Based on her father’s interpretation, Sr. Theresa Kevin Donahue has been connected to the Franciscans since birth because she was born in a Franciscan hospital—the “old” St. Mary’s in Philadelphia which our sisters founded. In Theresa’s own view, however, her acquaintance with the Franciscans began when she was a freshman at Hallahan Catholic Girls High School in Philadelphia. Although she was taught by members of various congregations there, she discovered a special attraction to the Franciscans. “What attracted me to the Franciscans was that the sisters were very playful and yet also showed compassion, humility, gentleness, and patience,” she explained. “I experienced a joyful spirit in the Franciscans, a spirit that could not be contained. They made the students feel good about themselves—helped students to develop good self-images.”
During Theresa’s earlier years in the congregation, she ministered in education, sharing her gifts with elementary school children in Baltimore and Orlando. In later years she ministered as a caregiver for her parents in their home in New Jersey and during those same years taught in schools in the Camden Diocese.
After her mother’s death several years ago, Theresa moved to Aston. After settling in, she approached Sr. Deborah Krist, director of the Sisters of St. Francis Foundation, and inquired whether they needed any help. “Debbie welcomed me with open arms as a volunteer in the foundation office,” she recalled. “Our leadership team was also pleased that I had settled in and was now a part-time volunteer. They knew that it had been a difficult transition after my years of caring for my parents and teaching first grade at various schools in the area.” During a typical day in the office, Theresa’s tasks might vary—anything from opening and sorting mail to recording donations, adding personal notes on thank you-letters to donors, filing, and assisting staff in various other ways. During this time of years, she is also available to sisters who stop by to order or pick up packets of Christmas card inserts. In fact, last year during Advent, Theresa set up a table in the hallway where folks could pick up packets of the inserts.
When Theresa isn’t busy in the foundation office, she like to get out and enjoy nature—whether that enjoyment comes when she’s walking, bicycling, or beach-combing. She also finds pleasure in more sedentary activities like listening to music, doing word search puzzles, reading, crocheting, and doing other arts and crafts like working with palm during Holy Week.
Asked what she considers challenges in her current ministry, she identified only one—“being patient while waiting for the mail to arrive and keeping myself busy until it gets here.” Identifying blessings, however, involved no hint of hesitancy. “I’m pleased with my ministry in the foundation office and find it to be both life-giving and a blessing,” she explained. “I try in various ways to be helpful to everyone in the foundation. It has been a blessing for me at this point in my life to be fulfilled—knowing that I make a difference both in the foundation and for those I encounter on a daily basis.” Somehow, I think, that sense of blessing travels a two-way street as the foundation staff reaps the benefits of Theresa’s gentle gift of self.
Ann Marie Slavin, OSF