Obituary for Sister Johanna Kelly, FMSJ

Posted on: 04 December 2023

Author:Sister Joan Kerley


Who died in hospital in Cork, on the 3rd December 2023

Johanna Kelly was born on 27th October 1928 in Freshford, Co Kilkenny, Ireland. Her parents were Patrick and Catherine Kelly. Johanna is predeceased by her one sister, Catherine. She was very close to Catherine and her daughter and four sons and had frequent visits from them.

Johanna entered the congregation at the Convent of St Francis, Cork, on 17th September 1947 and the novitiate at St Philomena’s Altrincham on the 9th July 1948, receiving the name Sister Mary Kevin. Johanna made her First Profession at St Philomena’s on 4th October 1949 and her Perpetual Profession in the Cameroons on 26th August 1955.

Johanna’s first appointment in 1949 was to the children’s home in Didsbury. Then In 1953 she was appointed to Cameroon where she was missioned in Soppo till 1956, giving classes in needlework in the primary school, and from 1956 to 1961 she moved to Kumba where she helped with work in the Dispensary. In 1961 Johanna returned to England where she did a Child Care Course in London. A report from this Course describes Johanna as “having a calm, quiet demeanour which had a very soothing effect on a group of disturbed children”. After the Course Johanna was appointed to Westbank School, an Approved School for teenage girls, and this was followed by an appointment to another children’s home, Mount Carmel, where Johanna was also the superior of the community.

In 1970 Johanna was appointed to Kenya where she spent the next 27 years serving in several missions. She developed Homecraft Centres for women, giving them skills which they were able to use at home and also as income generating initiatives to support their families. The women’s groups were very popular and gave the women confidence as well as a place to meet and share their life experiences with other women. Johanna was also one of the founding members in 1980 of our new mission in Marigat, in a remote, hardship area of the Rift Valley.

Johanna returned to Ireland, to the Dublin community in 1997. In June 2000 she was elected as the Assistant Regional for Ireland and from 2001 to 2010 was the local superior of the Dublin Community. In 2010 Johanna moved to Prague House, Residential Care Home, where she was very good with the elderly, joining them for the news every evening, playing games, telling jokes etc., until our sisters handed the Home over to new management in 2016 and then she retired to our Cork community. In retirement Johanna was always very pleasant and interested in everyone and she was very generous helping around the house while she was able. She loved reading, telling jokes and played the fiddle occasionally.

In the last few months, although gradually getting frailer, Johanna had still insisted on joining the Community for prayers and meals. She had been at Morning Prayer with the Community and was going to have a cup of tea when she collapsed on 1st December and was taken to hospital where she died peacefully in the early hours of 3rd December.