Martina Marie Kelly, CSJ

Martina Marie Kelly was truly a visible sign of God’s presence and active love among us.  Her gracious hospitality; her warmth and respect for all – without distinction – were remarkable.  These wonderful qualities permeated her life and left an indelible mark on everyone with whom she came in contact.

During the last few days, the words often heard to describe Martina were:  elegant, gentle, kind, respectful, a good listener, and generous.  Her loveliness touched us all.  Martina never walked down a corridor – she glided – adorned with one of her colorful scarves.

In the second reading for today’s liturgy, we will hear a letter from St. Paul as he instructs the Colossians.  In his letter, he tells his listeners to clothe themselves with compassion, kindness, gentleness, love, gratitude, patience, and always have a song in their heart!  Martina certainly was clothed in these virtues and lived them out in her daily life. Today we remember and celebrate.  Her loveliness will continue to ripple through our memories of her.

Anne Marie Kelly was born in the Forest Hills section of Boston to Martin Kelly and Mary Ward Kelly.  She was the first of two daughters.  She welcomed her sister Joan into the Kelly household two years later.

Martina attended Our Lady of Lourdes grammar school and St. Thomas High School in Jamaica Plain.  She entered the novitiate of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Framingham in 1952.  Seven months later, she was given the name “Martina Marie,” a beautiful combination of her parents’ names – how she loved her family and was so proud of each one.

Her ministry of education spanned over forty years – from a teacher in Newton, Winchester, and Somerville to principal at Newton Catholic and St. Clement’s, Somerville.  In all these years, she touched the lives of thousands of people.

She made deep and lasting friendships, advised, guided, mentored, challenged, supported, and encouraged others to reach their fullest potential, fulfill their dreams and contribute to our world in loving and caring ways.

In 2001, Martina became the administrator of the newly renovated Motherhouse.  The stories of the beginning days of the opening of the residence are too numerous to recount here.  Suffice to say that all of her gifts and talents were utilized!  She was truly a healing presence and a woman of great hospitality.  She made friends with those in the fire and police departments, the Gentle Giant movers, the alarm company, inspectors, all of the staff at the Motherhouse, especially her good friend and constant companion Chi.  Of course, her dear friend, Joan Patricia, was always near to lend a hand. She was so kind and patient with the Sisters of St. Joseph, who called daily to ask, “when was moving day?”. She created a beautiful environment where people felt “at home,” respected and listened to. 

In the last five years, a loving home was created for Martina by the Staff at Bethany Health Care Center, especially those on the second floor.  Even there, she became a welcoming presence, greeting everyone who stepped out of the elevator.

In Martina’s own words, she described herself as a woman who was “about living life to its fullest.”  We hear God say to her, “well done, good and faithful friend, enter into this home prepared for you”!

Given by Denise Kelly, CSJ

February 24, 2020


Reflections given to Celebrate the Life of Sister Martina Marie

by Joan Duffy, CSJ on February 24, 2020


As we gather this morning to celebrate the life of Anne Marie Kelly, Sister Martina Marie, I invite you to remember Sister Martina as I do in words spoken long ago and found in a Book of the Hours by Elizabeth Yates. These words describe the many ways that Martina held fast to God’s hand and to yours and mine and enabled each one of us to reach out to hold the hands of others.

The hour is at noon . . . .

“Do as little children, who with one handheld fast by their father, and with the other gather strawberries or mulberries along the hedges:
So you, gathering and managing the Affairs of this world with one hand, with the other hold fast the Hand of your Heavenly Father, turning yourself towards him from time to time to see if your employments be pleasing to Him.
And take heed above all things that you have not let go His Hand and His protection.”

Martina was a woman who easily managed the affairs of the world so well with one hand but never forgot she was chosen by God and God loved her, and so in turning to God from time to time, Martina let the message of Christ in all its richness find a home in her. As a Sister of St. Joseph, Martina’s life in mission was as a woman of prayer lived out in the words of our CSJ Constitution . . . .
Her prayer was nourished by the constant revelation of God in Scripture, in nature, and in the people and circumstances of her life.

What were Sister Martina’s many employments or ministries so pleasing to God?
Her ministry as an educator
      as a junior high school teacher who also became I am told a pretty good basketball coach
      and then ministering as a principal at Newton Catholic and St. Clement ‘s School Somerville

It was here in these places that we first discovered Sister Martina as a valiant woman. Martina was a strong woman whose heart and arms withstood the pressures and worries that enfolded each day. She was respected and not afraid of the future. She spoke to all those she met with gentle wisdom.
A valiant woman is a woman who is courageous.
When we think of someone as courageous, it is a word that tempts us to think outwardly,
     to run bravely against opposing forces
     to do it in public
     to be celebrated in story
     and finally to be giving accolades and rewarded.

But the origin of this word courage is for us to look in a more interior direction, toward one’s heart.
Martina’s courage was a measure of her heartfelt participation with life,
     with family and friends,
     with the many communities she became engaged with.
     Sisters of St Joseph and her many parish and school communities
Relationships were at the heart of her missions for she cared deeply about others.

For the many teachers she encountered during these fourteen years, Sister Martina became their mentor encouraging them to be the best that they could be and influencing many of them to assume leadership positions themselves in the Archdiocese of Boston.

For the students and parents, she was compassionate, kind, and generous in meeting their needs. Upon visiting the halls and classrooms of these schools, one found great academic learning taking place but each teacher and child was aware upon being greeted by Sister Martina that she was a joyful woman for whom laughter was not a stranger, there was always a song to be sung, a smile to be given and a hand to clasp or embrace.

After 25 years of Catholic school leadership, Sister Martina became the administrator of our newly to be renovated Motherhouse. In an interview, she shared what this experience had been like for her.
And so many of us present here today are so grateful to her for saying yes!!!
Let us listen to her words . . . .

Even though hard hats, trucks and front loaders were usually not my thing I have had many opportunities before, during, and after the construction to reach out to our sisters, construction workers, and our staff and living out our CSJ charism always greeting people with respect and warmth.

In a quiet and understanding manner, I attempt to be a healing presence to listen to stories and frustrations and to be a CSJ presence in the midst of chaos, floods, and fire alarms.

When asked what had been the most difficult for her in this ministry she replied: What was most difficult for me and tested my patience were the many times moving trucks were packed with furniture ready to go as the sisters anticipated finally moving in only to have another delay. And yet Jill from Gentle giant (our moving company) and the members of our fire department are now listed among our new friends.

Martina’s love for her community, the Sisters of St. Joseph, was always in evidence as she describes the Open House for the Bethany Health Care Sisters to see the newly renovated Motherhouse. “To see the bus and van arrive at the front door with the nurses and aides helping our sisters into the house was a tender moment and touched me deeply.” As each day unfolds, gratitude touches at my heart and I hear myself praying in the words of Jessica Powers: “O God of too much giving.”

What are the words you and I hear to describe Martina from any person that has met her? She is gracious, loving, charming, and so welcoming.

In the Book of Qualities by J. Ruth Gentler, her description of Charm is the following: “Charm is very beautiful and she is not afraid to wear her beauty on the outside. She delights in pretty clothes, beautiful scarves, soft colors and bold textures and skirts that whirl around her ankles. She works the late shift at the crisis center and she is a good counselor. She has a way of offering solace that is subtle and light and does not judge other people for their craziness.”

Doesn’t this description remind you of Sister Martina as she related to you and I?

In our reading from Proverbs, we find the words her family puts their confidence in her, and they will never be poor for as long as she lives she does them good and never harm She is always busy and looks after them.

In the Sound of Music, Maria tells the children when you are sad just remember your favorite things, and then you won’t feel so bad. What are the favorite things that Ann Marie or Auntie sister might like to remind her family of, knowing they are sad and will miss her loving presence as she continues to look after them?

For her sister Joan the family times shared together in Forest Hills and St. Thomas’ Jamaica Plain and the many times Martina gathered at the home of Joan and her husband Bobby, whom we remember today. Her nieces and nephews, Ann Marie, Brian, and Christine, together with Joan Patricia’s niece and nephew Kim and Kenny must be filled with so many memories of the happiness and good times they had camping when they were young. From the stories told, these camping trips were always an adventure. 

Sister Joan Patricia, Martina’s good friend for many years, spent much time with Martina in her most favorite places.

One of these special places is described by Mary Oliver in this poem;

            When I am Among the Trees,
When I am among the trees
they give off such hints of gladness,
I would almost say they save me daily.
They teach me to never hurry through the world
But walk slowly and bow often
And trees call out again they say
And you too have come
Into the world to do this, to go easy,
to be filled with light and to shine.

To go easy, to be filled with light and to shine are some of the words that Martina lived by. She was most content and happy when she was camping. She loved all of nature, and she never tired of waking up in the morning and praying surrounded by the beauty of creation when finding herself among the trees or sitting by the lake.

Five years ago, Sister Martina came to Bethany from the Motherhouse. It was here too that she continued to find beauty as she gathered flowers along the hedges of the grounds. Sister Martina found a home on the second floor of Bethany. She continued to manage the affairs not of the world but of the second-floor residents assisted by the compassionate care of the kindly, loving staff.  

Last Wednesday, God took Martina’s hand and spoke to her heart.
In Abide by Macrina Wiedekehr we find the words God spoke to her on that day and now says to each one of us.

Dear Sister Martina,

I sent you to earth to be a blessing.
Before mountains were born, I was aware of your goodness.
Before rivers started flowing, I knew of the yearnings of your heart
I embedded eternity in your soul so that you might always lean toward me
I have observed your coming and goings on this earth and I love you.
“I have now returned to take you with me so that where I am you will always be.”
Rest in peace my dear friend!