60 Years: Mary Margaret Kelly, SP (deceased)

Sister Patrice Marie

At the age of 21, after four years as a registered nurse, Mary Margaret Kelly followed her heart and became a Sister of Providence. One of the great joys of the last 60 years was being a foundress of the Sisters of Providence mission in Argentina, where she remained for 17 ½ years. She returned for a visit in 1993-94.

Born in Olympia in 1928, she attended St. Michael School and graduated from Olympia High School. She realized at a retreat that she had a vocation to religious life, but her mother, a convert to Catholicism, was not so sure. Mary Margaret graduated from St. Peter School of Nursing in Olympia and came to Seattle to complete her college degree with two other nursing school graduates. She entered the religious community in 1954, made first vows at Mount St. Vincent, Seattle, in 1956, and professed final vows in 1959.

Served as nurse in Argentinian oil towns

Sister Mary Margaret spent six months as a medical-surgical RN supervisor at Providence Portland Medical Center, and three years as a nursing supervisor at Providence Medford Medical Center. Next, she helped close down the School of Nursing in Portland as its assistant director.

Named to go to Argentina, she wore a white missionary habit with a plain veil as she served as a nurse in two oil towns, Comodoro Rivadavia and Caleta Olivia. In preparation for that adventure, she spent four months in Cuernavaca, Mexico, studying Latin American culture and language. The experience would prove particularly beneficial in a later ministry in Yakima, Wash.

Earned pastoral education certificate

Sister Mary Margaret returned to the United States in 1980 and enrolled in Gonzaga University’s CREDO program for spiritual and theological renewal, in Spokane. Next was a year’s training in pastoral care services at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center, Portland. A one-year replacement appointment at St. Joseph Medical Center, Burbank, turned into nearly a decade.

In 1991-92, Sister Mary Margaret earned a certificate in clinical pastoral education at St. John Regional Medical Center in Oxnard, Calif. “I learned what to do and not do; what to say and not say,” she said. With that preparation, she accepted a pastoral care position at St. Elizabeth Medical Center in Yakima, Wash., in 1992. Pastoral care quickly became her second-favorite ministry. “It is special being able to help others, gaining insights into their spiritual life and my own,” she said. “It helps me to grow.”

Sister Mary Margaret later volunteered at a food bank, and as chaplain at Providence Mount St. Vincent in Seattle. Today, she is retired and resides at St. Joseph Residence, Seattle. “That I have been able to be a Sister of Providence is a joy,” she has said. “I wouldn’t do anything else.”