Flynn, S. Kevin Marie, Oral History, 6/27/2017




Sisters of Charity, Leavenworth, Kansas
Transcription of Sister Kevin Marie Flynn
Interviewed by Jane Kenamore, June 27, 2017
Transcribed by Jessie Lehman, August 22, 2017

Page 1 of 32

JK: This interview is with Sister Kevin Marie Flynn. The interviewer is Jane Kenamore. We're
at the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth in Leavenworth, Kansas. We're at the Mother House,
and the date is June 27th, 2017.
So, Sister Kevin Marie, thank you so much for agreeing to be interviewed.
KMF: You're welcome.
JK: I think you're the only SCL right now who was born in Ireland, though there used to be
several. Am I right on that? [00:00:37]
KMF: Right, yes.
JK: Can you tell us about growing up there. Who were your parents? What are your early
memories of County Longford and so on? [00:00:49]
KMF: Ok. I actually was born on the border of Langford and Leitrim and our address…
JK: And where is that location? [00:00:57]
KMF: Leitrim, it's sort of close to Dublin. I mean it's about six miles east of Dublin.
JK: Oh, ok.
KMF: And it would be more central, I think, than any other county. You don't hear too many
people coming from Longford or Leitrim. It's not as popular as Cork or Tipperary or any of those
places that a lot of the Sisters used to come from, Limerick especially.
I was born the ninth in a family, a large family, and we were born in the country. It was a
countryside. It was a very popular countryside. It was at a crossroads, and we became very wellknown as the Flynns from the crossroads. It was very popular for sports, for gatherings, because
it was at a crossroads.
And my childhood, as I look back upon it, was a beautiful experience of growing in a large
family and having lots of fun and being wild in a way, because we were always out in nature and
doing beautiful things out. The stars and the sun and the sky, and all of that were all very
important in our lives.
JK: And you were the ninth. How many were…? [00:02:12]
KMF: I was the ninth girl.
JK: How many…?

Sisters of Charity, Leavenworth, Kansas
Transcription of Sister Kevin Marie Flynn
Interviewed by Jane Kenamore, June 27, 2017
Transcribed by Jessie Lehman, August 22, 2017

Page 2 of 32

KMF: I was the ninth, yes, and there were nine of us, as I said, nine. There were five boys ahead
of me and two girls, three girls ahead of me.
JK: Three girls.
KMF: Five boys and four girls.
JK: So, you were the baby of the…? [00:02:28]
KMF: And I was the baby of the family.
JK: Ok.
KMF: There were three of us at the end that… there were probably six years, seven years
between the three of us. The oldest of the three would be seven about maybe even… The next
one was born and then I was born and she was three or four, the one ahead of me.
JK: And can you tell us about your parents? [00:02:50]
KMF: My parents were… I don't know really too much about their courtship, 'cause they
didn't… We didn't talk about that that much. We took it for granted, I guess. But my dad was
from the area, but my mother was from another country area, and she had large families and so
did he. He was an orphan actually of a big family, and they were raised in an orphanage in
Dublin—my dad's family.
JK: Oh, they were? Oh.
KMF: And there were five or six boys and I think a couple of girls but we never did know the
girls because they died younger. So, I never met them, my aunts on his side. But his five brothers
were very, very close to each other that I remember as we grew up they would come to visit. And
two or three of them would go off visiting by themselves and have a good time together. So, they
were very close, my dad's family.
JK: Did he ever talk about growing up in an orphanage? [00:03:54]
KMF: Not too much, no.
JK: It must not have been…
KMF: Never talked about it too much, no, but I don't think they were there that long.
JK: Oh good.

Sisters of Charity, Leavenworth, Kansas
Transcription of Sister Kevin Marie Flynn
Interviewed by Jane Kenamore, June 27, 2017
Transcribed by Jessie Lehman, August 22, 2017

Page 3 of 32

KMF: And I'm not even sure of how my grandfather died. That didn't seem to be very important
history for them, I think.
But just because I was the youngest they used to tell me as I was growing up that I was spoiled,
but, of course, I never thought I was. But my bigger brothers and sisters, my brothers especially,
they were in the working stage while I was young and they were very good to me. They owned
cars for the first time and they'd be coming home from something or another and they'd pick us
all up from school—you know, that kind of thing—which didn't happen to any of the rest of
them in the family. And my brothers often gave me money, and they were very good, especially
one of them who what my godfather.
But later when I went home after I was a Sister—I went home for the first time after several
years over here—he said to me one day, "Did you ever know why I was your godfather and not
Francy?" (phonetic) who was the oldest of the crowd. And I said, "No. I just thought you were
dying to be my godfather." And he said, "No, not exactly." (Laughs) He said, "I had to be
because Francy refused. He did not want to have anything to do with having a baby sister."
JK: Oh, how funny. [00:05:21]
KMF: So, you know how older brothers are when the parents are still having children. You
know they're thinking oh, my God, another baby. But I never saw that in their lives. I never saw
that in their behavior toward me. I was always spoiled, and I always had a great time. And I do
remember my childhood growing up was always full of fun.
JK: Must have been.
KMF: And one of adventure and play and just a good time. And faith was a very important…
being Catholic was… We never thought of being anything else but Catholic, because everybody
was Catholic there. But I think that my faith grew more from my home than it did ever from my
church because the church was kind of thought about as the place where you receive the
sacraments and the bigger or the most important part of being Catholic.
But the way, we were raised was always very faith-filled. Like, for instance, we had always had
the rosary at night and always as a family, you know, even as teenagers that had to kneel down
beside the chair and said the rosary. The Angelus would ring in the middle of the day and
everybody would stop and pray the Angelus. If there were men out working the field they'd take
their hats off. If you had a drink of water like this you'd say, "Oh, blessings on the water. Thank
you God." God was always part of our everyday life and the providence of God taking care of us.
So, we lived that way. You know it was just very faith-filled, but we never thought of it as being
faith-filled. We thought of it more as just the ordinary way of living. So, I think that's what has

Sisters of Charity, Leavenworth, Kansas
Transcription of Sister Kevin Marie Flynn
Interviewed by Jane Kenamore, June 27, 2017
Transcribed by Jessie Lehman, August 22, 2017

Page 4 of 32

stayed with me through the years is that faith that I saw in my parents and in my older brothers
and sisters as I grew up, and not just them but in everyone around us. You know it was just a…
JK: You mentioned earlier that your older…. yes, it had to be an older brother was a priest.
KMF: Yes.
JK: Which brother was that? [00:07:27]
KMF: He was the third one from the top.
JK: Ok.
KMF: Third one down. And he had gone to a seminary over there.
JK: And how did he decide to be a priest? [00:07:36]
KMF: Bishops of that time went over there to… Well, he decided on his own, I suppose, to go
to the seminary. Some other priest might have… He might have looked at somebody and said,
"Oh, I might like to do something like that." But Bishops would go…
How he got to the States—Bishops would go over to different seminaries and speak about the
need of priests over here, and then he would offer them the last two years of their theology over
here in the States. If they wanted to come to his diocese he would pay for their theology. And so
that's how a lot of them are recruited to come over to the States.
JK: And which diocese did he go to? [00:08:23]
KMF: The Lincoln Diocese. He was in the Lincoln Diocese.
JK: In Nebraska.
KMF: In Nebraska.
JK: Ok.
KMF: So, the reason then… It was really through him that I got over here and, in a sense,
because I went to a boarding school. It was called a finishing school, and I always smile when I
say finishing school because people think, oh, you went to a finishing school? Like it's a big
uppity. But it was just an ordinary convent school, boarding school, and it was over in County
Mayo which is the west of Ireland.

Sisters of Charity, Leavenworth, Kansas
Transcription of Sister Kevin Marie Flynn
Interviewed by Jane Kenamore, June 27, 2017
Transcribed by Jessie Lehman, August 22, 2017

Page 5 of 32

So, I boarded over there, and there were lots of other girls with me and everybody from different
counties. And if you were from a different county it as like you were in another country. You're
from County Longford, where's that? You know that type of thing even though it was all small. It
was small.
But Sisters used to come and speak to us about their missionary work, and they would be from
Africa, Australia, England, France. They were all missionaries. It was the time in the church of
missionary work, going over to a country, converting them to Catholicism and that type of thing.
And so, it fascinated me, their stories about the people they worked with. And it also fascinates
me to this day that Sisters then were able to do what they did, because these Sisters would talk to
us. Now this is '88, and so these Sisters would… It would be a long time ago when they would
be speaking to us. And they would tell us about their work and so many of them would go over
to Africa or Australia or another place. They would start a hospital. They would have their own
doctors. I don't know how they got educated as women, but I think it was because they were
Sisters they could be educated as women to doctors and no one thought of them as women.
That's the only thing I can think of.
JK: So, the doctors were women? [00:10:29]
KMF: Right.
JK: That's fantastic.
KMF: They were doctors from among themselves and nurses. All of the people who went over
to do that missionary work were Sisters from among their community. And they would go over
to an area, a poor area, and they would start a hospital in a very small area, and not much... It
would be just like a little shack probably to begin with.
They would train the native people in different hospital work, in different areas of the work. And
pretty soon they began to educate the nursing and they began to get their own doctors and began
to build within that community their own doctors and their own native people. And then the
hospital would expand. And that's how they developed, the same as schools.
JK: Interesting. [00:11:22]
KMF: They started with themselves and they worked for the people. They didn't work for
JK: What was that order that you're talking about? [00:11:29]
KMF: That would be different orders. This one was….

Sisters of Charity, Leavenworth, Kansas
Transcription of Sister Kevin Marie Flynn
Interviewed by Jane Kenamore, June 27, 2017
Transcribed by Jessie Lehman, August 22, 2017

Page 6 of 32

JK: Various.
KMF: They were the Medical Missionaries of Mary. That was their title and that's what they
did. They did a lot of nursing. But a lot of different communities would speak to us. But that was
the one that appealed to me—the Medical Missionaries of Mary.
JK: So, why didn't you join that one instead of coming over here? [00:11:49]
KMF: Well, this is the story. Then they left. I went home then at Christmas and I said, "Oh, yes,
by the way, I'm going to go to Africa and join the…" It was kind of a nonchalant kind of thing,
and you didn't make a big fuss over the different things. And so, my mother said, "Africa?" And
I said, "Yes, these Sisters had come," and I told her the story, you know, how exciting it was and
all that. So, then my brother came home in the meantime or maybe six months later or whatever
because you couldn't do anything within a year. There was a war going on in the first place, and
anytime you had to leave the country it took a whole year to prepare and to get a…
So, anyway, he came home and my mother must have said to him, "Talk her out of going to
Africa, and maybe she could go to the States." So, he said to me one day when he was there,
"Well, why would you want to go to Africa?" And I said, "Because those Sisters were from
Africa, and that's…" And he said, "Why don't you come to the United States?" And I said,
"Sisters never came and talked to us about the United States. I don't know anything about it. I
don't know any Sisters there." And he said, "Well, I know Sisters," because he had our Sisters in
his parish. The Sisters of Charity were, and they were also attached to a hospital. It was Falls
City, I think, Nebraska. And they had a school, and they had a hospital there.
So, I said, "Well," I said, "oh, well, all right. What's the difference, Africa or America?" And it
really wasn't to me at that time. So, I still have a kind of an inkling for Africa, but I wouldn't
think of going there now. That's for sure.
JK: (Laughs)
KMF: It was the missionary aspect of it that attracted me.
JK: I see.
KMF: The adventure. Let me say the adventure.
JK: So, you decided on the adventure of the United States. [00:13:45]
KMF: So, yes. I was finishing school and so then I said… He said let me write to the leader. Let
me write to the superior of the Sisters of Charity. And at that point the mother superior was
Mother Francesca O'Shea. She was from Ireland. So, of course, that didn't hurt, you know, the
fact that she was from Ireland.

Sisters of Charity, Leavenworth, Kansas
Transcription of Sister Kevin Marie Flynn
Interviewed by Jane Kenamore, June 27, 2017
Transcribed by Jessie Lehman, August 22, 2017

Page 7 of 32

So, it didn't take very long. I came sight unseen so to speak. They didn't know who they were
getting. They knew him, and he had a good reputation among the Sisters. So, when I arrived I
stayed with him. I think I stayed with him a week or so before I came to the community here.
JK: Other than The Wizard of Oz, what did you know about Kansas? [00:14:29]
KMF: Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
JK: (Laughs)
KMF: Nothing at all. It's sight unseen for them and for me.
JK: What were your first impressions of the Mother House and Leavenworth in general?
KMF: I had stayed with my brother at the rectory, and I was bored to pieces. You know I'd
think, oh, my God, I want to get out of this place soon, because everywhere I went he'd say,
watch when you go out there when you do… because I was the only woman around. The only
girl around, I should say. And so, it wasn't that he was careful, but it was curtailing for me not to
have any young people.
So, the entrance day was September 8th, I think, '47, and so he brought me down to the Mother
House and I was introduced to the people I should be first. And then I was brought into the
novitiate, and this large crowd of young people my own age was there to greet me. There were
32 of them. And there were 32 just in my class alone, so I was just among young people again,
and so that's what gave me life, to be truthful.
JK: Oh, good. And there were other Irish Sisters there too, right? [00:15:43]
KMF: There were other Irish Sisters but they were all a generation ahead of me. They were
professed and they were middle age probably at that time, and I had no association with them
that much at all because we were more on our own. Our schedule was not mingled with them for
sure. Our schedule was to have classes and have training and have everything that we needed to
become postulants and professed. And that would be two years time at least. So, I didn't really
know. I might have met them but there was a generation between us. So, when you're at that age
generation means a lot.
JK: Oh, it does. [00:16:25]
KMF: So, I associated a lot more, which was good in the aftermath as I look back on it, a lot
more with the American crowd that I was in the midst of. And I made great friends and I loved it.
I loved my novitiate.

Sisters of Charity, Leavenworth, Kansas
Transcription of Sister Kevin Marie Flynn
Interviewed by Jane Kenamore, June 27, 2017
Transcribed by Jessie Lehman, August 22, 2017

Page 8 of 32

JK: Oh, good.
KMF: I loved the different personalities and just being a part of them all. And being accepted, so
well accepted. And there are people who still tell me some of the things that I said when I was
there that they couldn't tell what in the world I was talking about.
JK: Like, for instance? [00:16:57]
KMF: Well, there's one Sister who tells me about… and I never remember saying it nor never
do I remember but… and stories do change a little bit. But she said we were at table one day and
I wanted milk, and it was a long table. And so the milk pitcher was down at the other end, and so
I said to someone next me, "Would you see if there's any milk lurking in that jug down there at
the end?"
KMF: Now, she tells me that every time I see her because she's a little bit older than I am now.
And I said, "Now, honest to God, Marcella, I don't think I remember saying that but whatever."
So, there are lots that people say I said and all that, which I probably did. But we have lots of
good stories about novitiate anyway besides just the stories I would…
JK: Can you tell...? [00:17:52]
KMF: I'll tell you this one story quickly. The Wren Day, St. Stephen's Day, is a big day in
Ireland. And my first St. Stephen's Day here we were in the novitiate. Now, the novitiate is a
place… Did anyone mention the novitiate to you yet? You know, being part of the novitiate?
JK: Well, I would like more information. [00:18:13]
KMF: It's segregated from the professed Sisters, and we have regulations of our own. We're in
training so to speak. And there is a mistress of novices and a director over us. There are two
people and they are our guides. And then we have each other. We don't mingle. We didn't mingle
with the professed sisters. We had an area of our own and everything. It was our schedule. And
that was to keep us from distraction and people who came because of their friends being there.
They didn't see their friends that much. It was just different.
But anyway, St. Stephens's Day in Ireland is a big day. They dress up. Do you know anything
about St. Stephen's Day? No, you don't.
JK: Not a lot. [00:18:54]

Sisters of Charity, Leavenworth, Kansas
Transcription of Sister Kevin Marie Flynn
Interviewed by Jane Kenamore, June 27, 2017
Transcribed by Jessie Lehman, August 22, 2017

Page 9 of 32

KMF: They dress up and they go out Wrenning. Wrenning means you go from house to house
and you demand money and they don't know who you are, and you sing a song. It's just a
tradition and it's the day after Christmas, the very day after Christmas. It's a big tradition with
young adults and children over there and then, you know, it…
So, I got a couple of my friends and they, of course, loved anything from Ireland. And so I said,
"Let's get dressed up and"—this is St. Stephen's Day—"and we will go down to the community
room," which was out of our area. The community room was down where the professed Sisters
were, where we weren't supposed to go.
JK: I see.
KMF: I said, "They won't know us because we're all dressed up, and we'll ask for a box of…
we'll ask for something, and Mother Francesca will know what it means because she was from
Ireland." So, I don't know if we snuck out or if we had time, but we went down to the basement
and we got boxes and put them over our head and put a face in front and two eyes so they didn't
know who we were, and we went down to the community room. And they were all playing cards
at different tables. And we went to the superior's table or the officer's, the most important table,
and we sang, "The wren, the wren, the king of all birds, get up…" and whatever it went. And
Mother Francesca looked at us, and I think she knew that I was the ringleader of it. So, she went
to the closest and gave us a big box of candy, chocolate.
So, back we came and we were delighted with the chocolate of course, and we presented it to our
mistress of novices. And she said, "Where'd you get this?" And then the story came out. And
they said, "Elizabeth brought us down to celebrate the Wren Day." And then they… well, they
got more punished than I did. I got away with it because I didn't know any better. But the two of
them—their deceased since—but they never let me forget how I got them in trouble.
JK: (Laughs)
KMF: And I didn't get in trouble but they did. So, that was one of the fun things about it.
JK: That's funny. So, has the novice training changed over time? [00:21:17]
KMF: Oh it has changed a whole lot. Yes, because there aren't as many.
JK: So, how is it different? [00:21:20]
KMF: It's so, so different. There's only one or two to begin with.
JK: Oh, that's true.
KMF: That's the thing. And so they're mingling with us all the time. It's different completely.

Sisters of Charity, Leavenworth, Kansas
Transcription of Sister Kevin Marie Flynn
Interviewed by Jane Kenamore, June 27, 2017
Transcribed by Jessie Lehman, August 22, 2017

Page 10 of 32

JK: Yes, ok.
KMF: It's a whole different ballgame, uh-huh.
JK: What was the most difficult adjustment in your new home? [00:21:36]
KMF: My most difficult… in coming here would be learning the culture, but it didn't bother me
that much because everybody was so darn friendly, you know, and they took you in. I just
became friends with so many different ones, so many different personalities that I felt at home
being around young people. That was really what did my novitiate for me. I don't remember the
praying part of it that much and all that.
We also had lots of fun things that we… There were a lot of fun personalities among the Sisters.
They just kept life going. We had lots of different rules but the fun behind the rules was what
really, as far as I'm concerned, was really what kept us going and the camaraderie together of so
many young people wanting to do the same thing in life. You know that kind of thing was kind
of encouraging to me.
But the hardest thing for me was the eating and the food, getting used to the food was so
different for me. But eating because we ate differently. We used the fork. The fork was just used
the opposite in our hands, and so I was always looking around and trying to look at the mistress
of novices and she was eating very sedately, you know, and I was next to her because the
youngest was always next… So, I let silverware fall just about every meal. You know I was
picking up something off the floor. But pretty soon I got used to it, but I do remember that as
being a big, big adjustment.
JK: Right. What were some of the rules that you had that you either got around or dealt with?
KMF: The silence was a big thing. Yes, the silence was a big thing, keeping quiet at certain
times when you weren't able to talk. Those are the hardest for me because when we were able to
talk and communicate you sort of had fun. And if you didn't have fun, you know, a schedule of
fun, you always had fun just interacting, doing something on somebody or whatever.
JK: When were you not allowed to speak? [00:23:41]
KMF: Three in the afternoon was a quiet time—3:00 to 4:00, or 2:00 to 3:00 or something like
JK: But you could eat… dinners or meals were not silent. [00:23:51]
KMF: Some meals were silent too.

Sisters of Charity, Leavenworth, Kansas
Transcription of Sister Kevin Marie Flynn
Interviewed by Jane Kenamore, June 27, 2017
Transcribed by Jessie Lehman, August 22, 2017

Page 11 of 32

JK: Oh, ok.
KMF: There were just lots of different things. But we never… There were five or six of us still,
four or five, and we can still talk about novitiate days even though they were just two years, you
know, but they were the beginning and so we kind of hang in together. But you meet all kinds of
Sisters along the way after that, you know, through life which is the biggest part for me of a great
community life, meeting so many different ones.
JK: Your first ministry involved teaching in elementary school as had most of the other young
Sisters. [00:24:37]
KMF: Mine was in Leadville, Colorado, and it was at a very high altitude, but I didn't even
realize that at the time. I was just getting so used to so many different things that the altitude
probably didn't bother me. But I do remember getting the measles while I was there—measles.
And the place that we taught had a hospital as well as a school, and the Sisters from the hospital
worked… lived together and the school Sisters lived together. And we lived in a kind of a dorm.
It was an old hospital, a very old hospital, and our dorm was almost part of the hospital. And so I
remember being in a hospital room very close to where I was living in the dorm. The cure for
measles was lying in the dark six to seven days without lights.
JK: I know they believed… well, at the time …
KMF: I don't know what it was.
JK: … they believed it would help prevent blindness, 'cause I guess blindness was a…
KMF: Right, or something to that effect.
JK: …side effect of the measles. [00:25:37]
KMF: I just vaguely remembered how did I survive those seven days or whatever, because the
room was stark and bare to begin with. But I got over it. I guess I did anyway.
JK: And you didn't give it to anybody else? [00:25:48]
KMF: I didn't give it to anybody else. So, that was good.
JK: Oh, that's good.
KMF: But Leadville had… There were lots of other strange things in Leadville because of the
Sisters in the hospitals living together, you know, at that time. I learned a lot there about school.

Sisters of Charity, Leavenworth, Kansas
Transcription of Sister Kevin Marie Flynn
Interviewed by Jane Kenamore, June 27, 2017
Transcribed by Jessie Lehman, August 22, 2017

Page 12 of 32

JK: You feel like it's a frontier town. Of course it is. [00:26:10]
KMF: Uh-huh. And the other thing, my biggest problem there was just learning the ropes as
being a part of the school system, being on faculty, because our report cards, for instance… I had
a mentor from among the teachers. One Sister was assigned to me to keep me abreast on what
was happening so to speak. And I remember when it was report card time… Are you familiar
with report cards?
JK: Oh, yes. [00:26:47]
KMF: There are six sections and you fill in the first one for the first six weeks, I think, or the
first six something or another. They get grades even, six… So, they bring it home to their parents
and then they bring it back and you keep to the next time. And, well, I saw one of the Sisters
working on hers long before it was time. And I thought, oh, my gosh, maybe I should start
working on mine too. So, I worked on them and I had four or five of them done. And we had
been teaching now close to six weeks. And so I saw the six spaces, so I gave them a grade. I had
made out four or five report cards, and I had given them a grade for every week.
JK: Oh, no.
KMF: I had filled in the whole report card until this mentor said… I said, "Oh, I have already
some of my report cards done." And she said, "Let me see them." And she just laughed and
laughed and laughed when she saw them. And I'm thinking what is she laughing at? So, she said,
"These are given one space." She said, "You have to do these over again."
At that time asking for five more report cards was a big deal, so I did get into a little scrap over
that one—not to be so quick and to ask questions.
Money was another thing. We were taking up pagan baby money, and I didn't know the
difference. We didn't use money in the novitiate, so I never learned American money. I had to
learn it then and there and so you get it mixed up kind of. So, we were missing money turned in
to the pagan babies or something. I can't recall what it was. Maybe it was music money. Oh, I
know. It was music money that this kid was supposed to be…
He was taking music lessons from one of our Sisters and the mother was sending the money with
him daily or weekly for the lessons to pay exactly then and there. And we had a contest between
the boys and the girls at the same time about who was going to make the most money for the
pagan babies whether it was the boys or the girls. And this little guy was giving his music money
so the boys would always be ahead.

Sisters of Charity, Leavenworth, Kansas
Transcription of Sister Kevin Marie Flynn
Interviewed by Jane Kenamore, June 27, 2017
Transcribed by Jessie Lehman, August 22, 2017

Page 13 of 32

And so the day came when the bill went home for the music and the mother said, "I've been
sending money with him every week." And I don't know how much it was. So, the next thing you
know I was called and said, "You know, Jimmy Irwin."—I remembered his name—"He takes
music lessons and he hasn't paid for his music, and the mom says she's been giving it to him
every week." And then I said, "No. Oh, my gosh. That's the reason why the boys are ahead all the
JK: (Laughs)
KMF: The boys wanted to be ahead of the girls so it was a competition between the boys… So,
we had to cough up… and so I didn't … the principal said to me, "We are ten dollars short of
music money," or something. And she said, "We have to make that up." And I'm thinking I have
no idea where we are going to get ten dollars. I said, "Maybe you can write to my brother and
ask him for ten dollars."
JK: (Laughs)
KMF: So, anyway, that was one money deal but it turned out ok.
JK: Were your classes as large as other people's…? [00:29:57]
KMF: Oh, yes, they probably were. I don't remember much. I just survived, I think. Leadville
was just a year. I was only there one year.
JK: Only one year. Ok. [00:30:05]
KMF: And then I was moved to… I think I was moved to Kansas City, Missouri, and it was
easier each year because I began to know more and more. But the kids were always… They were
always reminding me of something. There would be a great… If I was saying something
incorrectly in spelling words, they'd say, that's pronounced… They wouldn't pay any attention to
the way I'd pronounce it. So, sometimes I found them my better teachers really. [30:38]
When I went to St. Laurence in Laramie, that was the first time where I was principal, and I was
there a year before the principal was leaving. And I'm sure that I was being shaped to be her
replacement, but I didn't know it at the time.
JK: Oh, you didn't. [00:31:00]
KMF: No. But it was very…
JK: Did you go to Laramie first and then Helena, I mean…
KMF: Yes. I was in Laramie first and then Helena. Yes.

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Transcription of Sister Kevin Marie Flynn
Interviewed by Jane Kenamore, June 27, 2017
Transcribed by Jessie Lehman, August 22, 2017

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JK: Oh, ok.
KMF: And Laramie was Wyoming. It's a very small city really. It had a university. That was the
big thing. And we had a wonderful staff there. We had a junior high. Not too many places had
junior highs at that time. But we didn't have a high school there. So, we had them come to the
ninth grade instead of having to go into junior high and then move again. So, that was about
the… you know, in Laramie.
JK: How did you like administration as opposed to teaching? [00:31:45]
KMF: I kind of glided into it easily, I think. I didn't make a big to-do about it, I don't think. I had
so many good Sisters, I mean companions there that were really good assistants and helped in so
many different ways that I'm sure they took the burden off the principalship. I don't remember it
being stressful to be truthful.
JK: Oh, good. How long had you taught before you became a principal? [00:32:11]
KMF: Oh, probably 14 or… 10 or 15 years, I'm not sure. Around in there.
JK: Ok. So, where else did you teach then? [00:32:19]
KMF: Then I went to… from Laramie I went to Helena, and that's where the schools closed.
JK: No, I mean where did you teach after Leadville? [00:32:28]
KMF: Oh. I was out in California for a year, and I was in Leavenworth. I was out in California
for a couple of years.
JK: Where in California? [00:32:36]
KMF: It was called Visitation School in Los Angeles.
JK: Oh, in Los Angeles.
KMF: And it was a very big school too. And I got changed from there because some Sister there
had to be back here close by for something or another. And it was just a good experience for me.
That's all. I can't remember much about it. And the kids were very nice, very good kids. And
from there then I went to Helena. That's where I went. And I was only there in Helena for two
years when that school closed. And it was one of our first schools closing. A lot have closed
since. Well, many of them have closed since.
JK: And why did it close? [00:33:11]

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Transcription of Sister Kevin Marie Flynn
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Transcribed by Jessie Lehman, August 22, 2017

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KMF: It was the bishop's decision because a lot of the money was going into the Catholic
schools system from the parish, and there were a lot of other students, a lot of other children not
able to go and pay the tuition. So, he felt it was unfair to have a Catholic school going really and
not having some good religious education programs for all of the children together because some
families weren't able to pay the tuition.
JK: I see.
KMF: So, it was a hard decision at the time because not many schools were closing, but he was
a very strong man. His name was Bishop Hunthausen. And he saw the handwriting on the wall
and it was a very difficult thing for all the Sisters that were there because we were all without
jobs. And that was the beginning of my other career which is the most important part of my life,
I think, is the next career that I've gotten into.
JK: Oh, good. Before we leave that when was it that that school closed? [00:34:18]
KMF: Let me see. In '69, maybe '69 or around. It was maybe '68. I'm not sure.
JK: Right.
KMF: It was in the '60s, and there were nine of us teaching and there were nine of us without…
You know when the schools closed we all wondered now where do we go. And so five, I think,
of us stayed on to bridge the gap between the religious education program that we were going to
work on and not having a school, to bridge the gap for the parents that had sent their kids to a
Catholic school. So they would still see us and be familiar with us. And so then that was the
beginning of pastoral ministry work in parishes.
JK: I see.
KMF: And then we began to work closer with the priests. And we became one big staff rather
than the Sisters here and the priests there.
JK: I see. And what did you do in your new position and where was it? [00:35:22]
KMF: The next one you mean.
JK: Your first position in pastoral care.
KMF: Oh, my first there in Helena. I continued to work in pastoral ministry.
JK: Pastoral ministry.

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Transcribed by Jessie Lehman, August 22, 2017

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KMF: I had marriage encounter groups, and I did some day retreat work for women. Then we of
course had religious education for the children, but we did adult work too with adult classes.
JK: Can you tell about each of those experiences? [00:35:52]
KMF: No. I'm not sure if I have time, but let's see, the marriage encounter…
JK: You've got time.
KMF: Oh, I have lots of time. But I have a bigger story, I think, as I go on. My story gets… I
have more to say about the last part of my story because I've spent longer in the last stage of
my… I've spent longer in the ministry of AIDS.
JK: Oh, ok.
KMF: That was the biggest chunk of my…
JK: Right. But we have plenty of time.
KMF: But anyway… ok. I thought I could find a good excuse here of not having time, but that's
not working.
JK: If you want to pass onto the next one that's fine. [00:36:29]
KMF: No, no, no. What was the question you asked?
JK: I just asked…
KMF: Oh, marriage… yes, yes, yes.
JK: You had a few programs that you…
KMF: Yes. Marriage encounter was one.
JK: Marriage and…?
KMF: Marriage encounter.
JK: Oh, marriage encounter. Ok.

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Transcribed by Jessie Lehman, August 22, 2017

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KMF: It was a program and then you kept it going and married couples met and discussed their
differences and their acceptance and whatever to make their marriage better. And that was quite
an experience for me.
JK: How so? [00:37:03]
KMF: I wasn't ready for all of their discussions so to speak.
JK: (Laughs)
KMF: For all of their differences. And they were very talkative too. They were very outgoing
people. And I think I might have had six couples if I'm not mistaken. But I do remember just one
that just comes to mind. I said, "You know what? I think I have to leave." And it was a little
sooner than I would. And they said, "Well, why are you leaving? The conversation is just getting
started," or just getting fired up or whatever. And I said, "Yes, I'm leaving. Truly," I said, "I'm
leaving because I'm so happy just to be going home to my single bed."
KMF: Because it was all about their problems… well, I shouldn't say in bed, but anyway, it was
that kind of a problem and so they all said, "Oh, chicken, chicken."
JK: That's good.
KMF: But they were fun groups to have, and the other one was a retreat, days of retreat I'd have
for women.
JK: And what did you discuss there? [00:38:28]
KMF: There would be a topic. Maybe a topic about how do you feel about the church today. It
would be a topic like that. It would be support for them in aftermath because they might continue
meeting on a monthly basis or something like that. And there might be women that belonged to
prayer groups, 'cause I did some prayer group work too for women mostly. I think I might have
been on the women kick at that time.
JK: It was the very beginning of the women's movement.
KMF: Yes, it was.
JK: Did that have anything to bear? [00:39:05]

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Transcription of Sister Kevin Marie Flynn
Interviewed by Jane Kenamore, June 27, 2017
Transcribed by Jessie Lehman, August 22, 2017

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KMF: A little bit. It did probably.
JK: How so? [00:39:08]
KMF: 'Cause I remember I stayed on in summertime giving retreats. We had a big convent and
it was a mansion-y convent called 600 Harrison. And it had big rooms and gave itself very well
to groups for retreat. So, I would always have day retreats there for women.
JK: Did you discuss any women's issues? [00:39:34]
KMF: Oh, yeah, very much so. Yes. You know it was mostly women's issues, you know, about
leadership and how we could become more prevalent in parishes and support each other by small
groups too.
JK: You started the pastoral ministry in Helena, but then after six years you moved to the
Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Browning, Montana. [00:40:06]
KMF: That's right.
JK: How did you like working on the Indian reservation?
KMF: Oh, I loved it.
JK: And what did you run into? [00:40:13]
JK: There was one Sister up there. The reason I moved up there was there was one Sister…
There were two Sisters working there, and they had just been there a year. That was their first
endeavor. And one of them was leaving at the end of the year. She either didn't like it or she was
moving to another area. And so the one Sister… There weren't too many others volunteering to
go up there. I was still in Montana and so it was up farther in the state and so I thought about it.
That would be a wonderful…
I always liked adventure and I'm thinking that it was adventure that probably got me to the
community to begin with, the adventure of doing different things. And so I thought, I don't
know, I never worked with the Native Americans but I bet I could manage that and I really have
had… What? It's not the prejudice I want to say. I've never had that much difference in
You know I remembered an incident when we had the grade school in Helena. I got a call—this
is going back to grade school. I got a call one time from somebody from Washington who was
moving to Helena, Montana, and he wanted to know something about the Catholic school. And
he was going to come a week ahead of his family just to stake things out. And he wanted to

Sisters of Charity, Leavenworth, Kansas
Transcription of Sister Kevin Marie Flynn
Interviewed by Jane Kenamore, June 27, 2017
Transcribed by Jessie Lehman, August 22, 2017

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know if he could come and look at the school because he didn't know for sure whether he'd send
his kids there or not.
So, I said, "Sure, give me a call when you come and I'll show you around." So, he did. He came
and he gave me a call and I showed him around the school. And as we were walking around the
school he said to me, "Do you have any African American people?" And I thought "African
American people." I said, "No, no we don't." We were still walking around. And then we passed
a classroom, and there was a teacher who had good, loud voice and she was teaching, and he
looked in and he said, "Oh, but you do have African American teachers." And I looked in and I
said, "Oh, yes. Mary Alice."
So, it dawned on me. Now, Mary Alice had been there when I went to Helena and she was… her
husband was the assistant coach at Carroll College, I think. They were a stable family. I never
thought of her as being African American because she was there when I went there and she was
just stable. And then I remembered all her kids were in school. You know, she has five or six
kids, and they were all in different classes. I said, "Oh, yes, Mary Alice." And then I said, "We
do have her children here too." So, it was like… You know, he never sent his kids to our school.
JK: No, really? [00:43:08]
KMF: No. So, that's way back there too. The side of the story is that I would have never seen the
difference. So, going up to Browning to the Indian, Blackfeet Indian, I didn't think I would have
any difficulty with their culture if they didn't have any difficulty with mine.
JK: Right.
KMF: That kind of thing. So, because of the vacancy I volunteered to go up there because I felt
that I had done enough in Helena and that somebody else could… some lay people now could
replace me.
So, I joined that Sister for two years, three years up there, and she left and then another Sister
came and joined. And we were there six years and we promoted a lot of leadership among them.
And the kind of missionary work that was beginning in the church and that we did at that time
was not the same as the old missionary work of going to a country and saying this is what it
means to be a Catholic. But you take their culture and you work with and say, "You are still
African American, and that's the most important aspect. Here's how you can bring in the Catholic
culture to it. You don't change your culture. You bring the Catholic faith into it and work it from
your culture, and that was the whole completely opposite of missionary work. Missionary work
in the past and in the beginning when missionaries went to Africa people had to become like
them in schools and boarding schools, and all that the kids were taught white. White is the thing.
But that's not…
JK: And the Indian reservations at that time, how are the students taught? [00:44:58]

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Transcription of Sister Kevin Marie Flynn
Interviewed by Jane Kenamore, June 27, 2017
Transcribed by Jessie Lehman, August 22, 2017

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KMF: At that time there were some… Now in Browning they had no grade schools, no schools.
They would have vacation schools which meant Sisters would go in for two or three weeks
during the summer and prepare them for sacraments but it was not a longtime term thing.
So, anyway, that was my reason for going, for developing leadership among them themselves so
that they could become the leaders of their own culture from the Catholic point of view. And so I
learned their culture and fit it into their culture.
JK: Oh, I see.
KMF: Yes. And I think that being Irish did help me in that area.
JK: Did it? [00:45:46]
KMF: It did, yes. I have a funny story to tell that I sometimes tell the Sisters about. I would try
to learn their, what do I want to say, their characteristics, their beadwork and their handiwork,
and I would try to learn things that would be important for me after I left. And, anyway, we were
sitting around and we were having beadwork. Now, I would meet with a group of them every
Wednesday, I think, and it was a chat group and beadwork, but they do a lot of other things
including a little bit of gossip, you know, periodic. So, one of them said to the group one
Wednesday, "Oh, I have to go to Missoula."Are you familiar with Montana?
JK: Somewhat. Yes. My daaughter lives in Billings.
KMF: "I have to go to Missoula next weekend for a wedding." And they all said, "Oh, poor
Wilma." They were all Indian, Native Americans around me. And I didn't know for sure what the
wedding was about. But the next Wednesday someone said, "Wilma, how did the wedding go?
How did the wedding go?" And she said, "Ah, you know those white people." That's us. "You
know those white people." So, I'm the only white person around so I said, "Wilma, I'm here, you
know. I'm here." And she said, "Oh, no. You're not white. You're Irish."
JK: (Laughs)
KMF: So, I said, "Ah, good, good, good, good. I'm saved." So, I felt like maybe that
interaction… I mean… I loved being on the Indian reservation. I loved it, and I loved the
interaction with the people. And when I was leaving, both the other Sister and myself, we wanted
to leave because we felt that as long as we stayed there they wouldn't do what we had trained
them to do, because they'd say, "Oh, the Sisters can do it. The Sisters would do that. They'd
know how to do it better than we do." So, we both decided to leave at the same time. And then
we both naturally…
JK: Did you ever check back and see that they followed through? [00:47:57]

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Transcription of Sister Kevin Marie Flynn
Interviewed by Jane Kenamore, June 27, 2017
Transcribed by Jessie Lehman, August 22, 2017

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KMF: Oh, yes. Oh many times, many times.
JK: Did you?
KMF: Many times, yes. I still hear from some of them.
JK: What was the result? [00:48:02]
KMF: Well, now we have Sisters up there too. We have a Sister teaching grade school up there.
JK: Oh, you do.
KMF: Yes. And then there was another Sister who followed a few years later than that, and she
was there for 30 years, I think, or 20. Yes, yes. I feel like they got a good… You know that they
were used to doing their own thing kind of thing which is the best thing for them to do.
JK: Were there any challenges at all dealing with…? [00:48:26]
KMF: Oh, there were lots of challenges. Yes, there were lots of challenges of...
JK: …different cultures?
KMF: Yes. We had another very successful ministry for men that really changed a lot of the
men there. Men didn't take much responsibility about their faith or anything. And there was… I
don't know if you ever heard of a Cursillo, but there was a men's Cursillo, and I asked about
seven or eight of them if they wouldn't mind making that Cursillo. It was a weekend. There was
a lot of dedication, and they came back just full of the spirit, full of life and faith. It was a
renewal for them. And so to this day I do think that they go to other places performing and
giving lectures on that Cursillo, on being with the Lord and taking responsibility of your family
for the Lord. And it was the first time in a way they seemed to be awakened to that kind of a
discovery. So, it was a very successful…
And I know that long after we left they were traveling to other reservations and they were
traveling to other places to put on the Cursillo. Cursillo —did you hear of it? It was a very
successful movement within the church in the '70s or '80s.
JK: Would you say it again please? [00:49:51]
KMF: Cursillo, C-U-R-S-I-L-L-O, Cursillo, I think.
JK: Ok.

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Transcription of Sister Kevin Marie Flynn
Interviewed by Jane Kenamore, June 27, 2017
Transcribed by Jessie Lehman, August 22, 2017

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KMF: I'm sure there are Sisters who would have gone through it here many times. But it's a
wonderful lay thing.
And then we would also attend a Tekakwitha Conference. Tekakwitha is the saint, the Native
American saint. She was canonized, and all the Native American tribes from around would meet
once a year some place, and so we would raise money and send as many as we could to that
conference. And that was also a great revival for them, because they were meeting with other
Christians who were active in their churches, other tribes. It would be a good weekend, long
weekend where they would revive their own culture within themselves.
JK: And you wrote an Indian family prayer book.
KMF: Oh, yes, I did. I did that…
JK: Why did you do that? [00:51:02]
KMF: I did that because I wanted their artwork. I wanted them to see their own artwork around
common prayers, so that they'd recognize…
JK: So, you incorporated…
KMF: The prayer wasn't really Indian as much as the artwork.
JK: Oh. It was from the reservation. [00:51:23]
KMF: Yes. And they would recognize the artwork and then they would pick up the book and
they'd say, "Ah, we know these prayers. They are our Father." It wasn't prayers that they weren't
used to.
JK: Ok.
KMF: I used ordinary prayer with it, I think. I can't remember. It was so long ago, but I do
remember definitely their artwork, their Native American artwork.
JK: That must have been very pretty.
KMF: Yes.
JK: And you moved from Montana to a Native Alaskan ministry.
KMF: Yes.
JK: With the Archdiocese of Anchorage.

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Interviewed by Jane Kenamore, June 27, 2017
Transcribed by Jessie Lehman, August 22, 2017

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KMF: Right.
JK: But did you stay in Anchorage? [00:52:01]
KMF: I did. I stayed in Anchorage, but I used to go out to the bush area.
JK: Oh, did you?
KMF: And my reason, I was asked by the community to go up to Alaska. We had a Sister up
there by herself, and she was a midwife and she lived with… Sisters are few in Alaska and few
meaning they are from different communities, maybe one or two or three. And we were all one
when we were up there because we needed each other. So, she was living with six or seven other
Sisters from other communities. So, when I went up to join her we got a little apartment for the
two of us because there wasn't room for me in the bigger one. But we had a great camaraderie
with all the other Sisters there. That was the biggest boost to me, to get to know so many other
different religious communities and meet each other. We needed each other because we were so
far away from all of our own communities.
JK: Right.
KMF: And we had lots of fun and lots of good community. And so much so that when we would
be doing… you know, where we all met in parishes, we were working, we were meeting together
the Sisters would all try to sit at the same table so we'd have fun and visit. And the bishop would
come along and he'd say, "You Sisters are supposed to all spread out among the people.
KMF: So, I worked with the Eskimos and the Indians there. I kept my work to Native
JK: Oh, you did. [00:53:32]
KMF: And the Eskimos are the natives. They are two completely different… Eskimo. I always
felt that they were all the same. No. The Eskimo has a heritage of their own and the Athabascan
Indians were the other famous Indians who are up there. And the Eskimos, they were the fish
herd. They would catch the big salmon and do that kind of stuff. And the Athabascans were bead
JK: Oh, really. Ok.
KMF: Beautiful beadwork. But I worked with the two and it was called Native Alaskan. And so
when you referred to Native Alaskans you were referring to Eskimos and the Indians and all the

Sisters of Charity, Leavenworth, Kansas
Transcription of Sister Kevin Marie Flynn
Interviewed by Jane Kenamore, June 27, 2017
Transcribed by Jessie Lehman, August 22, 2017

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other different tribes. But there are so many white people up there now the Native Alaskans are
JK: And where did you have to go? [00:54:27]
KMF: Anchorage. I worked out of Anchorage and a lot of the native… from the different
islands, not islands—what do they call it? —bases (phonetic) from around Alaska, all the
different, small places in Alaska, they would come in for some reason, and maybe many of them
came to stay in Anchorage. And so to keep their culture again and to… my job there was
developing native leaders, Catholic leaders.
JK: So, an extension of your Montana experience. [00:55:05]
KMF: Right. And also it was important for them to be able to live their native culture in
Anchorage because Anchorage was white as well. So, they would put on native Masses, for
instance, and they would have their own culture, and then other native people would want to
come and see their culture, you know. So, it was saying Alaska belongs to the natives. This is
who Alaska is in a way, 'cause that's who they were. So, all the different areas that… There are
so many little, different sections that different ones come from. They're all different tribes and all
different languages. So, it's like a little country to itself—Alaska. But it was a wonderful
experience for me.
And the reason I left… I was there for seven years and I had committed seven years to that
program. And so the community, I think, knew that my seven years were coming to a close and
so they were probably thinking, oh, let's see. What can we have her do?
So, I got a call one time that said would you come back to the lower 48—that's us down here—
and do this program for the candidates, formation director? And that was new candidates, first
year candidates. So, I did that for a year, and it was only two and I think two lasted and went
onto the next realm of it and then they went onto to the next. And then my second year was
beginning. I had only one, and she left in February. But I then got into my most, do I want to say,
the area that I got the most out of myself as well—the AIDS work.
JK: And when did you enter the AIDS work? Or when did you begin the AIDS work?
KMF: It was in, let me see, '86 or '87.
JK: Oh, that early.
KMF: Yes. '87 or '88.
JK: Oh that must have been…

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KMF: And the reason I got into it was actually by coincidence because after that candidate left I
had no options for much jobs because it was February, and we needed to have a job and we
needed to be bringing in money here in the community at that time. I was told that. And so, I
thought, well, let's see now and I can look… So, I called lots of parishes to see if they needed
any… and February's not an easy time to find a job.
JK: Right. [00:57:53]
KMF: But one of the candidates that had—I think she died since—but she had some connection
with AIDS, or with AIDS, and she used to attend something, an AIDS support group or
something. I wasn't sure I knew what it was all about. But she used to mention it to me about
AIDS. And so I thought I'm going to check out that AIDS business. It was just beginning. I knew
nothing about it and knew everybody was afraid of it. But I checked it out and I heard at the right
time that there was a training. And I'm thinking, well, my gosh, this just fits right in. I'll do the
training and it'll give me a chance to find out more about it.
So, I did the training. It was a week's training, very intense, and at the end of it I went down to
Good Samaritan. It was just beginning to… It was an organization for AIDS, daily organization
not a live over or whatever.
JK: And this was in Kansas City. [00:58:56]
KMF: Kansas City, Missouri. And so I went there and I did the training, and then I went down
to Good Samaritan after the training, and it was just beginning and there were only two people
on the staff, maybe three, and the one that interviewed me, she said, "Now, what would you like
to do?" And I said, "Well, the only thing I'm really qualified," I said, "is for something in the
spiritual line, and I don't even know enough about how I would fit in or whatever, but that would
be my forte," I said. And she said, "We never have any calls for that. We just never hear about
They didn't because they were so caught up in the disease itself. There were people dying. And it
was just the beginning of AIDS. It was the first or second year of the AIDS epidemic in Kansas
City. And so I said, "Well, you know what, that would be my first preference," I said, "and I
don't know that I'd be useful in any other area." And the areas that they would want would be
transportation, taking them around from place to place, but I knew I couldn't do that. And so I
said, "Well, you know what, I'll have to try again," or something I said. "I'd try some place
else."And she said, "No, just a minute. Just a minute. You know," she said, "we have had about
15 clients come here to Good Samaritan." And she said, "Would you mind just calling them
maybe and asking them if their service was complete or if they need anything else and just to see
where they are with the disease?"

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Interviewed by Jane Kenamore, June 27, 2017
Transcribed by Jessie Lehman, August 22, 2017

Page 26 of 32

So, I thought I could do that but I don't know any answers for their questions. But I decided I'd
take that anyway. So, I called and my experience was that the person would say, "You're who?
Who did you say you were?" And, you know, Sister Kevin Marie. It's sort of a, "Kevin Marie?"
Now, some of these wouldn't be Catholic. Some of them would, but you could tell those that
weren't. And they said, "Who are you working for?"
And I explained, and I made the training. I'm a Sister of Charity and I'm volunteering, and I'd
explain who I was. And then after a bit they'd say, "Oh, would you ever mind calling my mom
and telling her that you called me?" And I thought, "Sure. Give me your mom's name." And so
that would be his… Then another would say, "Now, tell me again who you are." And so I went
through… you know I explained who I was. But if they were Catholic they knew right away,
Sister Kevin, and they'd say, "What are you doing here?" because they would get the shaft from a
lot of people already. And so I would explain to them that I was trying to work at Good
Samaritan and I was just beginning, and then they would say, again, it was connect with my
family. Tell them who you are and tell them that you are in my life. It's like saying if you are in
my life I'm ok. So, it was my calling card to say this is where you belong. If you don't do
anything else but call this is where you belong, because they were asking for spiritual help and
for support. I found the support needed badly.
JK: Right. [01:02:37]
KMF: And so that's why I said after I finished… I didn't do it all the first day because it
probably took a week to go through… But that's what I was getting. And then I was getting
requests like… because many of them already had a partner die of AIDS, and no one wanted to
bury the partner, no church wanted to—no one. So, they would say would you do my memorial
for me if I die. I mean they were dying right and left at that time. And so that's how… Then I
said I belong here.
So, I came back and said… oh, I think I said to her, or did I tell you the part where I said, "I can
only do a spiritual thing and she said we don't have any… So, when I came back with the results
of my calling I said, "They're all asking for something different, for some spiritual thing, some
need." And so, when she heard my story then they were putting out a new pamphlet, a new
format, and so there my name was saying spiritual support. And that was how I got into it.
JK: That's wonderful. [01:03:44]
KMF: So, it was my greatest, my most rewarding type of work.
JK: It must have been so difficult. But maybe it wasn't because you were… [01:03:56]
KMF: It was difficult in a sense that I felt so good among them because I felt so accepted among
them that I was somebody that represented the church to them. I represented their parents to
them. I represented so many people that had rejected them. So, they thought, well, here's this one

Sisters of Charity, Leavenworth, Kansas
Transcription of Sister Kevin Marie Flynn
Interviewed by Jane Kenamore, June 27, 2017
Transcribed by Jessie Lehman, August 22, 2017

Page 27 of 32

person. She's in my life. I must be ok if she sticks with me, because at that time it was
devastating for them. Devastating.
JK: Yes.
KMF: So, I lasted there for almost 20 years.
JK: Twenty years.
KMF: Twenty. I was on my twentieth.
JK: So, you lasted until the cure came in. [01:04:46]
KMF: Right. And until people stopped dying actually. They're not dying now at all of AIDS,
and they can get a long-term… If they're on medication… And I know many of them that are
still living, and they live as long as anyone else because medication has so improved.
But it was devastating because we would have 30 to 40 a month. And this is why I brought this
along to show you. This is only a portion of them, but I kept a picture of these.
JK: Oh, really.
KMF: And that's just a portion of them.
JK: Oh, my gosh.
KMF: And each one of those has a story.
JK: Oh, I'm sure they did. That's really nice. [01:05:46]
KMF: But these are what I would do for actually the memorial if I could, if I had time. I didn't
do it for everyone. But I called it "Blow gentle breeze. Carry memories of our loved ones." And
then I would have a little bit about each person. This would be the first one, Norbert, that I had.
JK: Oh, really.
KMF: Do I have time to read it to you?
JK: I'm sorry?
KMF: Do I have time to read it to you?
JK: Yes. [01:06:24]

Sisters of Charity, Leavenworth, Kansas
Transcription of Sister Kevin Marie Flynn
Interviewed by Jane Kenamore, June 27, 2017
Transcribed by Jessie Lehman, August 22, 2017

Page 28 of 32

KMF: Ok.
"In memory of Norbert. [And this was '89.]
Norbert, frail in limb and body but strong in spirit.
My fragility from fear and experience was made strong by Norbert's welcoming spirit.
Baptismal waters bonded us spiritually.
And a large rosary draped over his bed made our conversation flow with ease.
Norbert recalled the nuns who taught him, and I recalled the Norberts that I taught.
Was it this connection that brought a glint to Norbert's eye?
I will never know. Our encounter seemed so fleeting.
In so short a time an empty bed announced his resurrection and fleshed angels told the story of
his peaceful dying.
I will never know for sure about that glint.
I only know I longed to take him in my arms and speak pietà to a world of AIDS."
This is the picture of the pietà. So, as kind of a grieving sometime after, I composed a verse in
their memory.
JK: I'm sure that helped. [01:07:53]
KMF: It did. Yes. And I have it as a memory, you know.
JK: Right.
KMF: This man was Jewish, and I was gone when he died and I was very sad. But we had great
discussions even.
"I sat stunned as I saw your obituary.
I read it over and over again convincing myself it wasn't you, Michael, my friend.
But denial gave way to acceptance and my heart bore a great pain, pain for the loss of a good
friend, pain that I was not with you in your final exodus.
I was aware that your life was often battered by the winds of depression and finding shelter in the
midst of the storm was difficult for you.
In contrast there were days when peace dwelt in your heart, the bright moments when your
Jewish belief carried you through the Red Sea of pain.
I will remember our long conversations intertwining the best of both of our faiths both respecting
and believing in the goodness of the other.
And when you sent me your email on June, 2001 you ended with the following manner.
Now I will repeat it in your memory."

Sisters of Charity, Leavenworth, Kansas
Transcription of Sister Kevin Marie Flynn
Interviewed by Jane Kenamore, June 27, 2017
Transcribed by Jessie Lehman, August 22, 2017

Page 29 of 32

And he has something in Jewish that I don't know but it's like "May the Lord always be with you
and bless you," but he said it in Jewish.
JK: Oh, that's beautiful. Thank you. [01:09:31]
KMF: Yes. Alex was a very funny guy.
JK: You know I wonder if the archives could make a copy of that.
KMF: Oh, I'm sure they could, yes, because I have several copies that I've given people.
JK: Oh, do you? [01:09:47]
KMF: Yes. Not several left but it might well be in the archives already.
JK: Oh, ok. But let's check, because it should be.
KMF: Yes. And let's see now if there's anything else.
JK: Well, copies of that also.
KMF: I'll put that in the archives too, I think. These are all Alaskan pictures of different Sisters
that were there, you know, in the time.
JK: Oh, yes.
KMF: We're having a good time.
JK: Yes, right. Well, that's good.
KMF: So, let's see, was there anything else?
JK: So, thank you for sharing them. [01:10:37]
KMF: Oh, I guess maybe the last few questions I… What makes the SCL community work?
Can I do that?
JK: Yes. If you met your younger self and she was debating whether or not to join the SCLs
what would tell her? [01:10:51]
KMF: I would say, yes, yes, yes, do, do, do.
JK: (Laughs)

Sisters of Charity, Leavenworth, Kansas
Transcription of Sister Kevin Marie Flynn
Interviewed by Jane Kenamore, June 27, 2017
Transcribed by Jessie Lehman, August 22, 2017

Page 30 of 32

KMF: Go and enjoy it. Enjoy it and say give it all you've go. And use your natural gifts to the
JK: Great. Yes. [01:11:08]
KMF: I think for me, like for instance, working with AIDS I found that they gave me more
myself than I gave them, and they accepted my naturalness. They accepted my gifts, and they
turned them into something that I didn't even think of them as gifts. Like when they would
introduce me to their parents or something, they would say, "Sister Kevin is with us." Or like one
fellow said, "She was the last one I saw before I went into surgery and the first one I saw when I
came out." Well, what would you expect that I sat there in the (inaudible)? I didn't. I went home
and had an eight-hour sleep, you know. And when he saw me the next day it was probably 11
JK: (Laughs)
KMF: But they would say that to their parents and they would make you believe… And I'd let it
go, you know. I would let it go. I don't know if you know Catholic statements or not, but one day
I went into a hospital, and I went to say goodbye to the young guy because he was going home.
And when I got there his friend was leaning over him, and when I knocked on the door the friend
was so delighted to see me. He said, "Come in, come in." And he was really anxious. And he
said, "I think he's dying. He's dying." And I said, "Willy (phonetic) dying, oh, my God." And I
was so taken at the moment that I put my hand under him and I said what we would say, and I
don't know if you're familiar with grace before meals? I said, "Bless us, oh Lord, in these your
gifts." And I said the grace before meals, what I would say, which wouldn't be said when a
person is dying. You know, it would be before a meal. And the other guy that was there with
Willy died right then and there. Now, he was very sick but he was also well enough to go home,
but he wouldn't have long maybe to stay at home. I don't know. But when Michael was
explaining this to different… he said, "Willy is in Heaven. Willy is in Heaven, because Sister
Kevin came in and gave him the Last Rites." I said, "Oh, no, no." I didn't even contradict him
that I didn't give him the Last Rites. But they always put you away on a pedestal and you let
them be, you let it be because, well, if they thought so that's ok.
So, a long time after that, sometime after that when I heard him saying it in a big crowd, I said,
"You know, Michael, if there's a bishop ever around don't say that because I'd be in big trouble."
(Laughter) [01:13:52]
But they always gave me more than I ever deserved from them. They thought that I could do
anything for them. And I think it was I did fulfill a purpose for them because the church was not

Sisters of Charity, Leavenworth, Kansas
Transcription of Sister Kevin Marie Flynn
Interviewed by Jane Kenamore, June 27, 2017
Transcribed by Jessie Lehman, August 22, 2017

Page 31 of 32

on their side. Their parents were not on their side, at the very beginning especially. Some parents
would come the last few days of dying and then they would want to have—what do you call
that?—oxygen or not oxygen but… Well, oxygen or something that would keep them longer
alive. Oh, where were they when he needed them? But they wanted… You know the last minute
it was like, oh, (inaudible). And they would ignore the partner that was with them taking care of
them for 30 years, or 40 years, so it was really hard on them. They had a whole lot to put up
And so my last remark is… I don't have it with me naturally but I have… My shroud is going to
be three big banners that I made in their memory. And their names are on it, and I had it on
display during AIDS week or something.
JK: Oh, did you? [01:15:12]
KMF: I'd make one for each new session, and I'm going to have that as my shroud when I die.
So, I know I'll have to go straight to Heaven with that crowd around me with their names.
JK: Oh, right, yes.
KMF: I said I'd have to go straight to Heaven with that crowd around me with all their names.
And I know they're in Heaven because they suffered so much and were rejected so much. But
AIDS has come a long way, even in the reputation of AIDS. People…
JK: Yes it has.
KMF: People remember. Ok, let's see if there's anything else. The future of the SCLs.
JK: Yes, what's the future? [01:15:55]
KMF: I think that the future of the SCLs will diminish, but no organization can last as long as
we have lasted. We have to remember we have been going for 150 or 160 years now. And to
leave that much history, what other organization, what other society has been able to do that
length of work? And so, it's only history. Another new… something new will develop from that.
And it will move where we started.
JK: That's a good way of looking at it. [01:16:33]
KMF: Right. It's a matter of history, I think.
JK: Right.

Sisters of Charity, Leavenworth, Kansas
Transcription of Sister Kevin Marie Flynn
Interviewed by Jane Kenamore, June 27, 2017
Transcribed by Jessie Lehman, August 22, 2017

Page 32 of 32

KMF: It's not a matter of diminishing. And the other thing is there are a lot of lay people who
are doing a lot of the work that the Sisters used to do, and that's another whole new element
which is a very positive element.
JK: Very.
KMF: That there are a lot of lay people. Ok.
JK: Thank you so much, Sister Kevin.
KMF: Well, you're very welcome.
JK: That was wonderful.

Dublin Core


Flynn, S. Kevin Marie, Oral History, 6/27/2017


Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth; Ireland; Teaching; Native Americans; AIDS Ministry; Counseling


Sister begins by describing her childhood in Ireland and the importance of faith in her family?s daily life. She talks about learning of the SCLs through an older brother, a priest already working in the States. She speaks of the novitiate fondly, recalling the sense of community and how these relationships eased the culture shock of moving from Ireland. Her mission work begins in education; she describes learning to be a teacher and working in many different places, eventually becoming an administrator. The closing of her school in Helena became the catalyst for change, and she shifted her focus to pastoral ministry. She describes working with married couples and women, followed by time spent on a Native American reservation. She finally describes working with the Good Samaritan Project in Kansas City. She discovered a need for spiritual support among the organizations patients. A position was created for her, and she spent many years offering this support to those afflicted with AIDS in the Kansas City area. Sister consistently talks about how the people she encountered in her mission work taught her valuable lessons and strengthened her own spirituality.


Flynn, S. Kevin Marie; Kennamore, Jane


Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth






All rights belong to the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth






Oral History


Flynn, S. Kevin Marie



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Kenamore, Jane


Flynn, S. Kevin Marie


Digital Sisters Files


Flynn, S. Kevin Marie; Kennamore, Jane, “Flynn, S. Kevin Marie, Oral History, 6/27/2017,” Sisters of Charity Federation Archives, accessed October 2, 2023,


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