Ireland House Oral History Collection

Sr. Theresa Kelly, R.S.M.

Created/Published:

8 November 2007

2 hours, 28 minutes

Preferred Citation:

Ireland House Oral History Collection, Archives of Irish America, New York University

Biographical Note:

Theresa Kelly, (b. Brooklyn, NY, 1934), a retired educator and a member of the Sisters of Mercy of the Mid-Atlantic Community, is the youngest child of Michael Kelly (1889–1947), a New York City police officer and his wife, Mary (1897–1991), both immigrants from the townland of Carraghs in Ballinlough, Co. Roscommon, Ireland. She was raised in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn, where she attended St. John the Baptist grammar school on Lewis Avenue. After graduating from Bishop McDonnell Memorial High School in 1952 she started working for the pharmaceutical company Charles Pfizer (now Pfizer, Inc.), in the accounting department.

Daily contact with nuns of various orders and other religious figures in her childhood neighborhood and parish – as well as her brother James’ decision to become a priest – played a part in Theresa Kelly’s developing vocation. After five years with Pfizer, she joined the Sisters of Mercy in 1957. The Congregation was founded in Dublin in 1831 by Mother Catherine McAuley. The first Sisters of Mercy came from Ireland and arrived in New York in 1843 to work with the poor, sick, and uneducated who, at that time, were predominantly Irish immigrants.(1)

Sr. Theresa Kelly’s first assignment in April 1960 was to Queen of Angels parish school in Sunnyside, Queens. There she taught first grade in the morning session and art in the afternoon to sixth, seventh, and eighth graders. In September of 1962 she was assigned to St. Patrick’s School on Kent Avenue in Williamsburg, which was across the street from the Convent of Mercy, the Motherhouse of the Brooklyn Sisters of Mercy. There she taught fourth grade and, for seven years, served as the school librarian. Sr. Theresa was transferred to Our Lady of Refuge in East Flatbush, Brooklyn in 1969 where she spent 21 years, 18 as a junior high math teacher and three years as principal.

At the time of this interview, Sr. Theresa was the Events Coordinator at Our Lady of Mercy Academy, a high school for girls in Syosset, New York built by the Sisters of Mercy in 1928.

Click on image to enlarge.

Interviewers:

Photo Credit:

  1. Michael and Mary Kelly on their wedding day, 12 April 1925. Photo courtesy of Sr. Theresa Kelly, RSM.
  2. NYPD officer Michael Kelly, circa 1945. Photo by the Corso Photo Studio, 420 Knickerbocker Avenue Brooklyn, NY, courtesy of Sr. Theresa Kelly, RSM.
  3. Theresa Kelly, beside St. John the Baptist school on Lewis Avenue, Brooklyn, circa 1942. Photo courtesy of Sr. Theresa Kelly, RSM.
  4. With her sister, Mary Anne, on graduation day from St. John the Baptist, circa 1948. Photo courtesy of Sr. Theresa Kelly, RSM.
  5. On a trip to Rye Beach, NY with classmates from Bishop McDonnell Memorial High School: Theresa Kelly (left), Monica Wood (top, now Sr. Monica, Librarian at St. Joseph’s Seminary, Dunwoodie, NY) and Grace Dolan (right, now Mrs. Collum). Photo courtesy of Sr. Theresa Kelly, RSM.
  6. Sr. Theresa Kelly at Our Lady of Mercy Academy, Syosset, NY, in April 1958. Photo courtesy of Sr. Theresa Kelly, RSM.
  7. Teaching at St. Patrick’s school on Kent Avenue in Brooklyn, circa 1962. Photo courtesy of Sr. Theresa Kelly, RSM.
  8. In Breezy Point, Queens just prior to leaving for Ireland with mother, Mary Kelly, and brother, Fr. James Kelly, C.M., 13 August 1973. Photo courtesy of Sr. Theresa Kelly, RSM.
  9. With her mother on the 25th anniversary of her profession as a Sister of Mercy, Queens, NY, circa 1982. Photo courtesy of Sr. Theresa Kelly, RSM.
  10. As Principal at Our Lady of Refuge school in East Flatbush, Brooklyn, circa 1987. Photo courtesy of Sr. Theresa Kelly, RSM.
  11. With students at Our Lady of Refuge, June 1988. Photo courtesy of Sr. Theresa Kelly, RSM.
  12. “Prom Night” portrait, Our Lady of Mercy Academy, Syosset, NY, spring 2006. Photo courtesy of Sr. Theresa Kelly, RSM.
  13. Sr. Theresa Kelly, RSM, 8 November 2007. Photo by Marion R. Casey.

Notes:

  1. The Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, http://www.sistersofmercy.org/
  2. Forty Hours Devotion is a special period of continuous prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. It typically begins with a Mass of Exposition and can be shared with other churches. Forty hours has special historical significance in the Catholic Church because Jesus fasted in the desert for forty days and forty nights, and was resurrected forty hours after the crucifixion.