professions: teaching, nursing and social work – all of which informed her later ministry.
The Second Vatican Council opened up many opportunities for Sr Pat and she was influential in several experimental mixed community situations, a radical development at the time. In addition she was involved in setting up centres of hospitality and support for marginalised people, such as the drop-in centre Devon House. She was highly respected throughout the Catholic Charismatic Movement as a woman of profound healing prayer which brought comfort and hope to many.
In 1983 Sr Pat, together with Sr Rose Casey, started the Hesed Christian Community. Eventually located in Magill, Sr Pat governed Hesed for an amazing 30 years. She retired at the age of 86.
Hesed Christian Community was established by Sr Pat in response to a deeply felt need to provide a home and place of belonging, safety and recovery for people who had in various ways been knocked around by life.
They came from a diversity of ethnic, social and educational backgrounds. They were parents, priests and Religious, victims of abuse, survivors of domestic violence, those who had lost good jobs due to alcohol dependence, the mentally ill and brain injured. They were small children born with drug withdrawal symptoms. All had in common the need for a structured and caring community which could educate and enable them towards wellbeing.
Hesed cast a very wide net and was described by Sr Pat herself as a community of hope and healing where hospitality was paramount. Over 1600 people –men, women and children – passed through Hesed.
On the occasion of her retirement, tribute was paid to her by the treasurer of the Hesed board Dr Graham Andersen:
“In one of my several former lives I worked in the drug and alcohol units at Warranilla and Joslin, and it was there that I first heard about Sr Pat Kenny… when one of the social workers managed to get someone into Hesed after detox, we all heard about it, because everyone knew that being at Hesed offered the best chance of recovery.
I have been casting about for something which captures the charism of Sr Pat, and I don’t think I can do much better than paraphrase a section of the Third Step Prayer of Alcoholics Anonymous. She bore witness to those she helped of the power, the love, and the way of life of God…”
Provided by Sr Mary Wickham rsm, former chair of the Hesed Christian Community Board.Jump to next article