Sister Yolanda Kinsella, CSJ

Yolanda was baptized Anne and was the daughter of Christopher and Mary, Irish immigrants, who called St. Teresa of avila parish in Brooklyn their home.

After graduating from the Juniorate, Yoland entered the Sisters of St. Joseph and taught elementary school for five years before being missioned to Puerto Rico. But another mission tugged at her heart and soul. She longed to be in a monastic cloistered community. She wrote to Mother Immaculata Maria about this desire. In a letter to Yolanda, Mother Immaculata while supporting the desire decided to “test the call” and brought Yolanda back to St. Philip Neri to teach 7th grade.

Yolanda finally passed Mother Immaculata’s test and the following year transferred to the Poor Clare Monastery in Memphis, Tennessee. She spent a year there that changed her life forever. Yolanda journeyed into the heart of God and returned to Brentwood with a peace that lasted for the next 50 years.

Returning to Puerto Rico, Yolanda earned a degree at Catholic University and spent the next five years coordinating religious education at Santa Tersita in Ponce.

While working with the poor and marginalized, Yolanda’s sensitivity to their needs for strong support systems brought her into the field of Social Work with a specialty in Family Therapy. For twenty-five years she devoted herself to the ministry of outreach at the Henry Street Settlement, the Good Shepherd Family Center, Hour Children, and Bishop Kearney High School. Her gentle, strong, straightforward manner brought the gift of self-awareness to the countless people who came to her seeking peace and healing.

On a personal level, Yolanda knew pain but she did not let her laryngectomy stop her from having her voice heard. She actively participated in community meetings and accompanied the associates in their early years. On a National Level she took a lead role in the Association of Laryngectomies and chaired support groups across the country.

Celtic Spirituality was the hallmark of Yolanda’s spiritualty and life stance. Her sabbatical in Ireland in 1993 nourished her spirit and created a life-long awareness of God’s presence in all creation.

Sister Yolanda Kinsella, CSJ died on August 7, 2023 in the 69th year of her religious life.

Yolanda Kinsella – how do we describe her?
The key words that stand out, loud and clear are ‘courageous’, ‘kind’, ‘gentle’, ‘funny’ with contagious Irish wit

Yolanda loved and was interested in people and made them feel welcome and included.  Her family, here today and visiting at Stella Maris, experienced this

Even her involvement in ministry over the years from teaching to Religious Ed to Social Work and Family Therapy and later as a volunteer in Mediation, Bereavement Groups and finally ministry to others with special needs – all these expressed an understanding of pain and loss, of which she certainly knew on her journey. She seemed to do all this because she was very ‘real’ and someone said ‘she was someone you could confess to because she seemed to truly understand’.

Love of music and story and natural beauty gave energy to Yolanda’s outreach to others.  She seemed to hum with a vibrancy that celebrated life. So, in her presence, you were often lifted out of your own sadness or loss because she shared and welcomed you

The staff and residents at Stella tell of Yolanda’s inner and outer beauty – she enjoyed everything …celebrating with good food, ice cream and cake, dressing up to celebrate an occasion as she did so remarkably recently when her brother and niece came to visit. Then there were the quiet ways she said ‘thanks’. ….jars of honey for the staff at Christmas for making her life sweeter, sharing significant reading material when people expressed an interest in nature or in a hobby she had, or spiritual books she knew were just right for where a person is now on her journey.

Yolanda touched our lives and she will continue to do this because she will be listening and observing and continually caring for us.
The readings in today’s Liturgy  evidence Yolanda’s relationship with God who gave her all that she knew how to be and do , among us
Thank you Yolanda. Now, your God says ‘Cead Mile Failte’


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