By Yael Garcia-Torrescano LOGOS STAFF WRITER (From the Logos, September 2017. Used with permission)
Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word remembered a sister's life of service
on the 30th anniversary of her murder Sept. 27.
in the Social Justice Leadership course – primarily Cardinal Community Leaders
– along with others, gathered in the Chapel of the Incarnate Word for the
observance titled “Reflection on the Murder of Sister Patricia Ann Kelley:
Standing Against the Death Penalty.”
was raped and strangled to death, according to news accounts of her murder in St. Louis. She was a graduate of Incarnate Word Academy in Bel Nor, MO, and earned
bachelor’s and master’s degrees in religion from then- Incarnate Word College
(now the University).
legacy included being regarded as an exemplary teacher, service as the Sisters’
vocation counselor, time spent as a probation officer, and a volunteer
1981, Kelley secured a grant to start the Dollar-Help and Energycare project in
St. Louis which aimed to help low- and fixed-income elderly who couldn’t afford
to pay their utility bills. When funding was ended after two years, she worked
to make Energycare an independent, nonprofit organization, serving as its
Between 1983 and
1987, Laclede Gas helped Kelley raise $1.5 million for the Dollar- Help
project. In 1984, Kelley was the first woman to be awarded with the St. Louis
Globe-Democrat’s Humanitarian Award, and later even called the “Mother Theresa
of St. Louis.”
was found murdered in her Energycare office on Sept. 28, 1987. Nearly a year
went by before St. Louis charged Jerry Lee Little, who was later convicted in
Kelley’s death as well as three other women.
Martha Ann Kirk, a longtime religious studies professor at UIW, shared memories
of Kelley when both were students here, living on campus.
loved to be around her because she was fun,” Kirk said. “She would make you
laugh! She would just dive-in into doing things, and you would have a good time
typical Sunday afternoon, Kirk recalled Kelley would ask, “ ‘Who wants to come
with me?’ We need to be taking some joy to the soldiers that are in the
hospital (referring to Brooke Army Medical Center).”
wanted Little executed but the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word wanted
imprisonment as the maximum penalty because he was dangerous. Not only did the
order believe Little’s family had suffered enough but they believed the death
penalty wasn’t going to make things better.
late Sister Dorothy “Dot” Ettling, then-congregational leader of the order,
said: “Such violence will never be conquered by a retaliation of violence in
our own hearts.”
member of the Incarnate Word Sisters Justice and Peace Committee, said she
remembers lobbying against the death penalty, because the sisters believed in
the dignity of the human life. “Our
faith teaches us that every human life has dignity and the death penalty
disrespects the dignity of creatures that God has made,” Kirk said.