Sisters of Charity Federation Archives

Colibraro, S. Mary Carlo, Oral History, 6/27/2017




Sisters of Charity, Leavenworth, Kansas
Transcription of Sister Mary Carlo Colibraro
Interviewed by Jane Kenamore, June 27, 2017
Transcribed by Jessie Lehman, August 13, 2017

Page 1 of 32

JK: Sister Mary Carlo, we're very happy to have you here today, and thank you for agreeing to
join in the oral history project. This interview is with Sister Mary Carlo Colibraro, and the
interviewer is Jane Kenamore. And we are at the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth Mother
House in Leavenworth, Kansas. The date is June 27, 2017.
Sister Mary Carlo, where were you born? [00:00:33]
MCC: I was born in Casper, Wyoming. My mother and father had come over from Italy in the
'20s. My mother is from the Adriatic side of Italy, up in the mountains, and my father is from
southern Italy which was very, very poor. They came at different times of course. And the reason
they came, my father came because it was very poor in Italy at that time, and he had had brothers
who had gone, come to the United States, and they settled in Chicago. So, my father—and I
think he lied about his age—came over and fought on our side in World War I.
JK: He did.
MCC: Yes, he did, and I think he lied about his age. But, anyway, he was short and he was a
runner, and the only injury he had was a thumb that was out of joint.
JK: Was he a runner as in a military runner? [00:01:42]
MCC: I don't know how they did it in World War I, but they sent messages by runners
apparently because he was one of the runners. And he didn't talk a whole lot about it, but he was
kind of proud that he had fought on our side. And he always would dress up when they'd have
parades in his VFW with uniform, you know, and a parade. So, he's very proud to have done
My mother came over at a different time because those were the days when you had to be
sponsored to come to the United States. And my mother is from a large family of 11. There were
two boys, and the rest were all girls. So, the oldest girl was married in Italy, and they came over
way early like in the '20s and went to Denver and bought a saloon and made lots of money in
those days. And then she began to sponsor all of her sisters. And Mama was not the second one
but the third one.
So, the first one came over and she went to Denver, and then she decided to go up to Wyoming,
Casper, Wyoming, and visit some friends. And when my mother came over, she was sponsored
next, and she came over and went to Denver. And then she wanted to go up to Casper to see this
sister, and she did and met my father, and I don't think she ever went back to Denver. So, that's
how we all happened to be born in Casper, Wyoming.
And Mother and Daddy had three children. I have two brothers, one older and one younger. I
was born in 1926, and Father Dan was born in 1922, and Father Phil was born in 1930. So, I

Sisters of Charity, Leavenworth, Kansas
Transcription of Sister Mary Carlo Colibraro
Interviewed by Jane Kenamore, June 27, 2017
Transcribed by Jessie Lehman, August 13, 2017

Page 2 of 32

have two brothers or I did; they died recently, but my two brothers… There were just three in the
JK: All of you went into religious. [00:04:00]
MCC: Father Phil, who is the youngest of the three of us, always knew he wanted to be a priest.
We said he knew it right out of the womb. And so he told the priest at home, and so Father Phil
is the only one who went to Maur Hill in Atchison, and he became a priesthood student. They
had priesthood students there.
But Father Dan and I, we graduated from our high school in Casper, and then we went on to
college at the University of Wyoming in Laramie. And Father Dan, he wasn't a priest then, but
he was a senior when I was a freshman, and, of course, freshmen are always crying. So, I would
go over to Father Dan's place and cry my heart out 'cause I was homesick. But we made it
Father Dan majored in mechanical engineering and I majored in business because those were the
days when we didn't have a lot of money. We never went to Catholic school, none of us.
JK: You didn't. [00:05:06]
MCC: No.
JK: Oh, my goodness.
MCC: We didn't have the money to attend because it was tuition. So we went to grade school,
high school and college all in public schools. There was only Father Phil later on that finally
went to Maur Hill in Atchison.
JK: Was church still the center of your life? [00:05:28]
MCC: No. Not really because Mama and Daddy couldn't talk English, couldn't speak English,
and so we didn't go to church and they didn't go to church. However, we had a wonderful… well,
she's our godmother now, a block away and I think it was she who was… She and hers were
from Ireland right off the old… right from the old sod. And I think she took Mama under her
wing and eventually all of us were baptized. Mrs. Goggin made sure we were baptized. And little
by little we started going to Our Lady of Perpetual Devotions and this and that and this and that,
and eventually we all came in the… I was baptized, of course, in the church. Mrs. Goggin made
sure that that happened, and we all were but we didn't go to church.
JK: As infants? [00:06:25]
MCC: As infants, yes.

Sisters of Charity, Leavenworth, Kansas
Transcription of Sister Mary Carlo Colibraro
Interviewed by Jane Kenamore, June 27, 2017
Transcribed by Jessie Lehman, August 13, 2017

Page 3 of 32

JK: Ok.
MCC: So, that's how that happened, and it's interesting, isn't it, that we just didn't go to Catholic
school though. The first time I stepped into a Catholic college was when I taught over her at the
University of St. Mary.
JK: Really? [00:06:43]
MCC: Yes. The first time ever. I was going to Denver University to get my master's degree,
because I majored in typing and shorthand and bookkeeping. That's a long time ago. Those
things don't even exist now.
JK: Right.
MCC: And so I went to the University of Denver to get my master's degree, and I worked for the
dean of graduate school. And the secretary there was a little Quaker girl, and she and I became
very well-acquainted. And she knew that there were other Sisters attending the U. to get their
master's and she introduced me to them.
And so, these Sisters lived at St. Joseph Hospital at that time and would just come by bus or
streetcar to school, and they would bring their lunch, and I would always eat with the littlest one,
and her name was Sister Xavier. And so we'd eat together sitting on the steps somewhere. And
then she'd always give me her Oreo cookies out of her lunch. So, I always tell people my
vocation was generated by three Oreo cookies.
JK: (Laughs) So, you were not a Sister at that time. [00:08:09]
MCC: No, no, no.
JK: You were just getting your master's degree.
MCC: Yes, that's right. That's right.
JK: What were your plans? [00:08:15]
MCC: Then I went back and I said would teach. I taught one year in Gillette, Wyoming when it
was not the big boom town that it is now. And then I got a better job at Cody, Wyoming, and I
was making pretty good money. In fact, I was making 2600 dollars a year. (Laughs)
JK: Wow. And when was that? [00:08:46]

Sisters of Charity, Leavenworth, Kansas
Transcription of Sister Mary Carlo Colibraro
Interviewed by Jane Kenamore, June 27, 2017
Transcribed by Jessie Lehman, August 13, 2017

Page 4 of 32

MCC: Oh, gosh, let's see. I graduated from the University in 1947, and then I got my master's,
so that would be '48.
JK: So, sometime after that. I was going to ask you if you knew anything about the JapaneseAmerican internment camp which was just outside of Cody. [00:09:07]
MCC: Oh, that's right. They had them there. However, in Casper we had a Japanese family
JK: Oh, you did? [00:09:13]
MCC: Down in north Casper. And the oldest boy was Father Dan's age. And one of the girls was
my age, so I went to school with them.
JK: Oh, you did.
MCC: High school, yes.
JK: Oh, that's interesting.
MCC: And I remember when we had our 50th reunion she came back.
JK: She did.
MCC: She was a pianist. She was wonderful. She went… I forgot where that is where you
studied to be in piano. But, anyway, she was very good, excellent. But she came back on our 50th
anniversary and it was just nice to see her.
JK: Yes. Now, did she ever talk about her time in the internment camp? [00:09:55]
MCC: No, and I didn't ask her.
JK: Right. It's not something you would ask.
MCC: We didn't talk about those things.
JK: Right. So, your original career goals were to go…
MCC: Was to teach.
JK: …to teach. [00:10:10]
MCC: That's right.

Sisters of Charity, Leavenworth, Kansas
Transcription of Sister Mary Carlo Colibraro
Interviewed by Jane Kenamore, June 27, 2017
Transcribed by Jessie Lehman, August 13, 2017

Page 5 of 32

MCC: And I taught, I think, for 27 years and didn't like any of it.
JK: Oh, no.
MCC: This is what happened. I did teach for 27 years as a Sister…
JK: As a Sister. [00:10:25]
MCC: …in Butte, in Topeka, and I can't remember where else. Anyway, one time… my two
brothers and I are very close. So, one time when they were together they thought that I wasn't
happy and for some reason maybe… well, maybe it was because, you know, you try to get the
students to type correctly and make corrections, and they never did. They didn't think that was
important. They didn't think hyphenation was important. They didn't think that proofreading was
important. I think I was getting a little discouraged. And I guess I showed that in my voice or
they heard that in my voice.
So, they called me up one day. It was after Easter. And they said we think that you should go to
the mother general and ask her if you can have a sabbatical. I didn't know what a sabbatical was
in those days. But I went and I said I just think I need to get away, maybe to learn more theology.
That's what I asked for. So, she said, "Where would you like to go?" And I said, "I understand
there's something out in San Francisco, a Jesuit place out there." Well, she said, "we'll see." And
so it was all set. She said that I could finally go there and get some theology. And I was all
packed and ready to go and the phone rang, and she said, the mother general said, "We think you
should go to Denver, because that's closer to home, and your mother is still living." So, you do
what you're told.
So, I went to Denver, and I took theology at the seminary. I went out to the seminary and took
theology classes. It was very difficult for me because I had never been in a Catholic school. So,
I'd be on the phone talking to Father Dan most of the time. But, anyway, he encouraged me.
And so then I went on retreat, and I met our Sister who was on retreat too, and I asked her at that
time if I could be transferred from the teaching ministry to the hospital ministry. And she said
yes. And so I did.
And so I was sent... And I remember that so well. I went down to St. Joseph and I got there and
in six weeks I was having major surgery. I'd never been sick in my life before, never been in a
hospital before. And it was on the gynecology floor. And when I was recuperating I would walk
around and visit all the other ladies that were recuperating. And I found out I was very much like
my father who could get a lamppost to talk.
JK: (Laughs)

Sisters of Charity, Leavenworth, Kansas
Transcription of Sister Mary Carlo Colibraro
Interviewed by Jane Kenamore, June 27, 2017
Transcribed by Jessie Lehman, August 13, 2017

Page 6 of 32

MCC: So, after a year, after I recuperated from my surgery and everything I finally decided to…
Here's what I said. I'm divorcing all of my machines. I don't want any more of that in my life—
typing or shorthand or anything—and I want to go into pastoral ministry.
JK: Oh, ok. Let's back up and talk a little more about your teaching career since you spent 27
years doing this. So, did you start out in grade school? [00:14:02]
MCC: No. No.
JK: No, you didn't.
MCC: I taught in the high school. I taught in Gillette when it was just a little dot on the… Right
now it's a booming town with all the minerals up there. From my typing room you could look
down the street and there was nothing there.
JK: Really.
MCC: Yes, it was just nothing.
JK: Yes.
MCC: And so I started going out with a young man who was the principal of the grade school.
JK: This was before you were a Sister. [00:14:34]
MCC: It was before I was a Sister. And at the EBFW every Friday night they had dancing. And
so we would go every Friday night. There's nothing else to do.
JK: Right.
MCC: So, we'd do that. And so, then I went home for, I can't remember, after that year, I think.
And it happened that that young man came to Casper, and I invited him to dinner at our home.
And we had dinner and when he left my older brother, Father Dan, said, "Keep looking."
MCC: So, I did.
JK: So, you did.
MCC: That's when I went to Denver and started working on my master's degree.
JK: Ok, and so it was there that you met…

Sisters of Charity, Leavenworth, Kansas
Transcription of Sister Mary Carlo Colibraro
Interviewed by Jane Kenamore, June 27, 2017
Transcribed by Jessie Lehman, August 13, 2017

Page 7 of 32

MCC: The Sisters.
JK: … the Sister with the Oreo cookies. [00:15:32]
MCC: That's right. That's right.
JK: Ok, ok. And then when did you join? [00:15:37]
MCC: Ok. So, when Sister Xavier, the one that shared her cookies with me, came back that
summer, they found out they needed a business teacher at the college. It wasn't a university yet.
It was a college. And so they called me up. And she said, "Would you like to come?" And I
didn't want to because Kansas was halfway across the world for me in those days. And I said, "I
just don't know." She said, "Why don't you come for an interview?"
And so it was around Easter time. So, I remember walking up the lane with my little tin suitcase,
and I went to visit with Sister; Sister Mary Paul was the vice president at the time. There was a
president, but he was a… Dr. Murphy was the president, but she ran the school; it was a college.
And all the Sisters taught there, and it was only Sisters.
So, we were talking and she said, "Let's talk about money." And I said, "All right." She said,
"How much were you making at your last place?" And I said, "I think I was getting 2400 a
year." And remember this is way back.
JK: Right, I understand, yes. [00:16:57]
MCC: And so she said, "What about 2600?" And since I really didn't want to go there I kind of
wrinkled up my nose, I guess. And I said, "Well…" And she said, "Three thousand?" I said, "I'll
take it."
JK: (Laughs)
MCC: That was a hundred dollars a month. So, I went home and I told Mom and Dad and they
were very pleased. And so that year I went. And then I taught. And there were about five of us
lay teachers and they had a place for us to stay, and it was at the end of the building. We all had
our own room and everything. So, we had a good time. We made our own order. We were the
Order of Perpetual Recreation.
JK: (Laughs)
MCC: And the Sisters were so good to us. Every one of us had a feast day, and my name was
Sister Mary Candelabra. And when we had a feast day Sister would send up a nice cake, 'cause
the lay teachers all sat in one dining room, and we had a lot of fun together.

Sisters of Charity, Leavenworth, Kansas
Transcription of Sister Mary Carlo Colibraro
Interviewed by Jane Kenamore, June 27, 2017
Transcribed by Jessie Lehman, August 13, 2017

Page 8 of 32

So, then that was when I got used to the Sisters and working with them and everything, and after
that, then, I didn't know whether I had a vocation or not. And there was a priest on campus,
Father Dennis Mary, (phonetic) a Dominican, and I used to go every month and talk to him. And
I'd say, "Do you think I have a vocation? How does one know if you have it?" I felt like I did but
I didn't know how. And so I went every month and finally he said, "In May, Sister, what you
have to do is decide once and for all. It's like going swimming. If you stick your big toe in you'll
never get in. What you have to do is just hold your nose and jump in." So, after that talk, that's
what I did. I jumped in.
So, then I went home and told Mom and Daddy. It was May. I told Mom and Daddy that I
wanted to go to the convent.
JK: What was their reaction? [00:19:17]
MCC: They were happy.
JK: Oh, ok. Good.
MCC: They were both happy. Daddy said to me, "So you want to be a "mornica," (phonetic)
which is Italian for Sister. And I said, "Yes, Daddy." "Be a good one." So, I was to come here, I
think, about August the 15th or something like that. And didn't my father up and die on July 24th,
1953, and that's why I have his name. Carlo was his name.
JK: Oh, really?
MCC: Yes. And so I chose that. No, we had to submit three names that we'd like, and I
submitted Mama's name and then Daddy's name second. And then when you were getting your
constitution, a little black book with a little small envelope in it, and you were to in silence go to
the big chapel and open up the little envelope. And I opened it up and it was Sister Mary Carlo.
JK: Oh, nice.
MCC: And I thought that's a good way to remember my Daddy. So I always kept the name.
When the Sisters went back to their baptismal name, and mine was Rose, I never did.
JK: Mary Carlo is a beautiful name. [00:20:35]
MCC: It is. It is. And so that's how I got my name, and that's how I entered in…
JK: And then when you entered then you went back into teaching, right? [00:20:47]
MCC: Yes, I did.

Sisters of Charity, Leavenworth, Kansas
Transcription of Sister Mary Carlo Colibraro
Interviewed by Jane Kenamore, June 27, 2017
Transcribed by Jessie Lehman, August 13, 2017

Page 9 of 32

JK: And, so, did you continue to teach at…
MCC: I taught at the college.
JK: …at St Mary? [00:20:52]
MCC: I taught at the college. It was a college, not a university yet. And some of our Sisters sent
me off to school, Notre Dame. I went to Notre Dame once and went someplace else another time.
I can't remember. But I never had a desire to get a PhD. In those days you just didn't.
JK: They were rare.
MCC: That's right. And, so, I taught at the college and I really did like it a lot, and I liked being
around the Sisters. No, this was when I was not in the Sisterhood yet. We were the Order of
Perpetual Recreation, remember.
MCC: But then when I went home and then I came back and that, and then my father died just in
July and I entered in August. And then I was—what should I do? Because my brothers were in
the seminary, and they couldn't be with Mama. Am I going to leave my mother all alone? It was
very difficult. But this Father Dennis Mary (phonetic) that I had been in counseling with said,
"Do whatever your mother says." And Mama said, "You have to go."
JK: Really.
MCC: She said, "You have your whole life ahead of you and I have to be alone," and she did for
40 years.
JK: Wow. She was a very strong woman.
MCC: She was.
JK: And a very unselfish woman. [00:22:31]
MCC: But our community has been very, very good to us. And when Mama got older I asked if
I could go home and take care of her, and I did. I did for almost eight years which was wonderful
to be able to do that and wonderful of our community to allow me to do that.
JK: It really was.
MCC: It was.

Sisters of Charity, Leavenworth, Kansas
Transcription of Sister Mary Carlo Colibraro
Interviewed by Jane Kenamore, June 27, 2017
Transcribed by Jessie Lehman, August 13, 2017

Page 10 of 32

JK: Did you also do some work in…? [00:23:01]
MCC: That's when I started my caring ministry, because my brother, Father Dan, at that time
was pastor at our church which was just two blocks from our home, Our Lady of Fatima. I
looked for a job, but nobody would hire a nun. So, he said, "I'll tell you what we'll do if it's ok
with your community. You work for our church here, Our Lady of Fatima. You work for our
church, and I'll pay you a salary and you start this caring ministry and go out and visit." So, that's
what I did. It was just wonderful. And I realized then, you know, that I just really enjoyed people
and talking to them.
So I started it. And what I did is I made a list of all the things that you could sign up for. You
could go visit at the hospital or send cards to the hospital or make cards to send to the hospital.
Or you could take communion to the hospital or to the people that are home bound. You could
cook for people that come back from the hospital who couldn't cook. You could give somebody a
ride to go to church who didn't have a ride. You could write letters. You could do… I had a
whole 8 ½ by 11, no, by 14 page.
JK: Of things that you could do. [00:24:29]
MCC: Oh, all these things, and we called it the caring ministry. And people signed up for it. The
first time, the first year, there were 20 people, and when I left later to come home there are120.
JK: Really.
MCC: And they did everything, and they loved it. They loved it.
JK: What was your favorite part of the caring ministry? [00:24:52]
MCC: First of all just directing it, making sure everybody… And then every year they signed
up. I didn't want them to think that once that they started doing something they had to do it for
the rest of their life. So, I'm a good typist, which is out-of-date now, but I typed up a list every
year and they signed up for what they wanted every year so that I knew that what they signed up
for they wanted to do. So, then, I did that. I forgot how many… Well, Mama died. That was it.
Mama finally died. Not finally, but, you know.
JK: I know.
MCC: Mama died and then a Sister Sue, who was the mother general at the time, said I think
you should go home. "Come home," she said, because the mother general always makes a visit to
every house where a Sister is every year in her term. So, it was that time, and she came. I cooked
a nice breakfast for her. I remember that. And then she said, "We think you need to come home."

Sisters of Charity, Leavenworth, Kansas
Transcription of Sister Mary Carlo Colibraro
Interviewed by Jane Kenamore, June 27, 2017
Transcribed by Jessie Lehman, August 13, 2017

Page 11 of 32

And my brothers agreed. We think you should go back there. And so that's when I finally, not
finally, but I was called home, and I came and I'm not sorry.
So, I came back and I was at the Mother House for 20 years and I loved every minute of it, yes.
JK: And what did you do here? [00:26:16]
MCC: Then when I came here I said, well, let's start a caring ministry among the Sisters. So, I
did. And they signed up for it. But after a while it kind of dwindled out. The Sisters weren't as
persevering as the people were. But that was ok. It was time to close that chapter.
Also, at that time when I first came back I realized there's a military base here. Then one day we
had no chaplain at our place, and we had to go out every morning for Mass if we wanted it. So,
we went to this church, Immaculate Conception, and there were five of us Sisters and we all in
the, you know, square hat, all in habit and everything. And when we came out I got a tap on the
shoulder and this lady said, "I want to tell you what my little girl said." And so she said,
"Mommy, there are five saints back there."
JK: (Laughs)
MCC: She said, "If they would like to write some questions and ask about Sisters, would you be
willing to answer them?"
JK: "Oh," I said, "Yes." "You know," I said, "I'd be even happy to come in your home sometime
and talk to you about it." "Oh," she said, "that's fine. Let me talk to my husband." So, she talked
to her husband and called me up, and she said, "Could you come for Sunday brunch? And we've
invited two other families over. One family has two children, a boy and girl, and the other one
has five boys and a girl." I said, "That’s ok, 'cause I have brothers and I can answer questions
about priests too."
And so we ran over there and that was the beginning of our friendship and that's the one who…
They were just married out of West Point, and so we went on base and answered their questions
and then we became good friends because they ended up having one boy and eight girls. And
JK: My gosh.
MCC: That's the young man. This young man is very, very generous. They were very good
Catholics, but he was very generous. And if there were other officers on the base who wanted to
have a date night he'd babysit their children.
JK: Really? [00:29:03]

Sisters of Charity, Leavenworth, Kansas
Transcription of Sister Mary Carlo Colibraro
Interviewed by Jane Kenamore, June 27, 2017
Transcribed by Jessie Lehman, August 13, 2017

Page 12 of 32

MCC: Yes. Now, what kind of a person was that?
JK: A good person.
MCC: That's my Brigadier General now.
JK: Really? And what is his name? [00:29:12]
MCC: David Francis.
JK: David Francis.
MCC: They spent a lot of time here at the Mother House. I'd have them over for supper. We'd
go out on a picnic. We'd put a penny on the railroad track. We just had a lot of fun. And Jody,
the wife, was very… wanted her children to do for others, so they made pillows for all the Sisters
in Ross Hall.
JK: Oh, how nice.
MCC: When we had the old Ross Hall. And we brought them out. And then the oldest boy, who
was just in fifth grade at that time, had a magic show. So, we brought the magic show over.
JK: That's cute.
MCC: And the Sisters loved it. And, of course, they were thrilled to death. And then they got
older and they got older. So, it was just last year. No, one time they came for dinner, just the two,
the couple, and that's when I said to him, "David," I said, "I'm going to make a prediction. One of
these days, I don't know when, you're going to be a four-star general." No, then I found out there
were five-star generals so I changed the prediction. I said, "You're going to be a five-star
general." And I had to find out what the five stars… who they were. But I did and I wrote them
But, anyway, that's when one of their daughters decided to go to Benedictine school in Atchison.
And so she would call me up and she'd come down and bring some friends and we'd have a lot of
fun. So, one day… And, see, I followed this family. They went from Leavenworth to Hawaii, to
Erie, Pennsylvania, down at Rutgers, then to Korea and then back. So, now he is a Brigadier
General down there.
JK: That's amazing.
MCC: And every time he gets commissioned higher they send me an invitation and I write back
and I say, "I would have come, but the Sisters wouldn't loan me their visas."

Sisters of Charity, Leavenworth, Kansas
Transcription of Sister Mary Carlo Colibraro
Interviewed by Jane Kenamore, June 27, 2017
Transcribed by Jessie Lehman, August 13, 2017

Page 13 of 32

JK: (Laughs).
MCC: And so on Mother's Day, just this year, they called me from Korea. They were down in…
JK: Oh, really.
MCC: They called me from Korea and they said, "We're calling you to wish you a happy
Mother's Day because you've always been a mother to our children. But we want you to know
now that we are going to be grandparents." And I said, "Oh, good, then I'm going to be a
grandmother." [31:56]
JK: (Laughs)
MCC: So, anyway, one time when David came with his daughter and we were sitting in this
room having lunch or supper or whatever it was, and at the very end David said to me, "Sister,
you've always prayed for us, and I want you to have this." And that's when he handed me the
gold star.
JK: How nice. [00:32:19]
MCC: No, it's a silver star.
JK: Right.
MCC: And he pinned it on my… I think. So, I wrote a letter to all the Sisters and I said, "Now,"
I said, "you have to call me General Colibraro, but you don't have to salute."
JK: (Laughs)
MCC: Oh, we've had fun on that. But he's only now at a Brigadier General, and he's down at
Rutgers now, commissioned. He's back from Seoul. He's only like 52 years old.
JK: Is that right? [00:32:52]
MCC: Yes. He's going to really go up high, I think.
JK: Yes.
MCC: But, anyway, that's that stuff.
JK: So, do Brigadier Generals wear a star? One star? [00:33:01]
MCC: One star.

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Transcription of Sister Mary Carlo Colibraro
Interviewed by Jane Kenamore, June 27, 2017
Transcribed by Jessie Lehman, August 13, 2017

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JK: Ok.
MCC: And so do I. (Laughs)
JK: Right, and so do you. Right.
MCC: That family has brought me more joy…
JK: Oh, I can imagine.
MCC: …than any others. I've love many of the people that I still keep in touch with. But every
time David would get a promotion they have to come here to Leavenworth. I guess they get
information they need to know. And he'd always call me up and say, "I'll be there about 8:30 in
the morning out in front. I won't be here long, but could you just come?" And I'd be out there
waiting, and then he'd say, "I have to leave now." They're sending a plane for him.
JK: (Laughs)
MCC: So, we really had a nice relationship.
JK: Oh, it sounds like it. Yes. [00:33:19]
MCC: It was just very nice.
JK: Let's see. When you joined Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth that was prior to Vatican II,
wasn't it? [00:34:08]
MCC: Uh-huh.
JK: Yes. And so while you were in the community Vatican II happened, so you've experienced
the old ways and the new ways. Can you tell about some of the changes that you liked?
MCC: Oh, whatever the community said was ok with me. When we changed to no veils,
however, the community always said that those who want to could wear their veil. I chose what I
wanted and that was to wear my veil.
When we went to something else, you could wear slacks, you know, or you don't have to wear
slacks. I chose not to. And so the community has been very gracious and open to what we want

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Transcription of Sister Mary Carlo Colibraro
Interviewed by Jane Kenamore, June 27, 2017
Transcribed by Jessie Lehman, August 13, 2017

Page 15 of 32

as Sisters, and so we make the decision. So that's why I made this decision—I still wear my veil
and my, what we call, nun boots.
MCC: And I'm very happy.
JK: And why do you like to wear the veil? [00:35:15]
MCC: It's how I came, and I want them to learn to recognize me when I get out there.
MCC: But several things have happened. And people would say… I would go out to the lunch. I
had a very, very good Lutheran friend—her husband was a Lutheran minister—and we were
very good friends, and we'd go out to different places. And one time, and this is just kind of an
incidental, but one time we were at IHOP and when they brought the tickets I said, "Where is
mine?" And she gave Virginia hers but I didn't get one. She said, "That man over there paid for
JK: Oh, my goodness.
MCC: And I said, "Oh, well, ok." So that was kind of surprising. But, anyway, afterwards I ran
over to him and I said, "Thank you, sir. You didn't need to that." And he said, "I wanted to.
You've given your whole life to God." So, I thought, well, I didn't do it for that.
JK: For a free lunch. [00:36:33]
MCC: No, no, right.
MCC: And then when I would go home I had to go through Denver, and I'd have to walk
through DIA. And, I don't know, three or four times, because I went home often in those days—I
was younger—and a man would stop me, mostly men, not women necessarily, but men just
stopped me, and he said, "Sister, thank you for wearing your habit." And thank you for doing
this. "I appreciate your keeping the veil," or something. But I didn't do it for that reason. But
people did notice. And, I don't know, I didn't like the idea of having to take care of my hair.
JK: That's a point.

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Transcription of Sister Mary Carlo Colibraro
Interviewed by Jane Kenamore, June 27, 2017
Transcribed by Jessie Lehman, August 13, 2017

Page 16 of 32

MCC: But that was minor, you know.
JK: Yes. You were involved with the AIDS epidemic. [00:37:26]
MCC: Oh, yes.
JK: When did you become involved with that? [00:37:30]
MCC: When I was in Denver working at the hospital. One time I went to visit this young man,
and I always sit on the bed. I used to sit on the bed when I visit. And I went in and I said… He
was a Catholic. It was marked on the sheet Catholic, 'cause we're a Catholic hospital in Denver,
and he was marked as a Catholic, so I went into visit him. He had a sarcoma, yes, the purple
JK: Kaposi sarcoma. [00:38:07]
MCC: Kaposi, yes. And then I said, "What's wrong? Why are you here?" And then he says,
"Well, they don't know. They're contacting," what is it, "the CDC in Atlanta, and they'll find out
what I've got." Well, it came back. What is it called, sarcoma…?
JK: K-A-P-O-S-I...
MCC: That's right, sarcoma.
JK: …apostrophe S. [00:38:34]
MCC: And then I said, "What is that?" And he said, "I don't know, but I probably won't make
it." And here he was a Catholic. And so I went down and notified Father to come anoint him
'cause, you know, if he's going to die.
Well, then I found out he refused the anointing, and when I went into his room and he told me
that I started to cry, 'cause I thought, ooh. But, anyway, he called me back into his room. He said,
"Sister," he said, "I can take it. I'm ready. If that's what the Lord wants I can go." And I just
didn't know what to say. I just never had experienced that before. I didn't have a lot of training
before I went into pastoral work but I did later on. But I just sort of winged it. And so I said, "I'll
be here for you. If you need me, call me." And he never did. He died without being anointed.
And that bothered me a lot.
However, since then I realized the Lord makes the decisions and He knows what goes on in
people's hearts, and I didn't have to worry.
Later on, up on that same floor, because they were all private rooms, a lady came to visit. This
was on the other unit, but it was up on the tenth floor where there were all private rooms. And

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she said, I'm his mother… no his grandmother."I'm his grandmother." And it's May. "And here's
120 dollars, and I want you to go home and visit your mother for Mother's Day.
JK: Oh, my goodness. [00:40:20]
MCC: That was his grandmother. So, you see, when you have your grandmother rooting for you
you don't have to worry. So, I tried to let that go that I didn't fail him.
But after that then I was more prepared for the AIDS patients, and you had to gown up because
they didn't realize then that, though they didn't have all the answers—I'll put it that way—and
you had to gown up. You had to put something on your head and your shoes. You had to wear
the gown. You had to wear gloves. You'd just make sure you couldn't touch any of their fluids or
anything like that. But I went in. You know that was my… and I met some wonderful, wonderful
young men. They all died.
JK: Yes.
MCC: All of those in that day and age died. And now they have medicine that they can take, but
in those days they all died. And one summer when one of our Sisters who's from Montana who
worked with the AIDS patients came home told about what she did with them. She'd take them
here, do this or do that. And then when she finished she asked if there are any questions, and I
got up and said, "Sister, you're lucky. All of yours have lived. All the ones that I met early on in
those days died." Yes, they did.
And when I worked at the hospital if ever I had a patient who died I always wrote a letter to the
family, and I wrote a letter to this one young man, and the family wrote back and they said he
wanted to be a writer, and he was writing a book and here are two copies for you.
JK: Oh, how nice. [00:42:00]
MCC: And another one wrote back, the ones from Maine wrote back and said, "You were so
good to our son. We want to pay your way to come see us in Maine." And they sent the money,
and I went and I met them. They're from York, Maine which is a resort town up there. And a lot
of them were gay up there. And they knew it. But the father was the chief of police and so at
Christmastime they invited all of the people that had AIDS to their home and, yes… which was
wonderful, wasn't it?
JK: Yes.
MCC: And when their son finally died, 'cause she was a nurse, and he nursed him, they bought a
room in the hospital and called it his room and named it. And then his partner was in San
Francisco, and he died a year later almost to the day.

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JK: Really.
MCC: So, those were hard days for families and for the people that have it, but I met some
wonderful, wonderful people. One was a university professor from the University of Wyoming.
And one was also a husband of a good friend of mine that we used to visit real often, but he
would every once in a while take a trip to Las Vegas and then… yes, see, so.
JK: Yes.
MCC: And she kind of whispered it to me. She said, "Really, he died of AIDS."
JK: I'm sorry, what was that? [00:43:47]
MCC: The wife said to me when he died, "He really died of AIDS."
JK: Really.
MCC: But, anyway, that was my connection with AIDS patients. I still write to the families to
this day. I do, yes.
JK: Oh, that's good. How many years were you involved with it actually? [00:44:10]
MCC: I worked in the hospital 11 years, and it was the happiest years of my religious life.
JK: Oh, that's good.
MCC: 'Cause I met so many people. I became a grandmother. This young lady came to the
hospital and she had an anencephalic baby. And so none of us knew what that was at the time,
but I used to go visit this little child in the intensive care nursery every day, every day, every day,
and I'd bring him a rose. So, when he died… They usually died the first day or within 24 hours,
but this one went on and on. And I used to go every day and bring him a rose. And I would keep
track of it, so when he finally died I typed everything up in a booklet and handed it to the mother
and, of course, she was thrilled and invited me to the funeral in their back yard. And so I've been
friends with Patty for I don't know how many years now, and we still keep in touch. And this
Christmas when she wrote me she said, "Merry Christmas. A babe brought us together, and now
we celebrate the Babe."
I'm sorry but…
JK: No, I know. It's affecting all of us. (Laughs)
MCC: But you know what I do in Ross Hall now?

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JK: What? [00:45:40]
MCC: I have a chair by the window. Both of my brothers have died, one last year and one just
this year, and they were eight years apart, but they were close. We lived together sometimes.
And I sit in my window, my chair by the window, with my two brothers' pictures there, and it
brings me great peace. But I also thank God, for all the wonderful people that he's brought in my
life. And I cried then too.
MCC: But anyway, yes.
JK: What else did you do at St. Joseph's Hospital? [00:46:25]
MCC: One time, I don't know how it all came about, but I said, "Oh, my gosh, you know, I've
been with a lot of deaths at the hospital." I kept track. There were about 265 all together.
JK: Oh, my goodness.
MCC: And that was the time when Elisabeth Kubler-Ross came out with her, you know, at first
you're angry and then you're this and then you're this and finally…
JK: Right. Right, right. Yes.
MCC: And so I read her book and I realized that I had examples for every one of those steps.
And so I started giving talks on… and then I could illustrate them. This person that came in...
Like one time there was an AIDS patient on the fourth floor. It was in the wing, and he had
brought a cake for his friend. But when he got there the friend had died.
JK: Oh, how awful. [00:47:15]
MCC: And I remember him taking that cake and throwing it in a garbage can and going to the
elevator and poking… He was angry, you know.
JK: Right.
MCC: But examples like that that were true. Then I started giving talks around Denver in the
hospital first to some of the doctors that I thought maybe would benefit by it or they asked me to
talk. Let me put it that way. And little by little then somebody would ask me to go here or go
here. One time they invited me up to Vail and I got to ride on the whatever…
JK: Oh, did you?

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Transcription of Sister Mary Carlo Colibraro
Interviewed by Jane Kenamore, June 27, 2017
Transcribed by Jessie Lehman, August 13, 2017

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MCC: And then I gave a talk, you know. And I remember sitting out there on the edge of a cliff
and looking out at all the mountains and everything in one… yes. And we were involved with a
Jewish wedding at that time, but that's beside the point. But, yes, I've had a lot of wonderful
experiences, and that's why sometimes when I think about them I do have to cry. They're
JK: You said you gave talks, and I know that you were involved in hospice which is not new but
it has become more known in the past 20, 25 years. [00:48:45]
MCC: In those days if you were in hospice you knew you were going to die, so you didn't make
any bones about it. And I remember going to visit someone that was in the hospice and you had
to gown all up of course. But I was used to doing that in the hospital so I did that and made some
very nice friends and always wrote to their families, and so I have friends all over from some of
But I did keep track of all of my deaths so that I could use the examples to help other people.
And I remember I had never been around a death before even though my father died. He just had
a massive heart attack and that was it. But I remember the first time in the hospital that I hadn't
experienced a death.
So, Sister Marilyn, who was a Benedictine from up here, was chaplain down there. So, one day
she said to me, "This man is a Catholic man, and he's on his last breath. Would you like to come
and see what I do?" And I said, "Oh, yes, I'll be happy to. So, we went in and I remember she
prayed for him and she said some Hail Marys for him and some other things and just was quiet
and everything. And then he did die. And then after the family left and everything, Sister said
me, "Should we go into the dining room and just kind of process this and see?" So, we went in
and Sister said, "How do you feel?" And I said, "I think I'm going to throw up."
JK: Oh, gosh. (Laughs) [00:50:56]
MCC: That's how I felt, 'cause I had never experienced a death.
JK: Right.
MCC: And it was good experience because then when I was home with Mama that helped a lot.
JK: What do you say about people who support physician-assisted suicide? [00:50:53]
MCC: See, I'm against that. But it's a person's own right to do that, and so I'm not against it, but
God makes the decision. And I think that suffering is very redemptive. That's what Jesus did on
the cross. He suffered. So, whatever suffering you go through is redemptive if you offer it up.
Now, some Catholics and non-Catholics don't maybe appreciate that or know about it. And that's
ok, because in my mind God loves every person he ever created, and he's not going to send to

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Transcription of Sister Mary Carlo Colibraro
Interviewed by Jane Kenamore, June 27, 2017
Transcribed by Jessie Lehman, August 13, 2017

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hell somebody who just because at the last moment made a different decision. So, it's ok. If you
want to do that ok. Now, I don't know if I'm right or wrong on that, but that's how I feel about it.
JK: That's kind of the way I feel too. [00:52:01]
MCC: Because God knows, and this is what I say about suicides. God knows what went on in
that heart and what suffering, inner suffering they've gone through that maybe they weren't able
to verbalize. And so who am I to judge?
JK: Right.
MCC: And so when there's a suicide, God knows. And He knows and He loves us, and so I don't
know what God does but I think He'd love them always. Does that make sense?
JK: It makes perfect sense. [00:52:44]
MCC: Ok.
JK: It does.
MCC: That's the gospel according to Carlo.
JK: It makes a lot of sense. Did you initiate the prayer ministry at Ross Hall? [00:52:59]
MCC: I don't have a prayer ministry at Ross. I did that when I was at the Mother House.
JK: Oh, when you were at the Mother House.
MCC: Yes. I noticed that on those slips. I didn't do it at Ross Hall, because when I came here I
want everybody praying for me.
JK: (Laughs)
MCC: In fact, I'll have to tell you this. You know my older brother, Father Dan, made a lot of
money and he's given scholarships to the university, endowed and scholarships and to different
colleges and everything. And then when my brother was in the nursing home before he died in
March everything was paid for by Father Dan's money. And then I said to the CPA, 'cause I
taught Father Dan everything he knew about that. So, I called the CPA and said, "You know, I'm
in a nursing home."

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MCC: So, we found out just yesterday that we are getting a good amount of money…
JK: Oh, good.
MCC: …for my care here in the nursing home, because it's a new one. It's just been opened. It's
beautiful. It's just lovely, and so I was just very… Yesterday I got the letter.
JK: Oh, good.
MCC: And I sent it Sister, and she's very excited because there's a lot of money coming.
JK: Good.
MCC: You know, we went back and how many years have I been…? And I don't mean to tout
anything, but, you know, it paid for Father Phil, and I kept saying, "Why isn't it paying for me?"
JK: Yes, right.
MCC: I couldn't talk to the CPA so I said to her, "You talk to him." I gave her the number and
she talked to him. And he said, "Ok. Make out a list of what you think it would cost if…" Ok.
We're getting it.
JK: Very good. [00:54:55]
MCC: So, I figure, gosh, I taught him how to do bookkeeping, this brother of mine that didn't
know what he was doing. He did fine with the bookkeeping, and every time I'd go home if his
trial balance didn't mount (phonetic) I'd help him find it. But then when they started splitting
stocks and doing all that he lost me, because I didn't study that. And so my younger brother who
was living there at the time with him, he said, if you pardon the expression, he said, "We had to
take the damn red book to Leo."
MCC: But Leo straightened it all out. I figure he had it and he had always said that in his…
Father Dan always said in his will I want to make sure that Father Phil and Sister are well taken
care of, and so we are.
JK: Oh, that's good.
MCC: Very well taken care of.
JK: So, you've lived in a community now for how many years? [00:56:00]

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MCC: Let's see. I think it's 65 next… I entered in '53 and that's when they started counting, so
you figure it out. (Laughs) I need my machine. I think it's either 64… yes, I think it's 64 years.
JK: Yes, that would be when it…
MCC: But I came late. I was 27 when I entered.
JK: Right.
MCC: Because I had taught all those years.
JK: Because you had taught before, right. And what has living in the community meant to you?
MCC: My community, our community, has been so good to us. I've never been refused a
request—never. They provide for it even without my asking for it.
JK: Oh, how nice.
MCC: So, I've been very happy here. And, as I said, now in Ross Hall all I do is count my
blessings. And this beautiful room that I have, it's on the inner court but I don't face the wall or
the outside, and I like it because it's very conducive to prayer and contemplation, and it's
beautiful. And they had these big, overstuffed chairs and my feet wouldn't touch the rug
(phonetic) so they brought me a good straight-back chair. And then I have a reading machine.
Thank God for that.
JK: Oh, good.
MCC: One of the Sisters, no, a woman at the university, her mother had macular degeneration,
and so it's on loan from her. I've had it for a year-and-a-half. So, that's how I say my prayers. I
put my book under… My brothers bought me a Breviary, a real Breviary that the priests say. So,
I say my prayers on the machine in the morning and at night, and if I get a letter I put that under
there. And when I got the letter from the CPA it was… (Laughs)
JK: Oh, that's good. Right.
MCC: Call Sister immediately. (Laughs) So thank God for that. So, see the blessings there are.
Oh, yes. So, I do enjoy Ross Hall.
JK: Does Kansas City have a radio station where they read Time magazine, The New York Times
and all that kind of stuff? [00:58:23]

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MCC: I'm sure they might, but I have those, I don't know, books for the blind and things like
that. You know I don't use those anymore. They sent me mystery books.
JK: Oh, did they?
MCC: Yes, at the beginning. We went through this great process of what do you like and all
that, so I got mystery books. There's a knock on your door every whip-stitch and I'm forgetting
who killed who. So, I thought no more mysteries. And so they sent me another one, which was
very good—I enjoyed that—about dogs. There's a different story every day about dogs and that
you could put it on silent for just a minute and then you would start it again. But you could go on
with the dogs that way. And so more are coming in, and if I feel like I can use them I do it. But,
you know, I enjoy more just sitting in my window looking out.
JK: My mother had macular degeneration, and in St. Louis there is an order called Our Lady of
the Snows, I think. [00:59:33]
MCC: Probably, yes, uh-huh.
JK: And so they have this service that you can sign up for and it's also very easy. It's just an onoff button.
MCC: Oh, that's wonderful.
JK: Yes, it is wonderful. And so they read the newspaper. I guess they read books. But mostly
it's newspapers and magazines.
MCC: Well, now, just this last weekend two friends came. He had written a book, and I did my
best to advertise it for him in the churches and in the libraries, and I sent out letters and all kinds
of things. And we didn't have an overwhelming response. But he's very pleased. And so today I
got the… our communications person was there. She took a picture, because he donated a
gorgeous tile plaque of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
JK: Oh my goodness.
MCC: And right after lunch today I went with Sister Lucy, our superior, and we decided where
to put it. And it's so heavy that they're going to put a… I forgot. There's a word that they have to
put it in. And they'll find the stud and everything, but it's going to be hung tomorrow.
JK: Oh, great.
MCC: It's beautiful. It's a tile. Yes, it's beautiful. But, anyway, that was very, very nice. And I'm
glad that weekend is over 'cause I did a lot of work. And I had wanted more people to attend, but
Pierre, who wrote the book said, "Sister, I would have been satisfied with 15."

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JK: Oh, good. That's good. So, the community has changed so much over the years and one way
it's changed is that people have left and not as many people are joining. What do you think is the
future of the SCL? [01:01:28]
MCC: Now it's my chance to tell you about Sister Rejane. When I was in the Mother House they
called over from the vocation office and they said there are three young women here who want to
enter as candidates. Would you be willing to take one of them and not mentor her, but just be a
companion? Take her down to the dining room, and, you know, when you walk in there are 300
Sisters sitting there. And so, I said, "Oh, sure. I'd be glad to."
Sister Rejane came over, and she came over every Thursday, every Thursday, every Thursday,
every Thursday without fail. At the end of the year we were very good friends. And then she
went to Denver and she emailed me, and those were the days when at least I could do a little
email. And so then she came back to teach at the school. It's diagonally across the street. And
she'd come over to see me every Thursday.
But now, and this is what's interesting, and this answers your question, I think. Rejane is in
Wisconsin, Racine, Wisconsin, working on a farm which has been what she's always wanted to
do. And she sent me… well, there's a picture of her in one of our magazines with her arms
around an alpaca and smiling. She's just so happy. And she calls me every Sunday night, so I
have the picture on my desk. It's in here some place. And so then when she came to see me she
brought me a little alpaca made with the actual fur of the alpaca.
JK: Oh, how cute. [01:03:10]
MCC: I think I have it in there somewhere.
JK: Here it is.
MCC: Yes, it is. And they have one white alpaca, and he's very unusual. His name is Leo, but
this one's name, well, the real alpaca in the picture is Gaylord. So, I named this Pietro. That's
Peter in Italian, Peter, and it's standing up there, and look how happy she is.
Now that's the answer. Ted Dunn in that LWCR magazine that they put out periodically, the last
article in the latest issue he interviewed a number of different orders where the Sisters were all
young all over the country and found out what do the Sisters want. Are they happy with the…?
He found out a lot of the younger Sisters were angry because when they entered, you know, the
old people were angry too. And they didn't like that. And what did they want then he asked. We
want to do what we feel the Lord is calling us to do as His mission, and that's exactly what
Rejane is doing up in Racine, Wisconsin.
JK: That's wonderful. [01:04:26]

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MCC: And her parents have been up there and her family. She has a brother and his family has
been up there, but look how happy she is.
JK: Yes.
MCC: How can you not… And then we have another Sister Melissa. She came to see me. She
entered quite a while ago, so she's a little older than Rejane, but she came and I hadn't seen her
for a long, long time. You know what she's doing? She's in New York working with trafficked
JK: Oh, my goodness.
MCC: Now, that's where our community is going now. And the help that they're getting is
through the confederation of Sisters of Charity because they meet together. And when all these
young Sisters get together... Someone asked Rejane how could you find out about that? She said,
"One of the Sisters in the federation told me that…" See.
JK: Interesting, right. [01:05:21]
MCC: And so that's how our community is going to go on by the young Sisters doing these
various unusual things. Like Sister Vicki is building that down in Leavenworth where the poor
people can come and get food.
JK: Oh, food pantry.
MCC: Yes, that's right. See, they're doing things that people... that they feel in the heart, their
heart, that the Lord is asking them to do.
JK: Right. [01:05:47]
MCC: Not sit around and pray like we used to do. And that's where it's going. And so, if it dies
out, if our community dies out, we'll have the confederation. Young Sisters get together and they
can help one another and spread the word.
JK: Right.
MCC: Isn't that beautiful?
JK: So, they have their community…
MCC: Yes, that's right.

Sisters of Charity, Leavenworth, Kansas
Transcription of Sister Mary Carlo Colibraro
Interviewed by Jane Kenamore, June 27, 2017
Transcribed by Jessie Lehman, August 13, 2017

Page 27 of 32

JK: …even though they might be geographically separated. [01:06:11]
MCC: That's right. That's exactly right. And now Rejane is coming home on the 9th of July,
'cause that's when our big meeting starts here when they decide and all that kind of thing. And
she'll come in and see me and I'll hug her and cry and cry when she leaves, but that's ok.
JK: So, you wanted to tell about some of the things that you brought. [01:06:33]
MCC: All right. You know that book right there is the book that I tried to help my friend sell.
Over the weekend he was here. And this is true. I didn't know this part of his life, because we
knew him in Casper. He was very helpful to Mama in helping her... When I went home to take
care of her my brother bought us a microwave, but there's no room in our small kitchen which is
our home right here. You see that. There's a picture of our home. See how tiny it is and the front
and the back.
JK: That's so cute.
MCC: And it's just really tiny. But he came in and built a shelf for us and fixed the TV. Mama
had the TV over here so she didn't use this half of the room. He came in, put up wire and put the
TV over here, opened up… So, he's just done a wonderful… our family in every way. He's very
artistic. But this is the story of his life. And he had been at this boy's ranch in New Mexico when
the priest was abusing the boys.
JK: Oh, that's awful.
MCC: But he didn't know it at the time.
JK: It's called Secrets of the Blue Door. [01:07:46]
MCC: And the blue door is where the boys… Nobody, nobody but this priest would go through
that door and the boys that he allowed to. And little by little Pierre kept track, and that was his
saving grace. He wrote it down, everything. And then one of the boys ran away and froze that
night, and Pierre had to go out and find him and he dug a grave and buried the boy. So, Pierre
started keeping track of everything that went on. And he finally realized that the boys were being
abused. So, even on the QT he would…
He was on the staff there. He'd take the boys fishing and they'd go for a walk. And he'd ask little
questions and pretty soon things began to appear that were not good. And so this is the story that
we never knew of Pierre. And he wrote it and I tried to help him sell his book.
JK: And this is Pierre Nichols. [01:08:58]
MCC: Nichols. And he was here just over the weekend.

Sisters of Charity, Leavenworth, Kansas
Transcription of Sister Mary Carlo Colibraro
Interviewed by Jane Kenamore, June 27, 2017
Transcribed by Jessie Lehman, August 13, 2017

Page 28 of 32

JK: Oh, he was?
MCC: Yes. Yes. And I had sent pictures and posters out and sent letters to 52 people. You can
get it on But it's wonderful. But it ended up good because three of the boys when
they grew to be men found Pierre's name on the internet, and they called him up. And they said,
"Can we come see you?" He was thrilled to have them come.
They said would you help us testify? We're going to sue the State of New Mexico, and he said
yes. So, he did. He had a seven-hour deposition in front of all these lawyers and his saving grace
was he had documented every single thing that happened.
And my brother, Father Phil, is in the book sort of. When this one boy died in the snow when
Pierre left the rancho, the boys house way down in New Mexico, and he went up to Wyoming
and he met my brother. And he didn't know my brother but my brother said, "Have you eaten
anything?" And he said, "No." So, he said, "Come on. Let's go to the Village Inn." And he told
him about the boy that died.
Father Phil went out and he bought a piece of granite, a nice stone, and had the boy's name and
everything put in it. And then Pierre went back to New Mexico and buried the boy and built a
fence around it.
And so, the boys did sue, and they did win because they were men at that time. They were like
30 and 40 years old. And Pierre didn't get anything, but he said I didn't want anything. So, that's
the Secret of the Blue Door and that's Pierre, and that's the young… well, he's not young
anymore. He's in his seventies. And I didn't know that part of his life. And it's hard, isn't it? And
a lot of people didn't want to read it because who wants to talk about that?
JK: I know.
MCC: But this happens and it's still happening in many instances. So, that's what I did over the
JK: Ok, and then you told the story of the…
MCC: That's my general.
JK: That's your Brigadier General star. [01:11:37]
MCC: Oh, I didn't tell you about this. When I worked at the hospital, I was on the 10th floor
which is all private rooms, but I was also on the 9th floor which is Urology. And there was a
young man who was a doctor and he was just an ace in everything he did, just right on target.

Sisters of Charity, Leavenworth, Kansas
Transcription of Sister Mary Carlo Colibraro
Interviewed by Jane Kenamore, June 27, 2017
Transcribed by Jessie Lehman, August 13, 2017

Page 29 of 32

My mother had her kidney removed. I went to him one day and I said, "Doctor, my Mama is
going to have a kidney… would you come and talk to me about it? What do I expect…?" He
said, "I'll meet you in the doctor's office." So, we came to the doctor's office and for almost an
hour he wrote down all the things. If it were cancer, if it was this, you'd use (phonetic) this. So,
we became kind of friends. And then I left the hospital to come here, and so I would write to
him, and I'd say, "Oh, gosh, our campus is beautiful," and it is, isn't it? Beautiful I said. And then
I'd talk about something else. So, one day he said, "How about I come and do a picture book on
your Mother House?"
JK: Oh, how nice. [01:12:43]
MCC: So, he came and he did a picture book on all… yes. If you want to look at it... He
wouldn't publish it until every Sister okayed her picture, and one of the complaints was Sister
Mary Carlo's picture is in it too often.
JK: (Laughs)
MCC: But I was the one that showed him around, you know. Some of these Sisters have died,
but this is the book. And it's on the internet now, so, if you know how to get it. It's Dr. William
Pelander. Turn to the very end.
FD: What year did it come out? [01:13:19]
MCC: It says back here. I think it's '56. See, that was the doctor at that time. He is a little bit
older now. Does it say here when it came out? Oh, here it does in the front. Oh, here. See, that's
his name. William Pelander, M.D.
FD: 2010, so pretty recently.
MCC: It is, yes, it is. And so I was visiting at that time so I took him to the V.A. and I took him
to the river. I took him to wherever I went and there's a picture of me when I took… you know, I
visit the little black lady down here at the apartments right on this street, and he came with me.
There's a picture of me giving her communion, although you can just see her and my hand in
community. Like I said, he wouldn't publish any picture until the Sisters okayed it. And the first
complaint was we all look so old.
MCC: I said, "We are old."
JK: (Laughs)

Sisters of Charity, Leavenworth, Kansas
Transcription of Sister Mary Carlo Colibraro
Interviewed by Jane Kenamore, June 27, 2017
Transcribed by Jessie Lehman, August 13, 2017

Page 30 of 32

MCC: Well, anyway, God love him. He went back to Denver. He's from Denver. And he, what
do you call it, brush-stroked all those pictures.
JK: Did he really? (Laughs) [01:14:34]
MCC: He did. He did. You can't see our wrinkles real good. He did. It was months.
JK: That's hilarious.
MCC: And then finally it came out and it got the ok. Isn't that something? We were so old.
JK: That's very funny.
MCC: But anyway, that was important. That was an important thing in my… when I met Dr.
Pelander. Then after Mama had her surgery and the kidney came out, my brother looked after her
because he was at the church there. And then so I'd say, "How's Mama doing?" And then I'd
catch doctor and I'd say… we'd be joking and laughing about something and I'd say, "Can I ask
you something about Mama?" Doctor mode.
JK: Oh, funny.
MCC: He went right into doctor mode. And so that was a nice relationship that we had. And this
is not me. This is Sister Katherine (phonetic) (inaudible) and she was… That was her right in
front of the Blessed Sacraments. That's where she prayed in the big chapel. But that's the Mother
House book.
JK: Thank you. [01:15:41]
MCC: And every time people would come, my guests or anything, I'd put it out, and so when
you go to the library check it out. It's Sister Mary Carlo, Sister Mary Carlo, Sister Mary Carlo.
MCC: Anyway, I thought, well, I'll bring that because that's part of my show and tell.
And the little vases that Pierre made. Pierre is a grand master three times in New Mexico in
making pottery, beautiful gourds this big. He studied that Indian Mimbres and he learned. This
little thing, guess how much. This is a gourd. How much do you think this would sell for? I
asked him when he was here.
JK: I don't know. [01:16:30]
MCC: Sixty-five dollars.

Sisters of Charity, Leavenworth, Kansas
Transcription of Sister Mary Carlo Colibraro
Interviewed by Jane Kenamore, June 27, 2017
Transcribed by Jessie Lehman, August 13, 2017

Page 31 of 32

JK: Really?
MCC: Yes, really. 'Cause you'd have to go in, you'd have to dry it. You have to (inaudible). And
he has to wear a mask.
JK: Oh, my gosh.
MCC: But he builds great big ones. And so he won grand master, not master. That's one step.
But he's grand master three times. So, he stopped that. Now he's writing books. (Laughs)
JK: Well, thank you so much. We appreciate this so much.
MCC: I'm glad I brought out my show and tell because…
JK: I'm so glad you did.
MCC: Thank you. Thank you for listening, both of you.
FD: It was a great story, great life.
JK: It was really wonderful.
MCC: Ok. That's fine.
JK: Thank you so much.
MCC: I enjoyed doing it too. And I hope it wasn't too long.
JK: No.
FD: No, we have plenty of time.
MCC: Ok. All right.
JK: This is perfect. [01:17:21]
MCC: All right, thank you.
FD: Thank you very much.
JK: Thank you.

Sisters of Charity, Leavenworth, Kansas
Transcription of Sister Mary Carlo Colibraro
Interviewed by Jane Kenamore, June 27, 2017
Transcribed by Jessie Lehman, August 13, 2017

Page 32 of 32

MCC: All right. Thank you very much.

Dublin Core


Colibraro, S. Mary Carlo, Oral History, 6/27/2017


Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth; Family; Italy; Teaching; AIDS Ministry; Pastoral Ministry


Sister Mary Carlo speaks quite a bit about her family history as both parents were immigrants from Italy. She also talks about how she encountered the SCLs and joined the Community. She discusses her 27 years teaching but how it was the creation of the Caring Ministry and her work with AIDS patients in the 1980's which were really meaningful.


Colibraro, S. Mary Carlo; Kenamore, Jane


Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth






All rights belong to the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth






Oral History


Colibraro, S. Mary Carlo; Kenamore, Jane



Oral History Item Type Metadata


Kenamore, Jane


Colibraro, S. Mary Carlo


Digital Sisters Files

Original Format





Colibraro, S. Mary Carlo; Kenamore, Jane, “Colibraro, S. Mary Carlo, Oral History, 6/27/2017,” Sisters of Charity Federation Archives, accessed May 24, 2024,


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