Home » Features » Spotlight on Loretto Wisdom Women – June 2023

Spotlight on Loretto Wisdom Women – June 2023

Posted on June 1, 2023, by Joy Jensen SL

Editor’s note: We are featuring interviews of Loretto Community elders. We are grateful to the sisters and to Joy Jensen for sharing wonderful snapshots of our beloved Community members.

This month’s feature highlights Eileen Kersgieter, Delores Kincaide and Mary Ken Lewis

The Loretto Living Center at Loretto Motherhouse is home to interesting Loretto Community elders. The purpose of this series is to shine a spotlight on the lives of resident elders, women of wisdom. As the interviewer, I gave each person two questions ahead of time to think about:

1) What was your favorite mission ministry or job before you retired?
2) What is important to you at this time of your life?

Eileen Kersgieter SL

Sharon Kassing and the archives staff graciously provided information about Eileen Kersgieter.

From the newspaper South Side Journal (1988) we learn that Eileen taught for four years in a Catholic grade school. There she met the Sisters of Loretto and later entered the Community. She became principal of St. Pius V School in 1968, where she stayed until 1988. Eileen then left Pius V to become the coordinator of the Motherhouse in Nerinx, Ky. She said with a laugh, “I’ll be dealing with cattle instead of children.” Eileen had mixed feelings about leaving teaching, but she felt it was the right decision.

Sharon wrote, “The one thing I’m always most impressed with is that anytime I see someone from St. Pius V parish, whose kids we taught, the first thing they say is, ‘How’s Sr. Eileen?’ They always want to know about her welfare. Her interaction with parents and students always walked the line between principal/boss and advocate/friend of both kids and parents. And they appreciated it, kids and parents. They knew two things without fail: She was in charge and she was fair, with their best interests at heart. That’s not a bad reputation to have.”

Delores Kincaide SL

Carole Eschen kindly provided info about Delores Kincaide.

Delores worked as a teacher and principal for much of her working life. She says, however, that the work she was created for was to work with people with developmental delays. She was the manager for a home for such women in Detroit, Mich.

I visited her there over many years and saw how adept she was in running the home and how important she was to the women living there. One even called her Momma.

When she retired from that job, she went to work as a staff member at the shelter workshop where several of the women worked. Her boss there was one of the young women that she had hired and trained at the group home. Delores moved to Kansas City and worked for peace and justice with a group called Peace Works, traveling with them to The Hague on a peace mission. After about 10 years in Kansas City, she moved to Jemez Springs, NM. She became involved with the local community and organized and set up a library of spiritual books and materials for local use. She was much loved there and she loved the location. In her mid-80s she hurt herself carrying logs for the wood-burning stove and decided to move to the Motherhouse. She used her skills for organizing and set up art supplies and worked on the convent library. She also started a group playing Spite and Malice, a friendly, competitive card game. I have many stories and she is a good friend and a hero to me.

Mary Ken Lewis SL

Marty Lally graciously provided information about Mary Ken Lewis. (As this issue was being completed, Mary Ken died.)

Mary Ken was born in Denver and attended St. John’s (now Good Shepherd) grade school where she met the Sisters of Loretto. Mary Ken entered Loretto and began a ministry of teaching that spanned more than 60 years. She enjoyed telling the story of one of the sisters remarking that she was so tall that she probably scared the little kids with her height. Mary Ken loved teaching. She enjoyed teaching and helping students grow in their love of language and literature. She also appreciated multimedia storytelling. She received a grant to study and learn filmmaking and taught the students at Holy Family how to translate stories from print to film. She loved her students and provided wisdom and guidance. She was generous with her support of their lives. One example is when a graduate announced her upcoming marriage and asked Mary Ken to help her pick out her wedding dress. Mary Ken went bride dress shopping with the bride-to-be. That bride stayed in touch with her for the remainder of Mary Ken’s time in Denver.

Seeing a need for Loretto to sponsor and provide spiritual nourishment, Mary Ken became the founder and first director of the Loretto Spirituality Center housed at the Loretto Center in Denver. During her time with the Spirituality Center, Mary Ken also traveled to Ghana at the invitation of Bishop Peter Sarpong to provide classes and retreats for seminarians and sisters in the diocese of Kumasi. One of her good friends in Ghana, Sister Emily Owusu-Ansah, continued to be in touch with Mary Ken during her years at Loretto Living Center at Loretto Motherhouse. Mary Ken died May 20.

Happy flowers blooming in late April at the Motherhouse.
Photo by Christina Manweller

Joy Jensen SL

Joy is a vowed member, and she resides in the Motherhouse infirmary. Previously, Joy was a community organizer in St. Louis at St. Alphonsus Liguori “The Rock” Church, a historic Catholic church with a predominately African-American faith community. She also did some teaching at St. Louis University after receiving her doctorate. She enjoys reading American history and spy thrillers. Joy also enjoys knitting.
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