Sister Kathleen Condry: Blending leadership with a gentle spirit

Sister Kathleen Condry was principal at Holy Spirit until 1988, but halfway through her tenure, she was again asked to be principal at a second school. Church of the Holy Cross in Overland Park had the chance to buy a public school building to start a school in 1986. Sister Kathleen was asked to get the school open, so in the school year 1986-87, she went back and forth between Holy Spirit and Holy Cross.

“I became the person you go to if you want to open a school,” she said. “It was fun to start new things. The whole parish was proud of themselves. Holy Cross was actually my family parish when I entered, but it never had a school.” (The parish opened in 1967.)


Sister Kathleen Condry, left, congratulates Sister Kathleen Dueber following the Mass in August 2010 to celebrate the new leadership Council. The two served on the last Paola Council, and Sister Kathleen Dueber was elected to the new Council.

After her year at Holy Cross, the region decided to build a new high school, St. Thomas Aquinas. “In 1988, I was asked to be assistant principal under Blake Mulvany, the guy who asked me to take Holy Cross. (He was regional administrator of archdiocesan schools, with emphasis on new institutions.) The school grew so fast, he became president and I became principal,” Sister Kathleen said. “He went on to become superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas, and I was president (at St. Thomas Aquinas) for two years.” She was at the school from 1988-98. “I loved St. Thomas Aquinas, and I surely learned a lot from Blake Mulvany.”

Before she left, she got one more opportunity to run two schools at once. “I got a call at Christmas from Father Larry Albertson, the pastor at the Church of the Ascension in Overland Park,” Sister Kathleen said. “They had opened a new school that summer, but in December they found themselves needing a new principal. He knew I had bilocated before. I had a great staff in both schools, which allowed me to go back and forth from St. Thomas Aquinas to Ascension. I was well known enough in the area to bring calm to the parents, which was really what they needed. I helped him hire a principal.” She served at Ascension from January to June 1998.

That summer, Sister Kathleen became assistant superintendent for leadership and mission for the Archdiocesan Education Office. Her role was to mentor the principals and continue the Catholic culture in the schools.

In August 2001, Sister Kathleen lost her mother at age 80. “She was kind of my soul mate,” Sister Kathleen said. “She was very intuitive, she knew what you were thinking. She was very calm, she didn’t get too upset about things.”

Her parents met when they were both Marines, Sister Kathleen said. “She was a strong, independent woman. She threw her heart into parenting, but she was not a hoverer,” Sister Kathleen said.

Sister Kathleen instituted more staff appreciation at Church of the Nativity, and here she is preparing for an employee’s birthday celebration with co-workers Karen McDonald and Dan Koenig.

Jim Condry was a Republican, so Sister Kathleen was amused one day when her mother told her how she decided her choices at the ballot box. “She said I vote for all the women, then the Irish names, then the Democrats,” Sister Kathleen said.

Her mother’s motto was simple, Sister Kathleen said. “Life is what you make of it. All that you can really control is your own attitude.”

A superior is elected

In 2002, after 16 years as a councilor, Sister Kathleen was elected superior of the Ursulines of Paola. “Every step of the way I was being prepared for what comes next,” she said. “When you look back, the road looks pretty straight. I had lots of experiences on the Council and in the archdiocese, and I knew the sisters.

“I’d helped design schools and run capital campaigns,” which was helpful when the leadership decided to renovate the Motherhouse, Sister Kathleen said. “When I became the superior Sister Jane Falke was assistant superior, which was a wonderful blessing, she knew a lot more about the place than I did.”

Talks of possibly merging with another community had begun many years earlier when she was on the Council, but for a long time, the sisters in Paola were isolated from other Ursulines. “That was before the beginning of the Ursuline Society,” a group of independent Ursuline communities that now share time together. “We went to Quebec for the 450th anniversary of the (Company of Saint Ursula) and had talked about it a little bit to some other Ursulines,” she said. “I remember that first Ursuline Convocation. It opened up a wonderful new world to all of us.”