Sister Kathleen Wilde, MM
Born: July 12, 1909
Entered: December 28, 1935
Died: September 14, 1989
“We acknowledge the mystery of the cross on earth; may we receive the gift of redemption in heaven.”
Soon after we prayed this prayer at the Community liturgy on September 14, the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross, we received the news that our Sister Kathleen Wilde had died at Phelps Hospital. We who loved her mourn her loss as we celebrate her life.
Kathleen Margaret Wilde was born in 1909, one of the four children of Catherine Sutter and James Wilde of Glendale, Long Island, N.Y. She attended her parish grade school, and Bushwick High School provided her with a commercial education. Kathleen worked in New York City for eight years and was active in her Parish Mission Society before she entered Maryknoll on December 28, 1935. At Reception she received the name “Sister Maura Kieran”; her First Vows were in 1938 and she made Final Vows here at Maryknoll, New York in 1941 on June 30.
Kathleen’ s life was bounded at both ends with service here at the Center – she began with nine years of secretarial work at the Maryknoll Society Development Department for Fr. Charles McCarthy. In 1946, she was part of Maryknoll’s post-war exodus and she received with joy her assignment to the Bolivia-Peru Region. Kathleen did what was needed in the Region and her quick intelligence enabled her to do well whatever she did – figuring out how to make the small generator in the Beni make do for laundry as well as surgery when no one else could; filling in at the Pharmacy, but then reorganizing the work there; re-designing the flow of office work for Bishop Fedders in Juli, to make the best use of time and space. Those of us who knew Kathleen could laugh with her at her penchant for planning – her personal plans for events, vacations and especially shopping trips changed as often as her dress size as diet succeeded diet. Her planning for others, however, was pinpoint sharp and always to their benefit.
In 1969, Kathleen became coordinator of Casa Rosario, the house for language students in Cochabamba, and her talent for fun and her ability to live life fully was in great demand. Language students could count on Kathleen for an impromptu party to build up their spirits when the inevitable plateaus in language learning occurred – bridge and scrabble were her favorite games, the Charleston her favorite dance. She easily gathered groups and shared herself as entertainer, consoler and friend. This gift for joy and friendship sustained Kathleen and others until her death. She made friends and kept them throughout her life – she reached out to many Sisters, kept their confidences and did not gossip – a woman truly worthy of our trust.
As a young religious, Kathleen was thought by others to be too sensitive but as life went on, she modeled for all of us the way to turn her inner sensitivity into a wholehearted responsiveness to the needs and concerns of others. Her spirituality was not a public thing but surely it was her devotion to Christ, especially to his passion, that enabled her to go beyond herself to love and service of others.
Kathleen came back to Maryknoll in 1973, first as office manager for the Mission Institute and then as Secretary to the President of the Maryknoll Sisters. Both Sister Barbara and Sister Melinda have spoken of Kathleen’s sense of confidentiality and professional competency, her willingness to do whatever needed to be done and her “saving grace of a sense of humor.”
Although she suffered greatly in the last few months, Kathleen was, through it all, herself – alive, sensitive to others, caring of those who cared for her.
In January of 1986, Kathleen signed a Living Will. As this letter was being written yesterday, the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, I read that Will and was struck by the conclusion. In it Kathleen speaks to us, her Sisters and her Family, as she says:
“Support me but let what is happening, happen. Be with me at the foot of my cross, with Mary, God’s Mother, asking for God’s mercy, supporting me with your own faith and hope in the coming of the Kingdom where there is no more suffering and death.”
We extend our sympathy to Kathleen’ s family members. We welcome, too, Fr. Dennis Wilde, Kathleen’ s nephew who will celebrate the Liturgy of Resurrection for Kathleen.