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Mary Kathleen Fleming: A Heart for Providence

Kathleen poses for a photo in St. Anne Shell Chapel at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.

At one point in her life she answered to Sister Melanie. Today, she answers to Kathleen or to Kathy when called that by close friends. During the 1970s, when the Catholic Church was going through monumental changes, she, too, was going through her own challenges.

Mary Kathleen Fleming entered the Congregation in 1956 after graduating from St. Agnes Academy, Indianapolis, and received the religious name of Sister Melanie. During her 19 years in the Congregation, Kathleen earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s degree in reading while teaching or serving as a principal. She also began work on a second master’s degree in school administration that she completed after leaving the Congregation.

In theory, Kathleen left the Congregation, but, in fact, her heart and soul never left.

“I even stayed at the same job when I left,” says Kathleen, referring to a Sisters of Providence school in Bloomington, Ind., where she served as principal.

In fact, her 421/2 years in education were spent in schools staffed by the Sisters of Providence.

“I could write a whole book on what I gained [from being in the Congregation],” continues Kathleen, who resides in Indianapolis. “I certainly got a sense of ministry and a tremendous love for education. I certainly learned how to use time well because we were busy. I was working full time plus going to school. And I think when you work around so many creative people, you develop strengths and talents you never dreamed of having.”

Of course, when Kathleen left the Congregation, she still maintained relationships with many sisters. One in particular was with Sister Marie Kevin Tighe, vice postulator and promoter of Mother Theodore’s Cause for Sainthood.

As a young person, Kathleen and her family lived in the parish where Sister Marie Kevin ministered. Kathleen would often seek her out for advice and encouragement. Kathleen never forgot how important this relationship was.

So when Sister Marie Kevin needed some assistance with various presentations about Mother Theodore, she asked Kathleen, who was ready to help. As the activities for the Cause for Mother Theodore intensified, Kathleen continued to volunteer. Finally, when Kathleen retired in 2003, she committed to coming to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods two days a week to assist with the Cause.

“I’m Sister Marie Kevin’s self-appointed secretary! That’s the only way I could get the job,” chuckles Kathleen.

Kathleen performs a variety of duties including typing, writing letters, researching and keeping financial records. And when the long-anticipated canonization of Mother Theodore arrives, Kathleen will be in Rome.

“I wouldn’t miss it for the world!” she says.

I feel very strongly that the sisters use their money well. They need it, and I want to help them.
– Mary Kathleen Fleming

In 2004, the Congregation recognized Kathleen’s commitment to the Office of the Cause by presenting her with the Sarah and Joseph Thralls Award during the annual Mother Theodore Guerin Dinner, recognizing her contributions of time, talent and treasure.

However, Kathleen’s commitment to the Congregation is also greater than just her time. It also involves her money.

“I feel very strongly that the sisters use their money well. They need it, and I want to help them,” says Kathleen, who has financially assisted with the Cause and health-care projects and has remembered the Congregation in her will. “Our material resources aren’t just given to us for our own use. They should be shared.”

Mary Kathleen Fleming, the former Sister Melanie, will always be a partner in Providence and a partner in mission.

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Connie McCammon

Connie McCammon worked in the communications office for the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.

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