Sister Story Highlight: Sr. Mary Kay McKenzie

by Nov 29, 2016Blog, Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation, Our Stories, What we do0 comments

This month’s featured sister is our dear Sr. Mary Kay McKenzie.  Sr. Mary Kay joined the Congregation in 1958.  She grew up in Normandy, MO less than two miles from where she currently lives.  Sr. Mary Kay was educated as a math teacher, and served in that capacity for the majority of her life.

She has taught high school math at Chappelle High School in New Orleans, St. Mary’s High School in Amarillo, TX, Incarnate Word Academy in St. Louis, MO, and taught 10 years at the University of Missouri St. Louis (UMSL).  After a long teaching career she worked with Habitat for Humanity in St. Louis as their project manager for five years, and then did similar work in East St. Louis for another five years.

Given her long history teaching in high schools it is no surprise when Sr. Mary Kay says that she loves teenagers.  She especially loves working with teenagers who initially feel defeated, and she can accompany them in building up their self-esteem and creating a bigger vision for their lives.  Although Sr. Mary Kay is officially retired, she still dedicates four days a week to working with teenagers as a math tutor.  Two days a week she is at Incarnate Word Academy and two days a week she is at Innovative Concept Academy.

Innovative Concept Academy is a high school created by Judge Jimmie Edwards as an alternative for youth who have gotten in trouble with the law rather then send them to jail or juvenile detention. This is concrete response to mass incarceration and the school to prison pipeline. Those who are kicked out of traditional schools have the opportunity to continue their education instead of entering the criminal justice system.

Speaking about her work at ICA she shares,

“I enjoy helping where it’s really needed.  I love when these kids who’ve been put down in school their whole lives start catching on and realizing how smart they really are when they get the right support and encouragement.”

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Sr. Mary Kay has also been a member of the International Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) Committee for the past three years.  She enjoys the opportunity this provides her to build and strengthen relationships with members of the Congregation in Mexico and Peru as well as practice her Spanish.  Outside of the JPIC Committee she gets to do this work as an English tutor when Mexican and Peruvian sisters come to St. Louis to learn English.

As a member of the JPIC Committee Sr. Mary Kay was a lead organizer for the St. Louis workshops on Laudato Si and Sustainability last year, as well as the workshop on Human Trafficking two years ago.  She also helps set the goals of the JPIC Committee each year and supports the JPIC Office in meeting those goals. Inspired by Laudato Si, Sr. Mary Kay is working on building her own rain barrels to collect and save water, and assisting other sisters who are interested in doing the same.

As you can see, her passion for helping where it’s needed extends beyond the classroom to the various JPIC projects of the Congregation.  She is a gift to all who know her and are blessed to work with her, and we are grateful for her service on behalf of young people and on behalf of JPIC throughout the world!


Originally posted in CCVI’s Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation blog.

On the header: Sister Mary Kay McKenzie, CCVI.

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