Sister Mary Claire Kennedy, SSJ, was one of three sisters honored for their many years of dedicated social activism as part of National Catholic Sisters Week, March 8-14. The event, “Women Who are Called,” include short video tributes to each Sister, produced by Lilly Broadcasting. Additional honors and a blessing were also be part of celebration which paid tribute to Sister Mary Claire, along with Marlene Bertke, OSB and Rita Brocke, RSM.
Sister Mary Claire Kennedy, SSJ, ministered as social justice coordinator for the Sisters of St. Joseph of Northwestern Pennsylvania from 2000-20017 after a distinguished career in science education and research. As social justice coordinator, Sister Mary Claire was known as an outspoken crusader against human trafficking. She organized a local collaboration in 2005 that offered a series of presentations and workshops featuring Dr. Kevin Bales, author of “Disposable People.” She helped form the Northwest Pennsylvania Anti-Human Trafficking Coalition. She was involved in many local and global initiatives to promote peace and justice, providing advocacy and action on issues from war to health care, from the environment to human rights. She led the Sisters of St. Joseph Thanksgiving Dinner for several years, which has provided thousands of free Thanksgiving dinners to those who are alone or less fortunate. In 2015, she received the Archbishop Oscar Romero award from Mercyhurst University which recognizes the accomplishments and commitment of local and international peace and justice leaders. She worked closely with other Erie Catholic Sisters in coordinating the local Take Back the Site vigils and she worked tirelessly to engage members of her congregation and the local community in advocating for the rights of others.
Each sister was presented with a tree which will be planted on her congregation’s respective property as a living and growing reminder of her contribution to social justice. Another tree will also be planted in the community with a plaque honoring the three sisters.