Sister Kathleen Condry: Blending leadership with a gentle spirit

There were about 30 Ursulines of Paola when she became superior, and at one Council meeting she suggested making a proposal for a merger. “It wasn’t easy, we were all a little nervous about even discussing it.”

One of the first decisions prior to the merger was to close the convent in Paola. “We had 15 sisters living here, and were paying for round-the-clock health care,” Sister Kathleen said. “We decided we needed to close the Motherhouse. Our sisters were sad about it but realized that it needed to happen. They are wonderful, they are very trusting.”

Sister Kathleen Dueber was a member of that final Paola Council, and said Sister Kathleen Condry’s objectivity is a great help during tough times. “Kathleen has the ability to see various sides of an issue and bring people to a consensus, usually congenially, regarding it,” Sister Kathleen Dueber said. “She genuinely cares about what others think and how they feel; and yet, has a clear idea about how things should be. She’s not afraid to stand her ground, but does it gently.”

Sister Kathleen Condry received support through the years from Joe Passantino, president of Bishop Miege. Passantino was principal at Bishop Miege while Sister Kathleen was principal at St. Thomas Aquinas, and the two have mutual respect.

The former Paola Motherhouse, with “the mother of all porches” where Sister Kathleen likes to spend time.

“She’s been a great friend, someone I’ve admired as an educator and for her spirituality,” Passantino said. “I’ve admired the many leadership roles she’s filled. She helped us enhance our theology curriculum.” Sister Kathleen is on the mission team at Bishop Miege.

“Her pastoral role she does very well. You feel it by her presence and her person,” Passantino said. “She was asked to do a lot of different jobs, like starting up schools. Through all that, she’s still the same person. That’s a compliment.”

Life in the big house

Sister Kathleen and Sister Helen initially remained in Kansas because they were the most likely to help maintain the convent until it sold – Sister Kathleen because she was the superior when the merger occurred, and Sister Helen because one of her duties as the assistant superior was being in charge of the property. The two live in the huge building in Paola as they wait for a buyer, which Sister Kathleen acknowledges can’t come soon enough. But she relies on her faith as the building remains unsold. “I trust God has a plan and it will all work out,” she said. “I am so grateful to (Sister) Helen for taking care of everything here so I can concentrate on my ministry at Nativity.”

In her free time, she likes to read, mainly fiction and novels. The Paola convent has “the queen of all porches,” where she loves to spend time in the spring, summer, and fall. She likes to write letters and listen to music, and in creative moments plays the flute, and the piano. “Those are rare moments,” she says, “but lovely ones.”

“Kathleen loves to have a good time and is not beyond instigating practical jokes on her friends — and is a good sport if perchance one should be played on her,” Sister Kathleen Dueber said. “It is a privilege to be able to call her ‘sister’ and ‘friend.’ When my sister died, Kathleen came to my mother’s house and sat with us in our sorrow. Such times of sharing joys and sorrows in each other’s lives are what have drawn us closer as the years go by.”

Like her parents, family is important to Sister Kathleen. “Both of my brothers have died in the past five years, they were both 58 when they died,” she said. “Both of my sisters mean a lot to me.” Ellen Mary lives in Louisiana, Patricia in Mississippi. “My sister-in-law Ruthie is like a sister to me also. I have delightful nieces and nephews.”

“I know I’m extremely blessed, I have been my whole life,” Sister Kathleen said. “I’m very grateful for my family, friends, and Ursuline community. I can’t think of anything I’d rather have done with my life than be an Ursuline Sister.”

By Dan Heckel