Kathleen Therese McCafferty was born in Cleveland, the first of three children of Richard and Elizabeth Lucko McCafferty. With her sister and brother, she enjoyed a happy childhood in the city that she knew and loved. At St. Wendelin School, Kathleen was a good student. In her junior year at St. Stephen High School, Kathleen became editor of the school newspaper and considered a career in journalism. A school retreat in May brought thoughts of a religious vocation: “not for me, of course—never me,” she wrote in her autobiography. But as her senior year began, Kathleen told her parents that she had decided to enter the Sisters of Notre Dame after graduation. Then followed what she described as “days of peace and days of doubt” realizing that she would be the first to leave the circle of her very close family. “I only hope I have courage to do God’s will,” she prayed. Kathleen became a postulant on September 8, 1959; at investment she received the name Sister Mary Lisbeth.
With a Bachelor of Arts degree from Notre Dame College in South Euclid, Ohio, and a Master of Arts from Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana, Sister Kathleen embarked on a 30-year teaching career. She taught theology, English, French, and Drama at Regina High School, South Euclid, and Notre Dame Academy, Chardon, both in Ohio. In 1971 she was missioned with two other sisters to Clearwater Central Catholic High School in Clearwater, Florida. Her two-year assignment paved the way for the community’s decades-long presence on CCC’s staff, as SND ministry expanded to other parts of the state. From 1973-1978, Sister Kathleen served as Director of Admissions at Notre Dame College. She did post-graduate studies at Oxford University in England, and at the City University of New York and Yale University. A grant enabled her to interview the famed playwright, Arthur Miller. Theater became her passion, integrating her interest in literature, language, dance, music, and visual arts. Her students learned to work as a team and explored ways to reach the minds and emotions of the audience, understanding themselves better in the process.
Sister Kathleen had spiritual gifts to share as well, in a new ministry as Pastoral Minister, Director of Parish Life, and Administrative Assistant at Holy Spirit Parish, Garfield Heights, from 1999 until March of 2023.
With characteristic enthusiasm she met varied needs and brought people together. From bingo to adult bible study groups, RCIA and Bereavement Ministry, she was there to guide and encourage. She directed sacramental preparation programs for First Communion and Confirmation. The Summer Program for “the kids” flourished as she created exciting activities (including helicopter rides!) to help them grow in faith and awareness of their importance to the parish community. With St. Basil Parish in Brecksville through the Church in the City Partnership, Sister Kathleen participated in mission trips to Honduras and Appalachia, joining the team of volunteers, providing physical labor and spiritual support to struggling populations.
A good friend noted that Sister Kathleen’s spirituality was based on “listening with openness to deep conversations with God throughout her life.” For the past year, Sister Kathleen summoned the courage she had prayed for so long ago, as she recovered from multiple surgeries and countless setbacks. Just a few days prior to her unexpected death, she had returned to her room in Assisted Living, content amidst the photos, books, and artwork which she had arranged. God had another home prepared for her. Her joyful, indomitable spirit inspired the staff, the sisters, her family, former students and colleagues, and countless friends.
The Mass of Christian Burial will be at 10:30 a.m. on Friday, January 26, at the Sisters of Notre Dame Center in Chardon. Visitation will be from 9:30-10:15. Mass will be live-streamed. Go to www.sndusa.org. Click on the Chardon Regional Center.
To make a gift in memory of Sr. Mary Kathleen McCafferty, please click here.