Sister Kathleen Condry: Blending leadership with a gentle spirit

That’s where she met Huppe and a few years later Father Hund. Huppe was single and had just finished her first year of teaching, when one of the other teachers asked Sister Kathleen if he could ask Huppe out. “He said he’d break up with me before school started back,” Huppe said. “Sister Kathleen said ‘don’t you dare.’ Thirty years later, we’re still together.” Sister Kathleen is godmother to the Huppe’s sixth child, Mike, who is a student at the University of Kansas.

Father Hund remembers relying on Sister Kathleen’s guidance. “I was the totally inexperienced one at Queen, I was the one who needed direction from the principal,” he said.

During a meeting of the Ursuline Society conference on May 7-9, 2008, in Maple Mount, Sister Kathleen, second from left, and Sister Donna Frey, left, of Toledo, Ohio, listen to Sister Maureen Griner, far right, of Mount Saint Joseph, along with fellow Mount Saint Joseph Sister Cheryl Clemons. The Ursuline Society brings together independent Ursuline communities to discuss similar issues, and now consists of five Ursuline communities in Ohio, as well as Louisville and Maple Mount. The Ursulines of Belleville, Ill., and Paola, Kan., were members of the Ursuline Society prior to merging with Mount Saint Joseph.

Sister Kathleen’s life changed as the second half of the school year was underway in 1980, when her father died at age 54. “My father had the most hopeful spirit of anyone I’ve ever known,” she said. “He enjoyed talking about what could be. He’d say, ‘Things are going to work out, there’s no reason to worry about it. Figure out a plan.’ I’ve used that advice often.

“My dad grew up in an orphanage from the time he was 6 until he joined the Marine Corps,” Sister Kathleen said. “Family was really important to him. We went on family vacations, camping trips, we were really lucky. I’ve been in every museum, cave, and snake and turtle farm in the United States. Christmas was really important to him, he didn’t have many family traditions as a kid himself.”

Being two places at once

During her fourth year at Queen of the Holy Rosary, 1982, she was elected to her first term in Ursuline leadership as a councilor. “I remember saying, ‘we should draw names and everyone take their turn as leaders,’” she said. In the 26 years that followed, until the Ursulines of Paola merged in 2008, Sister Kathleen was in an elected leadership position for 22 years.

In her two terms of 1982-90, “we took down the Academy buildings. We knew they had to be renovated or taken down, so why renovate?” The Council also agreed to stop the farming operation, because it wasn’t cost efficient. “If you broke it all down, we were paying $12.50 per pound for beef,” she said. “We had to lead the whole community to embrace the plan. That was not easy, but 20 years later we were sure glad that we had already gone through all of that.”

During the Merger Celebration Liturgy on July 8, 2009, welcoming the former Ursuline Sisters of Paola, Kan., as Ursulines of Mount Saint Joseph, Sister Kathleen Condry joined then-Congregational Leader Michele Morek in mixing soil from the two communities and planting a redbud tree.

In 1984, while both a councilor and principal at Queen of the Holy Rosary, Sister Kathleen became principal at Holy Spirit School in Overland Park. It was the first of three occasions when she would be principal of two schools at once.

“(Holy Spirit) was starting a new school. Sister Christina Wolken was the superior, she asked me to talk to Father (Robert) Pflumm, he was excited about the possibility of an Ursuline coming there,” Sister Kathleen said. “Sister Christina really wanted me to do this. We worked it out for Sister Kathleen Dueber to come to Queen as assistant principal my last year as principal (in 1984-85). I’d go back and forth, and gradually Sister Kathleen took on more responsibilities, and I stayed at Holy Spirit.”

Sister Kathleen Dueber is now a councilor on the leadership team in Maple Mount, and describes Sister Kathleen Condry as “a prime example of what servant leadership is all about.”

“She is a very wise woman; smart, but more than that,” Sister Kathleen Dueber said. “She has an affinity for people, knows when they’re hurting, knows when they need bolstering, knows when to be funny and when to be serious. When I worked with her as vice principal at Queen, we had a staff member who had a tragedy in her family. Kathleen dropped everything and immediately went to be with her. In all these things, I see the spirit of (Saint) Angela reflected, who was also very much a ‘people person,’” Sister Kathleen said.