2011-05-04 / Front Page

Friends will honor nun for 70 years with order


Sister Kathleen Tobin Sister Kathleen Tobin FREEHOLD — When Kathleen Tobin was a little girl in County Tipperary in Ireland, she wanted to become just one thing when she grew up.

“I wanted to become a religious sister, even though my family said the sisters were very strict,” said Sister Kathleen, 93, who taught first grade for more than 40 years and is this year celebrating 70 years as a nun. “I have no regrets about that decision.”

Sister Kathleen taught first-grade pupils and religious education at St. Rose of Lima Grammar School in Freehold Borough from 1968-74. Her next assignment was at Immaculate Conception in Trenton until 1980, when she retired and returned to the St. Rose of Lima Convent in Freehold where she currently resides.

Retirement did not mean slowing down for the diminutive nun with the always easy smile.

“I visited the preschool children at St. Rose and read to them,” said Sister Kathleen, who speaks with a slight Irish brogue. “I taught religious classes and instructed children for First Communion. I was also the cook at the rectory when one was needed. I did what was needed because I just love the people of St. Rose and especially the children.”

Amember of the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia, Sister Kathleen started her religious training at Mount Alvernia in County Cook and traveled to the United Stated in 1938 aboard the Cunard liner Georgic.

In 1941, she completed her training at Our Lady of Angels Convent in Ashton, Pa., the motherhouse of the Franciscan order, and started her religious and teaching careers under the name Sister Oliveria Joseph. Later, the nuns were permitted to use their family names, she said.

“I didn’t really choose my vocation to be a sister,” said Sister Kathleen, who was born in 1917. “God chose me. You don’t choose God. God chooses you.”

One of six children of Catherine and Michael Tobin, she is the only member of her family to become a member of a religious order. Her brothers, Patrick, Michael and Thomas, are deceased, as is her sister Mary. Only her sister Margaret, a widow, is still living in Ireland.

“I’ve been back to Ireland several times,” said Sister Kathleen, who became a U.S. citizen in 1941. “For my 90th birthday, the St. Rose of Lima Knights of Columbus (Council 1672) gave me a trip to Ireland. That was my last visit and now I’m just not able to make the trip anymore.”

She said her nieces, Kathleen Quigley and Nellie O’Keeffe, make the trip from Ireland every year to help her celebrate her birthday on Oct. 10.

“We go to the shore for a nice meal and have a lovely visit,” she said.

Sister Kathleen was asked how she maintains her cheerfulness and her smile.

“It’s a gift from God,” she said. “Others get different gifts. God made me cheerful and outgoing.”

Her outgoing manner has endeared Sister Kathleen to staff members and students of St. Rose School as well as to parishioners of St. Rose. On April 9 she attended a dinner dance at the Radisson Hotel in Freehold Township as part of the 135th anniversary celebration of the founding of St. Rose School, the first Catholic school in Monmouth County.

There, she received a standing ovation from 300 guests, many of whom were friends or former students.

“It was just wonderful,” said Sister Kathleen. “It made me feel humble.”

About five months ago, Sister Kathleen developed some medical problems that have slowed her physically, but not mentally or spiritually.

“I still follow my routine of rising at 5 a.m. and going to bed at 8 p.m.,” she said. “I make coffee for the sisters at the convent in the morning and devote a part of every day to prayer and reading. I just take each day one at a time. I’ve lived a long and healthy life and trust God for my future.”

Sister Kathleen said she is looking forward to the official celebration of her 70- year jubilee at Our Lady ofAngels Convent and motherhouse that will take place during the weekend of June 25-26.

“It’s just going to be lovely with a dinner and a special Mass on Sunday,” she said. “I have been blessed with grace many times over in my vocation.”

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