Leadership photo

Congregational Leadership Team: (L-R) (standing) Sisters Ruth Bernadette O’Connor,
Mary Katherine Farrell, Marie Colette Gerry; (seated) Sisters Mary Kathryn Dougherty and Patricia Smith.

At their Congregational Chapter 2014, the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia set congregational directions for the next six years and elected a new leadership team to help move those directions into action.

Sister Mary Kathryn Dougherty, OSF, was elected congregational minister. Born in Baltimore, Maryland, Sister Kathryn entered the congregation in 1978. Prior to her election she ministered as a chaplain at the Baltimore City Detention Center. Previous ministry experiences include serving in education on elementary, secondary, and college levels; in religious formation; and in board membership. She holds a B.A. in Psychology from Notre Dame University in Baltimore, Maryland, and an M.A. in Systemic Theology from the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana.

In her congregational role, Sister Kathryn will be assisted by a four-person leadership team. Sister Mary Katherine Farrell, OSF, a native of York, Pennsylvania, entered the congregation in 1976. She has served primarily in elementary education, most recently as principal of St. Francis DeSales School in Lenni, Pennsylvania, and as a member of various diocesan and university boards. Sister Mary holds a B.A. in Religious Studies from Neumann University in Aston, Pennsylvania, and a Masters in Education, Curriculum, and Instructional Leadership from Boston College, Boston, Massachusetts.

Sister Marie Colette Gerry, OSF, was born in Spartanburg, South Carolina. She entered the congregation in 1957 and holds a B.A. in English from Neumann University in Aston, Pennsylvania; an M.A. in Educational Administration from the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC; and an M.A. in Theology from Barry University in Miami, Florida. Most recently Sister Colette ministered as director of parish life at Sts. John and Elizabeth Church in Grayson, Kentucky. Her previous ministry includes parish ministry; elementary education as both teacher and principal; and membership on both diocesan, civic, and religious planning committees.

Sister Ruth Bernadette O’Connor, OSF, is a native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She entered the congregation in 1962 and, prior to her election, served as administrator of Our Lady of Angels Convent, the congregation’s motherhouse in Aston, Pennsylvania. Sister Ruth also ministered as as an elementary school teacher and principal, as a foster care parent for AIDS-infected infants, and as a member of several elementary school boards. She holds a B.A. in English from Neumann University in Aston, Pennsylvania; and an M.A. in Administration from Loyola University in Baltimore, Maryland.

Sister Patricia Smith, OSF, was born in Baltimore, Maryland, and entered the congregation in 1965. Her most recent ministries include serving as an assistant professor at Neumann University in Aston, Pennsylvania; as an adjunct professor at the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC; and as vice-chair of the Catholic Health Initiatives Board. Sister Patricia’s previous ministry includes teaching on elementary and secondary levels, serving in provincial and congregational administration, parish ministry, and religious formation. She holds a B.A. in English from Neumann University in Aston, Pennsylvania; an M.A. in Theology from St. Bonaventure University in St. Bonaventure, New York; and both an MACL/JCL and a PhD/JCD from the University of Ottawa at St. Paul University in Ottawa, Canada.

Prior to the election of the new leadership team, the chapter delegates worked to create a direction statement using a process of communal discernment facilitated by Sister Barbara Valuckas, SSND—a process that had actually been ongoing for the entire congregation over an 18-month period. During that time the sisters had developed a single question as the chapter focus:

Provident God, whose life-giving Spirit urges us forward, where are you challenging us, as Franciscan women today, to risk rebirthing our charism into an unknown future?


During the actual week of chapter, the delegates moved between base community tables and concensus community tables to move that single question into a working and workable direction statement. The final draft of the statement was unanimously approved prior to the election of the new leadership team.

Directional Statement – Congregational Chapter 2014

Trusting in our Provident God, whose life-giving Spirit urges us forward, we challenge ourselves as Franciscan women to risk rebirthing our charism, offering it as gift to all. Rooted in contemplative consciousness and committed to the primacy of relationship, we choose to be a prophetic and transformative presence in our Church and world. 

Filled with hope, we step into the unknown future, calling ourselves to…

  • Explore our evolving identity as women in the Church.
  • Expand options for membership and other forms of association.
  • Foster dynamic engagement in every stage of our lives.
  • Exercise responsible stewardship and intensify efforts to care for Earth.
  • Heighten intercultural and intergenerational consciousness and create opportunities for engagement.