Obituary of Sr. Kathleen O'Hara, RSM
Albany- Sister Kathleen O’Hara RSM, died in St. Peter’s Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, Albany, Wednesday, May 17, 2023. Born in Cohoes, New York, she was the daughter of the late Catherine F. Ruane O’Hara and Philip J. O’Hara. Sister Kathleen earned a B.S. Ed from the College of Saint Rose, and an M.S. Ed from Siena College as well as an M.A. Theology from St. Michael’s College, Winooski, Vermont. Early on, Sister taught at Vincentian Grammar School, Albany; Annunciation, Ilion; and St. Teresa of Avila Junior High School, Albany, where she also served as principal. Sister Kathleen was introduced to rural ministry at St. James Parish in North Creek by way of her position as a Pastoral Associate and Director of Religious Education. As if in anticipation of her next ministry, the parishioners outfitted Kathleen with complimentary ski equipment and lessons.
Although Sister Kathleen was dedicated to those early ministries, she gave her heart away to the people of Alaska, whom she served for 40 years in the archdiocese of Anchorage. She “wore many hats” (or veils) throughout the Archdiocese over those four decades, including in the Chancery Office and numerous parishes. A sampling of her positions includes Elementary School Principal; Director of Religious Education; Pastoral Associate; Director of Family Life Ministry for the Archdiocese; Parish Administrator. Wherever there were people in need, Sister Kathleen responded. She reached out and made a real difference in the lives of people: the young and the old, those in good health, and others physically or mentally challenged. For ten years, she served members of the JOY community, an archdiocesan group of disabled men, women and children and their families. At the time of her departure from Alaska, an article in The Catholic Anchor declared that just about every Catholic in the Anchorage Archdiocese knows Sister O’Hara.
Kathleen’s love and spirit of service were virtually without boundary. She truly lived the motto she had chosen to have engraved in her ring when she made her final profession as a Sister of Mercy: “whatsoever you do to the least, you do to me.” Above all, Kathleen treasured relationships. She was never too busy to make time for people. Her warm and affirming presence brought out the best in others and guided them to appreciate their own giftedness. Sister Kathleen’s lifestyle was marked by simplicity. She chose not to accumulate clutter. It was well known that she regularly passed on to other people gifts that were given to her and kept little for herself.
Although she was plagued by pain in recent years, Sister Kathleen didn’t allow that to stop her from giving visitors her undivided attention with never a hint that it might not be a good time for a visit. Despite her advanced age, Sister Kathleen remained engaged in life. She was a life-long learner, forever curious and eager to know more. Well into her nineties, she would be first in line to join a book group, whether on spirituality, cosmology, or other topic that fed her insatiable desire to learn. She could be counted on to be an active participant, not a passive listener. Even in her final illness, Sister Kathleen regularly thanked her caregivers for everything they did for her and expressed concern that they take time to care for themselves.
Sister Kathleen’s final gift to the people she served so well in Alaska was serving as Chaplain at Providence Horizon House, an assisted living facility. She labored to fulfill a dream to build a chapel for the elderly residents of Horizon House. She engaged actively with the residents themselves in designing a space they would find spiritually uplifting, artistically pleasing, and, most of all, easily accessible to the handicapped. Then she found the time and the physical stamina to shepherd the project to completion. Her dedication to the effort was such that it prompted the observation that while Sister Kathleen may not have built that chapel with her own hands, she built it with her heart.
Sister Kathleen would have celebrated a Jubilee this coming September, marking 80 years as a Sister of Mercy. The devotion she had to the Blessed Mother when she entered the convent as a teenager grew and deepened over the years. She shared her love of Mary freely with those to whom and with whom she ministered.
In addition to her parents, Sister Kathleen was predeceased by her beloved sister, Margaret Morgan, with whom she shared a mutual devotion. She is survived by her nieces, Kathy DeRosa (John), and Mary Pat Harper (Bob), several grandnieces and grandnephews, as well as by her religious community, the Sisters of Mercy and Mercy Associates. Viewing hours will be from 4:00 to 8:00 p.m. Monday, May 22, in the Chapel of the Convent of Mercy, 634 New Scotland Avenue, Albany, with a Prayer Service of Remembrance at 7:00 p.m. The Liturgy of Christian Death and Burial will be celebrated in the Chapel at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, May 23. Interment will follow in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, East Greenbush. The Sisters of Mercy are grateful to the staffs at the Convent of Mercy and St. Peter’s Nursing and Rehabilitation Center for the great tenderness with which they cared for our Sister. Contributions may be made in Sister Kathleen’s memory to the Sisters of Mercy, 634 New Scotland Avenue, Albany, New York 12208.To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Sr. Kathleen O'Hara, RSM, please visit Tribute Store