Sister M. Francesca Kennedy, CSC

(July 7, 1920 - February 25, 2014)

Word has been received of the death of Sister M. Francesca (Kennedy), who died at 8:55 a.m. on Tuesday, February 25, 2014, in Saint Mary’s Convent, Notre Dame, Indiana.

Sister Francesca was a woman of high principles with an amazing degree of integrity. If she felt strongly about an issue, she was never reluctant to state her viewpoint and did so in a righteous and detailed way, never imposing her views on others; once stated she was at peace. Because of her own inner peace, this beautifully simple religious was the perfect peacemaker and was able to mediate and reconcile differences with a quiet calm that was disarming to the opponents. Her master’s degree in psychology, no doubt, enhanced her natural skills to see the whole picture without taking sides.

Her 30 years in ministry as a classroom teacher extended all the way from the primary grades through the college level. Sister Francesca was versatile, flexible and competent. It didn’t matter what she was asked to teach; she prepared herself well and her students reaped the reward of her efforts.

Sister Francesca loved teaching at any level and her students recognized not only her skill but her personal concern for their success. Adriana Trigiani, a Saint Mary’s College graduate and New York Times bestselling author, in an interview with National Public Radio’s Diane Ream, spoke of Sister Francesca as one the great influences in her life. Patricia Seitz, United States District Court judge, credited her parents and husband as having greatly influenced her life but she was also grateful to Sister Francesca who, she said, “was a role model of logic, serenity, insight and wisdom. She taught the importance of clear writing and she always listened.” These marvelous characteristics served Sister Francesca well in all of her ministries but especially as a high school supervisor in the East.

Sister Francesca’s attention to details contributed greatly to her wonderful success as a college registrar. She served in that role at Dunbarton College in Washington, D.C., and then at Saint Mary’s College, Notre Dame, Indiana, where for 23 years she endeared herself to faculty, staff, students and parents with her kindness and willingness to listen. Though her responsibilities were great, she graciously made herself available to listen attentively to those with problems, worries and concerns. And she remembered. Former graduates were astounded by Sister Francesca’s ability not only to recognize them but to comment on their family members and friends, making it obvious that she continued to hold them in her thoughts and certainly in her prayers. She was a beautiful person, through and through.

Though Sister Francesca ranked high in academia and held prestigious positions too numerous to list, she was a sincere and dedicated Sister of the Holy Cross who lived her vowed life with a quiet simplicity that was an example to all. These admirable qualities were part of the very fabric of her being and they had their root in the deeply religious home in which Sister Francesca, her brother Father Joseph, SJ, and her sister, Jane, were nurtured.

Jane related several personal experiences that mirror the true religious spirit that was the pattern of their daily lives. When Mr. Kennedy drove them to school each day he would lead them in reciting the “De Profundas” and then begin the invocations of the Litany of the Blessed Mother, to which the children responded in unison, “Pray for us.” Jane called this, “Just part of the routine of each pleasant day.” Recently, a friend who sometimes rode with them and who is now in his 90s, wrote, “I still remember your father praying us to school.” When the Jesuits assigned Father Joe to minister to the Ho people in India, his father saw him off at the plane. He knelt in the airport for his son’s blessing and wept when Joe said, “We’ll meet again in heaven.”

And so Sister Francesca met her father and mother and brother Joe in heaven on Tuesday, rejoicing in gratitude for lives well lived. She now rests in peace.


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