And so, fair Kate, may this tribute please you. Born Marguerite, called Peggy, she was the only girl among three brothers, the children of Fay and Matthew Fink in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She grew up active, fun-loving, responsible, and reflective.
Admiring the School Sisters of St. Francis in grade school, Kate said, “They were always challenging us to be doing something worthwhile.” So, after junior year in high school, Kate joined the community and upon reception, she received the name, Marie Catherine. Already in the novitiate, she became “fair Kate” and has been called that as long as Kate has been her name.
There are two outstanding traits that marked Kate in her ministerial and personal life. First, as a director and second, as a creator of community.
Early assignments in Chicago and Omaha teaching middle grades, taught her what true community was all about. An opportunity presented itself when, a few years later, Kate was appointed to teach at St. Joseph High School in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Along with choreographer, Tom Terrien and musician Sister Rose Marie Kinsey, she directed plays in addition to her teaching assignments.
When Sister Colman Keeley, Provincial of the Wisconsin Province, came to her classroom, she knew that another change was coming. She was appointed to Pius High School as dean of girls and teacher of English and Speech. Quite soon, she became Vice Principal of Pius High School. Kate said of this, “That challenged all my organizational skills and ability to help people develop in ways I had not known before.” The position forced Kate to think deeply about quality education and care for people’s growth, remembering the example set by her older, expert educators.
After Pius High School, the formation of new members for life in community opened up for her and she found that she enjoyed working with personal and spiritual development. Of this Kate said, “It clarified my own appreciation of community and challenged me to live my true values, realizing more that words were empty space if I wasn’t living my own beliefs.”
Women found Kate had a gift to be gentle yet assertive, compassionate, and encouraging. Also during this time of congregational change, Kate found time to apply her skills to many community committees dealing with concerns of the time.
A different challenge came when she was invited by Provincial leadership to consider a newly developed position, Mission and Values Coordinator of Clement Manor and Villa Clement, our then-sponsored retirement centers. She said, “That ministry called on me to learn more not only about health care institutions but also how to work with adult staff plus older, declining residents.” This ministry enabled her to use her already significant organizational skills, faith sharing, and an ability to listen deeply to people.
She also brought the gift of spiritual companionship to many, both in and out of the community. She had the gift of walking with others through the difficult times in their lives with great compassion, insight, and patience. She could enter their lives without being intrusive, always with deep respect for the other. The song that was sung at Kate’s retirement from Clement Manor was “Wind Beneath My Wings.”
Declining health led Kate and her long-time friend, Sister Bea, to make the challenging change, first, to Clement Manor and then to Sacred Heart. She recently said, “I consider my life in community a great gift. It has surprised and positively challenged me, but I also realize that as changes came up, I had the capabilities and community support to succeed.”
And so, fair Kate, we celebrate you in gratitude, honor you with our love, and will continue to remember your spirit in our lives. Thank you!