We celebrate the life of Kathleen Marie Britt, a Sister of St. Joseph for sixty-seven years. Born in Brooklyn to Margaret and Leo, Kathy waa one of six children. With a degree in Education from St. Francis College and a Masters in special Education, Kathy was well prepared for teaching the primary grades in a number of parish schools.
During those years the Sisters of St. Joseph responded to Vatican II’s call for renewal and our congregation returned to the spirit of our founders to be sisters of the neighborhood and to use our skills and talents to meet the greatest needs. We formulated a vision statement that began “We believe we create the future, as we move with the Spirit in giving full expression to our giftedness as women in the Church.”
I strongly believe that through this vision the Spirit spoke to Kathy’s heart. Accompanied by her dear friend of fifty years, Nancy, Kathy and Nancy responded to an ad in America Magazine to teach summer bible school in Appalachia, fully equipped as we heard last evening with a sleeping bag and a sense of humor. And soon after began a twenty eight year ministry to take sides on behalf of the poor in Clay, West Virginia, where they helped create a future the people could not have imagined.
Faithful to giving full expression to her giftedness as a women in the Church, Kathy learned carpentry to build what was needed, beginning with bunk beds for volunteers and eventually to build houses for the poor families of Clay. Close to the people and the land and in a spirit of inclusiveness, Kathy transformed the lives of countless families through her teaching, work with volunteers in the Hammering in the Hills project and so significantly through Clay Mountain Housing that enabled so many to finally own a home they could call their own, looking forward to running water and even a backyard garden. Her efforts for the quilters empowered them to sell their extraordinary work in Cape Cod, Virginia and New York for a price worthy of their craft.
It was always about the people and others recognized Kathy’s efforts including The Federation of Appalachian Housing, Kentucky Common Cause, the Benedum Foundation, The Points of Light Foundation and she received the Extraordinary People Award as well as letters of recognition from President Busch, President Clinton and WV Senator Robert Boyd. She was even invited to carry the Olympic Torch in West Virginia and with her keen sense of humor dressed the part and carried a torch for a family celebration
But Kathy was not about public recognition and now that she enjoys the fullness of life, I hope she realizes how her life influenced so many who had the privilege of working with her. Her own niece was amazed at how she started things. Her nephew recognized her as a renegade nun with a purpose. And countless persons, high school and college students and other volunteers learned from Kathy how to love tenderly, act justly and walk humbly with God. Her sisters in this congregation are grateful to Kathy for the outstanding ministries in West Virginia and, when she returned, here in St. Ann’s. But most of all we are grateful for how she taught us to accept the challenges of living out our vision “demonstrating our belief in the dignity of the human person and the call to secure this dignity for all women and men.” Kathy, with gratitude to you and in faith and hope we accept the challenges this vision implies.
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A Remembrance of Kathy by Sister Nancy Fackner, CSJ
Sister Kathleen Marie Britt, CSJ died on January 27, 2018 in the 67th year of her religious life.