Sister Kathleen Condry: Blending leadership with a gentle spirit

Sister Kathleen directs the liturgy commission, helps with the stewardship commission and pastoral council, and helps with parish staff direction, whether it is retreats or personnel matters, Father Hund said.

“She’s excellent at responding to people,” he said. “It’s a total blessing to have an Ursuline, and now we have two. Ursulines have brought great presence to Nativity Parish.”

Sister Kathleen works long hours to maintain a presence with parishioners. “I have a lot of meetings at night so I may go in at noon sometimes, and I try to be around part of the time on the weekends,” Sister Kathleen said. “I need to maintain a presence with the parishioners. If they see me and get to know me, they are more likely to know they can ask for help.”

Raised on the bayou

Sister Kathleen joins Mark and Maureen Huppe with their sons, Tom, left, and Mike in 2006. Sister Kathleen is Mike’s godmother.

Like many Ursuline Sisters of Paola, Sister Kathleen was born in Kansas, but it was mostly by happenstance. “My father traveled, when my mother got close to having me, she came to my grandparents’ home in Wellsville,” she said. Sister Kathleen’s place of birth is officially Ottawa, Kan., but that was the location of the nearest hospital. “We never lived there,” she said, “although I was baptized in Sacred Heart Church in Ottawa.”

The family moved to Tulsa, Okla., after she was born, but by the time she was 4, the family was living where she considers her hometown, Kenner, La., a suburb of New Orleans. She had two older brothers and two younger sisters.

“My dad was an engineer who worked underwater, he worked in the Gulf of Mexico,” she said. “He was real involved in our lives,” including helping out with Sister Kathleen’s Girl Scout troop and serving as a room parent at school. “It was unusual for that to happen back then.”

Jim Condry worked on corrosion protection for oil rigs. “He developed chemicals to protect the rigs. Building rigs offshore takes engineers,” she said. “He’d be gone for two weeks, and home for a week.”

“As kids, we spent long hours outside and independent. No one knew what I was doing a lot of the time,” Sister Kathleen said. “My friends and I got on the bus and rode to Lake Pontchartrain, or downtown. No one knew the difference. We knew when the ships were docking, we’d flirt with the sailors,” she said. “I remember sitting in the little praline shop that eventually became the famous Aunt Sally’s (next to the Café du Monde in the French Quarter). We’d sit at the counter and talk to ‘Aunt Sally,’ and help shoo the flies away. They were great times.”

When she was 14, the family left New Orleans and came to Kansas to be near her grandparents while her dad went to California to start another branch of the company. “He hated Los Angeles,” Sister Kathleen said. “He said, ‘We’re not moving here.’ It was 1964-65, there were a lot of hippies. It was quite a shock to my conservative dad.”

Sister Kathleen and Sister Pat Lynch have been friends for 40 years. They are shown here in 2003, when they were both in leadership in Paola, Kan.

Her father returned to Kansas and the family settled in Overland Park, a suburb of Kansas City, where he went to work for the Gas Service Co. Her mother, Mary Condry, was a tax examiner for the Internal Revenue Service until she retired.

Sister Kathleen enrolled at Bishop Miege High School for her sophomore year, where she met the Ursuline Sisters. She was involved in many activities, such as newspaper, choir, and the debate team.

While living in Louisiana, the family came to Wellsville about once a year for Thanksgiving or Christmas, and they often visited Paola during those times, Sister Kathleen said. “Paola was the biggest town near Wellsville. My dad drove us around the grounds, and we came to Mass here a few times,” she said from a parlor in the former convent.

Sister Kathleen got to know the sisters well at Bishop Miege. “Sister Mildred ‘Millie’ Berdelle got me involved in numerous service projects,” she said. “Sister Dolores Pfannes took our geometry class to the Guadalupe Center every Saturday to tutor children in math. It was a service center for immigrants. Many of the children couldn’t speak English,” Sister Kathleen said. “She was relentless, it was expected we would go.”