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Remembrance of the Life of Sister Kay Carlew SL

Posted on March 11, 2020, by Eleanor Craig SL

Sister Kay Carlew, SL
Dec. 3, 1942 – March 11, 2020

Sister Kay Carlew wrote a brief introduction of herself for Loretto Magazine at the time of her Golden Jubilee in 2011.  We’ll start there but be warned: Kay left out many of the good parts, some of which I have added at the end, but most of which I leave to you —  Loretto members, family and friends, to contribute in a few minutes.  Here are Kay’s words:

  “I was born and raised in St. Louis, the eldest of six children, to loving parents, Nelka and Beryl Carlew.  I grew up in University City [part of metropolitan St. Louis], and attended Christ the King Elementary School and Nerinx Hall High School.  It was there that my love and admiration of the Sisters of Loretto developed and grew.  I received my A.B. in education from Webster University with a focus on math and an M.A. in education from the University of Kentucky.

            “I felt I was called to be of service to others, and believed I was given a religious vocation.  I was attracted to the spirit, generosity and love shown by the Sisters of Loretto at Nerinx Hall.  I have spent all but two years of my religious life working at or near the Motherhouse.  For the first 10+ years I taught in the Washington County (Ky.) Public Schools at the elementary and high school levels, [beginning at the Manton School with Sister Sodelbia, then at one of the elementary schools in Springfield, and finally at Washington County High School where] I taught math and also began the girls’ sports program, coaching both basketball and track. 

            “During the next 30 years, I worked at the Motherhouse, as comptroller for 10 years, followed by 20 years as Loretto Motherhouse Infirmary administrator.  … I began the Resource Project, which was a program at the Motherhouse to get the Sisters involved in community works: tutoring, visiting the sick and shut-ins, phoning neighbors who were homebound.  I also started the employee Loan program — employees could borrow money to be used as a down payment on a home.  I got start-up funds from when Loretto High in Louisville and the Academy in Kansas City (Mo.) were sold.

            “It was both a privilege and an honor to work with our sick and elderly.  [In 2005,] I was recognized [by the Kentucky Association of Health Care Facilities] as “Nursing Home Administrator of the Year” for the Central District of Kentucky.  After retiring as administrator in 2007, I worked as pastoral care director in a religious nursing home in Louisville.

            “ For 16 years [from 1994 to 2010], I also served on the Marion County Public School Board; five of those years I was Chair of the Board.  My work on the school board was acknowledged [in a proclamation] by the Marion county judge and the mayor of Lebanon. “

            The proclamation says everything we could want to say about Kay’s immense contributions as a Loretto educator —f rom her first day in Sister Sodelbia’s little Manton School,  to her last tutoring session just last week:

WHEREAS Sister Kay Carlew … served with unwavering leadership to benefit all the people of Marion County, and

WHEREAS This community and all its people are significantly “Better Off” because of her outstanding dedication and leadership…leading to a prolonged period of steady educational improvement, and

WHEREAS the strides made in educational improvement for our children — “our greatest asset” — are a legacy, lasting for many years to come,

NOW, THEREFORE, We the leadership of Lebanon and Marion County, do publicly state that the contributions of Sister Kay Carlew have left an indelible mark, a permanent and lasting impression … [calling forth] our enormous gratitude…

            Kay concluded her 2011 autobiography with this hope:  “My desire for the future is to be able to go to Pakistan [where] presently we have four native Pakistanis beginning a Loretto foundation.  I wish to go there and help in any way I can.” 

            Kay did go there, for four months in 2013, helping in many simple ways.  She also went to Ghana with Maria Visse in 2017 to visit the FST Sisters.  Kay worked tirelessly for Loretto abroad.  With Pakistani medical professionals in Louisville, Kay and Marie Lourde Steckler and the Pakistan Committee organized funding and donations of water purifying systems and other technologies for the Loretto school in Faisalabad and, more recently, in Lahore.  Earlier, Kay and Lourdie had shared themselves and their Loretto life with the new members from Pakistan, welcoming them into their home at the “farm house” and continuing their close, affirming relationships to the present day.  Decades earlier, Kay and Lourdie and the community at Stuart Hall welcomed and mentored several of the 1980s’ crop of new members.  Earlier still, the Stuart Community embraced Billie Vandover, loving and nurturing Billie into health and a productive life.

            In 1987 Kay wrote, “I have been on the Board of the Central Kentucky Community Action, which serves an area of eight counties.  Many of the years I chaired the board.  We oversee many programs that assist the people in the area:  Head Start, Senior Citizens, weatherization, and so on.”  A listing of Kay’s community service engagements just in the last decade makes clear that she has never let up, has indeed expanded her commitments to the Loretto Child Care Center, the Democratic Women’s Clubs of both Washington and Marion counties, membership on the Coordinating Board for the Motherhouse — all these and other works Kay entered into with characteristic energy and persistence.  Meanwhile, she maintained her daily schedule as personal tutor; medical driver; promoter, participant, and logistics planner for countless fundraisers, benefits and festivals; organizer of Loretto assemblies, political forums and protests, trips to Frankfort, Ky., and vacations in the mountains.

            Kay herself summed up her life and her dedication, writing,  “I am very satisfied living and working at Loretto and am very grateful for the opportunity to give of myself to all at Loretto — to the Sisters, the employees and the people in the area.  I try to live out of love and concern and support for one another.”

Eleanor Craig SL

Eleanor Craig SL

Eleanor has been a Sister of Loretto since 1963 and an educator since birth. She studied and taught mathematics at Loretto in Kansas City, but her personal passion for adventure history has inspired her to develop and lead treks along the historic western trails (she's conducted more wagon trains along the Oregon Trail than the Mountain Men). Presently, Eleanor leads a talented staff of archivists and preservationists at the Loretto Heritage Center on the grounds of the Motherhouse.

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