Sisters of Charity of Nazareth Associates: A 50 Year History 1972-2022 (Part 03)

by | Aug 6, 2022 | Formation

First Associate Director, Sister Donna Kenney
Thanks to the efforts of Sisters James Ellen Huff and Marilyn Spink, the Associate relationship gained valuable structure. In June 1974, at the SCN General Assembly, Sister Donna Kenney was named the first Director of the SCN Associates, a part-time position in addition to her many other responsibilities.[30] Sister Donna was enthusiastic about the opportunities presented by this new Associate relationship.

Sister Donna Kenny, first SCN Associate Director

By the mid ‘70s the membership in the SCN Community was declining. An actuarial study showed that this decline would continue. The Community had set a direction for the Sisters: They would continue to meet the needs of the times by starting new ministries, but instead of those ministries being staffed indefinitely by the SCNs, the Sisters would initiate the new work, plan for its success, assure that this ministry would move the Community toward its mission – its very purpose, then leave it in the hands of competent lay women and men to continue it. I saw the SCNA program as a tremendous opportunity to live out this vision.[31]

In addition to leadership, the 1974 General Assembly also gave the Associate relationship greater definition. A detailed proposal with an updated description of the SCN Associates, an admission policy for those interested, and a suggestion to conduct annual evaluations of individual Associate relationships was submitted to the Assembly delegates for review.

This is an association for individuals, men and women, who wish to give expression to their relationship with the religious community of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth. The primary bond is one of mutual support through prayer. Visibility can also be given to the relationship on the part of the Associate by involvement in the SCN apostolic works and on the part of the Community by openness to such involvement and co-responsibility. Other expressions of the relationship may be the sharing of facilities and time on the part of the Community to allow for opportunities for mutual support, for the exchange of ideas and the sharing of faith with Associates.[32]

The proposal went on to describe how interested individuals should be referred to the area Provincial, who, in turn, recommended the person for acceptance. If recommended for acceptance, the Associate Director and area Associate Coordinator worked with the interested person, until the process culminated in the submission of a “contract” by the aspiring Associate to be approved by the Executive Committee. Once approved, Associates could subscribe to the SCNews and participate in community functions.[33] While this definition would undergo revisions in the months and years to come, it was a notable step in laying the groundwork for a more stable, structured Associate relationship. Sister Barbara Thomas spoke to the 1974 General Assembly of the Community’s ability to recognize and respond to, “the apparent need for this type of membership,” and looked forward to the General Assembly’s decision regarding the details of the “program,” which would, “enable the Executive Committee to share plans for this program with the entire Community and with prospective members.”[34] The SCN Associate “program,” as it was called in its early years, was gaining momentum.

The growing number of Associates related to the Congregation in different ways. Some actively joined the Sisters in ministry while others wished to join in relationship with the Sisters, but were unable to directly participate in ministry. Many of the latter were the aging, close relatives of the Sisters. In addition to the desire for these loved ones to be a part of the Associate relationship, there was an added incentive. In the early 1970s, the state of Kentucky only permitted the Sisters to care for members of the SCN Congregation in their nursing home facilities.[35] As Associate members, these close relatives of the Sisters could receive care at SCN nursing home institutions.[36] Eventually, a distinction was made between “active” and “designated” Associates. Active Associates were those able to be active participants in SCN ministry, while designated Associates was a title given to those close friends of the Community – typically the parents of SCNs – many of whom needed the care offered by Nazareth Home and were unable to participate in SCN ministry outside of prayers and the occasional financial gift.

Sister Barbara Peterson hands the community’s newest SCN Associate, Carol Desrosier, a ring as a symbol of her commitment to the SCN community in 1975.

Area Representatives
By March of 1975, area representatives had been appointed in the United States to serve as contacts for existing and potential Associates. Sisters Julie Driscoll and Mary Angela Shaughnessy were the contacts in St. Joseph Province (Massachusetts, Maryland, and Virginia); Sister Marian Haney in Immaculate Heart Province (Covington Kentucky; Columbus, Ohio; and Steubenville, Ohio Dioceses); Sister Ann Margaret Boone in St. Vincent Province (Western Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana); Sisters James Ellen Huff, Ann Murphy, and Margaret Naber in Holy Family I (this province included Russell Hall and approximately half of Louisville and surrounding areas, except those at Nazareth Home who were part of the Quasi Province); Sister Suzanne Hackmiller in Holy Family III (the remaining half of Louisville and the surrounding areas, excluding Nazareth Home); and Sister Gabrielle Branscome in the Nazareth Province (the Motherhouse and the infirmary at Nazareth).[37] The first meeting of the area representatives was held at Nazareth Home. The group decided to change the terminology of an Associate “contract” to a “covenant” or “agreement.” They also approved a design for a ceramic Associate pin and SCN Associate stationary.[38]

By April of 1978, the number of Associates had grown such that it was possible to convene a “core group” of Associates to discuss the future of the active Associates. Four Associates, Trudi Maish, Mary Frederick, Liz Barry (a former SCN who later re-entered the Community), and Janice Smith, met informally with Associate Director Sister Donna Kenney to discuss future plans and nominate a temporary representative to serve as contact between the core group of Associates and the Associate Director. (Joan Sauer, SCNA, was also a member of this core group, but was unable to attend the meeting). Mary Frederick was chosen as the temporary SCN Associate representative until such time as a permanent representative could be selected from the entire Associate membership. This was the beginning of a long-term movement to place more responsibility for the Associate “program” into the hands of actual Associates. As Sister Donna Kenney said to those at the meeting that day, “I cannot say what the Associate Program will become because I am not an Associate member, I do not have the same ideas that you (Core Group) and other Associates have.”[39]

Official counts show that the number of Associates had grown to 158 by May of 1978. At this time, the differences between active and designated members had been further clarified. As before, designated members were those who sought a deeper bond with the SCN Congregation but who, for various reasons such as poor health, were unable to be actively involved in SCN ministries and so primarily joined with the Congregation through prayer and occasional financial contributions. Many of the designated Associates lived at Nazareth Home. Active Associates, like the designated Associates, joined the SCNs in prayer and occasionally made financial contributions, but were also actively involved in a wide range of ministries including volunteering at Nazareth Home, SCN hospitals, typing or driving for the Sisters when needed, visiting with the sick, and sitting with the dying, among other things. All Associates, whether Active or Designated, had an SCN contact person.[40]

Written by Kelly McDaniels, Archivist, SCNA


A history this multifaceted could not have been wrangled into a coherent document without the help of many. I am immensely grateful to all of those who have assisted in any way. First and foremost, a huge thank you to Mary Martin, SCNA, for giving me a solid basis for what to include in this history and for painstakingly reviewing each and every draft. Thank you to Sister Maria Vincent Brocato for interviewing multiple SCN Associates as part of this project, to Sister Malini Manjaly, Archivist in Mokama, for helping me piece together the history of the Associates in India, and to Sister Nalini Meachariyil for helping me with the history of the Associates in Botswana. My thanks as well to Tammy Mattingly, SCNA and Administrative Assistant of the Associate Office, for answering a million and more questions; and to my many wonderful readers (listed below) who have helped with grammar, clarity, and adding a richness to this story that I could not have achieved on my own. Thank you to all of those who contributed their memories and beautiful stories from the past fifty years: Evelyn Faldowski, SCNA; Mary Gene Frank, SCNA; Sister Paschal Maria Fernicola; Sister Barbara Flores; Sister Rhoda Kay Glunk; Charlotte Hazas, SCNA; Sister Beverly Hoffman; Donna Kenney; Sister Rosemarie Kirwan; Sister Marlene Lehmkuhl; Trudi Maish, SCNA; Andy Meyer, SCNA; Jo Ann Paulin, SCNA; Peggy Masterson Ryan, SCNA; Sister Marilyn Shea; and many others who shared a story in passing. Finally, thank you to each and every person whom I have peppered with questions or who has listened to me obsess over this impossibly tangled history for the past several months.

Reviewed and proofread by: Maria Vincent Brocato, SCN; Sharon Cecil, SCNA; Mary Gene Frank, SCNA; Charlotte Hazas, SCNA; Josef Jareczek, Ph.D., best friend of the Archivist; Sister Marlene Lehmkuhl; Mary Martin, SCNA; and Sister Marilyn Shea.


Note on sources: Sources used in this history can be located at the Nazareth Archival Center, SCN Center, or on the SCN Family website.

[30] “With Whom Do We Associate?” SCN News. March 1975, Vol. III, No. 2, p. 1-2.

[31] Kenney, Donna. Presentation given at the SCN Associate Weekend, “A Sacred Journey: Fifty Years and Growing.” 25 Sep. 2021.

[32] Executive Committee, Proposed Description of Associate Membership Program, 28 May 1974. SCN Archival Center, SCN Government Collection, Assemblies/Chapters Box D, “1974 Reports” file.

[33] Ibid.

[34]Thomas, Barbara. Report of S. Barbara Thomas to the General Assembly. 15 June 1974, p. 12, SCN Government Collection, Assemblies/Chapters Box D, “1974 Report from S. Barbara Thomas” file.

[35] Kenney, Donna. Interview 13 Dec. 2021.

[36] Thomas, Barbara. General Assembly Minutes, 21 June 1973. SCN Archival Center, SCN Government Collection, Assemblies/Chapters Box D, “1973 Minutes & Proceedings” file.

[37] “With Whom Do We Associate?” SCN News. March 1975, Vol. III, No. 6, p. 1-2.

[38] Kenney, Donna. Presentation given at the SCN Associate Weekend, “A Sacred Journey: Fifty Years and Growing.” 25 Sep. 2021.

[39] Frederick, Mary. “SCNAs plan their future.” SCN News. May-June 1978, Vol. IV, No. 9, p. 4.

[40] Kenney, Donna. “Director of SCN Associates reports on Program.” SCN News. May-June 1978, Vol. IV, No. 9, p. 5.