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Rev. Mother Mary Kelly,       page three

Reverend Mother


"In August 1919 I received a letter from Reverend Mother de St. Preux saying I was to go to Ryde as Superior. It was a big surprise! and I felt very sad at leaving Boscombe. But I settled down well in Ryde and was very happy there for the next six years.

Not so much is recorded of her six years in Ryde, but the school doubled in numbers whilst she was there. Naturally, someone who was so loved at Boscombe was not forgotten, and many made the trip to the Isle of Wight to see her, and to those her friends and old pupils she was a most charming hostess

She wrote: "In 1925 Reverend Mother Afchain, who was then Superior General since 1919, sent me back to Boscombe as Superior. I remained in that post until 1946."

As Reverend Mother, the responsibility for the care of the sick naturally fell on her.

She did all she could to be a Mother to her children and Nuns. When she was upset she did all she could to spare them. One Nun says: "What an example of courage and fortitude! When the news came of her Mother's death it was she who came to the assembled Community to announce it, and with calm gave all the details.

One of the first acts of her time as Superior was to improve the working conditions of the Sisters, one of whom says: "She had the Esse cooker installed in the kitchen to prevent the kitchen staff from having to rise every Saturday morning at 4 a.m. to clean flues and stove; and to cool the kitchen somewhat she had the little boiler for heating water transferred to the scullery.

Mother Howe was Head of the Boys' School and remained so for the rest of its existence, and Mother McEvoy was Headmistress of the Girls. Both these Religious were most successful in their separate appointments, but of course the ultimate responsibility was Reverend Mother's.

During her term as Reverend Mother the official span of years ran out several times; each time she was re-elected. In 1938 the Golden jubilee of the coming of the Order to Bournemouth was celebrated, and pupils came from far and near to the festivities that were held early that Summer.

Most of those who had not seen her for a long time were amazed at her appearance. She had aged scarcely at all, and her early beauty had, if anything, increased, for, as one of her Nuns quotes: "A kind and sweet way of judging others ends by stamping itself upon the countenance and giving it a look which draws all hearts" (Lacordaire).

Maria tells how she brought a friend to see Reverend Mother Kelly at this time, and this friend, a non-Catholic, was amazed to find Reverend Mother a young woman? - she really did look just about 30 - and the friend said so. The following year Maria again visited the Convent with the same friend. Reverend Mother staggered into the Parlour, bent up and with, a stick to support her. "Is this the way you think a Reverend Mother should be?" she asked, and then laughingly she put the stick by and walked up to greet her guests.

The various Nuns were assigned A.R.P. duties during WW11, but on Reverend Mother's shoulders fell the whole responsibility of the Community, and especially of the children and of the sick. Moreover, on the invasion of Belgium and France, she was cut off from all contact with her Superior, Reverend Mother General; the responsibility of making decisions now rested solely on her. Bournemouth was very fortunate in some respects, and did not suffer from raids like those on London or the big ports or industrial towns, but there were quite a number of bombs dropped on the town. Night after night she would be up, supervising, comforting, and above all, praying. A Nun writes: "Our safety and preservation during the 1939 - 45 War were due, I am convinced, to the great faith and prayer of Reverend Mother Kelly.

But her health was poor and after an illness of just over three months she made a recovery, but never, of course, a complete recovery, and Reverend Mother General considered she should be given a complete rest from responsibility.

In the Autumn of 1946 she knew she was going to be relieved of her office as Reverend Mother. She had been there so long, she had seen so many stages of its growth, and almost every event of importance in her own life took place there. Moreover, she had so many friends, among the Community and outside. The Convent had been her home and she had always stayed at home, she loved it so. Of course, she had to go abroad to Chapter Meetings on occasions; but otherwise she remained where she was.

Reverend Mother's Memoir says: "My health broke down in 1946 and I was very seriously ill for three months, but recovered, thanks to the good prayers of the Community and of all my Religious family and friends. But Reverend Mother General considered rest from responsibility advisable, so I was replaced as Superior of Boscombe Convent by Reverend Mother Howe. Reverend Mother General was so kind as to allow me to remain in Boscombe in an ex-officio capacity. So I was now relieved of all responsibility while yet being able to help Reverend Mother Howe in many ways."

Reverend Mother Kelly was now able to spend more time with her Sister Agnes, who was slowly dying, but "I still have to take things easy". In spite of that, however, she helped Reverend Mother Howe with her correspondence, and interviewed a number of parents and visitors, and helped generally in any way she could.

Her sister died in July 1948. She had been ill a long time, and since early April had been almost immovable. To Reverend Mother herself it must have been a very sad bereavement on one hand and a merciful release on the other; for Mother Agnes had ill health for a great number of years and had greatly suffered.

In 1951 Reverend Mother Kelly wrote an obituary of her sister, Mother Agnes Kelly, and then added: "And personal memories of Mother Mary Kelly written to help those who, later on, must write an obituary notice of her." She goes on: "I have just completed my 50 years in Religion as a Professed Nun of the Cross, and I want first to thank God for His Goodness in calling me to follow Him, and for my Vocation to this Society. I thank Him with all my heart for giving me good health, and the means to serve Him."

Despite many health problems, Reverend Mother Kelly slowly improved and at Christmas 1953 was well enough to take part in the Community celebrations. She was able to attend Midnight Mass in the Chapel and even came into the parlour for a few moments afterwards to wish the Convent guests a Happy Christmas. At the Past Pupils' Reunion in January 1954 she appeared, and was if anything even more pleased to welcome her guests.

She remained only fairly well during that Winter, sensing that the time was drawing near. Lent came, and just before Passion Sunday she had a bad attack of inflammation of the liver?suffering intensely.

On Maundy Thursday, to her great joy, she was able to receive a Particle of the Host in Holy Communion, and though she was very weak, hope began to revive once more.

The next morning was Good Friday. Reverend Mother Howe went in to see her very early. Reverend Mother Kelly whispered, "I am very ill", but soon she fell into a very peaceful sleep, and for twenty minutes or so Reverend Mother Howe and the Sister Infirmarian watched her and hoped that this was the beginning of her recovery.

Then her sister, Winifred, came in to see her about nine o'clock. Their arms were round her, her eyes were open, and she was looking up and out of the room. Suddenly they saw her blanch - they watched her remaining minutes on earth - so quietly, so easily, she drew those last long breaths, with such an expression of peace and happiness on her face, and then, - so gently had she slipped away to Heaven.

Her going from the Convent was like her coming to it as a young Postulant fifty-six years before, quietly and without fuss. Death was met in the same way she had lived, but when she died that Good Friday morning, the Order lost its fairest daughter.

On Tuesday, April 20th, His Lordship the Bishop came from Winchester to sing her Solemn Requiem, assisted by the Right Reverend Monsignor Provost Dorran, V. G., Father Baron, S. J., and Father Weaver, S. J. A number of local Priests were present in the Sanctuary of the Convent Chapel where the Mass was celebrated. Three of her brothers and three of her sisters and other relatives were present; while the nave of the Chapel was filled with many of her much-loved "old Children" and friends from far and near.

She was buried in the little part of the big Cemetery at Boscombe that is reserved for the Convent dead. It was a lovely Spring day. There were a great number who followed her to the grave and many were grief stricken because of their own personal loss; but over all the sorrow there radiated a greater joy, for surely most of them thought, "We have now a great friend in Heaven".

Father Daneels wrote: " There are three persons whom I have met in my life who made a deep impression upon me as being holy: (1), Cardinal Mercier, (2) Pere Petit (called Saint Pere Petit), and (3) Mother Kelly.

In my opinion she was a perfect type and example of a Religious .... If it is hard to think that we have lost her, it should comfort us to think that she is now wrapt up in heavenly glory! ."

Dorothy Tucker
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