we remember . . . Mary Kay McNelis, SSJ

Sister Mary Kay McNelis, SSJ, (formerly Sr. Carmelita), 91, of the Sisters of
St. Joseph of Northwestern Pennsylvania, died on December 20, 2020. She was born in Altoona, PA, on September 9, 1929, the daughter of the late Atty. Gerald A. and Katharine (Judermanns) McNelis.  She entered the Sisters of St. Joseph from
St. Andrew Parish in Erie, PA, on February 2, 1948, and professed her final vows on August 15, 1953.  She was in the 73rd year of her religious life.

Sister Mary Kay graduated from Villa Maria Academy and continued her education at Villa Maria College graduating in 1958 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in education.  She later earned a Master of Arts degree in English in 1965 from John Carroll University in University Heights, OH.

Sister Mary Kay taught for 20 years at numerous Erie diocesan schools including St. John School, St. Peter Cathedral Center School, Villa Maria Academy (where she also chaired the English Department) and Villa Maria College in Erie; as well as St. Brigid School and St. Agatha High School in Meadville; and St. Bernard High School in Bradford. Additionally, she taught at St. Joseph’s Home for Children in Erie.  She was Director of Religious Education at Immaculate Heart of Mary, Mercer and at St. Mark the Evangelist, Erie.  She also served as Director of Religious Education at Fort Dix, New Jersey and Fort Riley, Kansas; as consultant in the Office of Christian Formation, Diocese of Steubenville, Ohio; Pastoral Minister at Our Lady of Peace, Erie and St. Michael Church, Penn Yan, NY.  For ten years, Sister taught Christian Meditation at the Sisters of St. Joseph Community Living Center and at the Poustinia (hermitage) in Erie which she founded. She also conducted Christian Meditation programs and spoke on the topic at various other venues. Following retirement, Sister Mary Kay volunteered as a eucharistic minister at Pleasant Ridge Manor West; Great Lakes Hospice; and as a teacher at Stairways Behavioral Health.  She also planned a children’s meditation program for Diocesan schools.

Sister Mary Kay considered herself a teacher, evangelist, and seeker.  She attended numerous seminars, workshops, and university classes throughout the country on topics including adult formation, parent-children religious education, spirituality, and ministry leadership training. In her later years, she was a student of integral spirituality, evolution of consciousness, and contemplative prayer and living.

Sister Mary Kay enjoyed her involvement with the World Community of Christian Meditation (WCCM) which included traveling abroad to attend seminars in England, Ireland, Canada, Malaysia, and Chicago. She was a friend of the Madonna House Apostolate in Ontario.  She loved sharing spirituality and prayer with anyone who desired a greater intimacy with God. Sister Mary Kay also enjoyed reading, theater, the peninsula, and animals, especially cats. 

In addition to her parents, she was preceded in death by a sister, Theresa Wells (Gerald), and a brother, Atty. Gerald A. McNelis Jr. (Dorothy). She is survived by two brothers, Dr. David McNelis (Gladys), Chapel Hill, NC, and Dr. Peter McNelis (Nancy), Kennebunk, ME, and two sisters, Rita Moore (Charles) of Louisville, KY, and Angela Cavanaugh (Joseph) of Spokane, WA, and many nieces and nephews.  She is also survived by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Northwestern Pennsylvania.


7 Comments on “we remember . . . Mary Kay McNelis, SSJ”

  1. We will always cherish the memories we have from our time with Aunt Mary Kay as well as my memories sans Terry & Patrick. She was truly one of a kind & ahead of her time as Aunt Rita mentioned. She was our Angel here on earth! I am thankful she is able to join her family who predeceased her – her parents & siblings, my parents, Great Aunt Ollie & Clara…. xoxo
    Kathy Wells Fletcher

  2. Sr Carmelita was my French teacher in ‘63. She was very encouraging to me as an indifferent student. When I actually studied and aced a test, she held up my paper and declared “A brain out of hibernation!” She was fun and good spirited! Cute, too! Fond memories.

  3. My dear Aunt was truly special. She inspired me in many ways. I will truly cherish every moment we shared with her. Cindy First

  4. Sister Mary Kay had an great influlence on many lives with her vast knowledge of her beliefs and feelings. She will truly will be missed by all..RIP

  5. My dear Aunt was so full of Life and Love. I will always cherish the time we spent with Her. Cindy First

  6. Sister Mary Kay McNelis’ brother David and Peter, and her sisters Angela and Rita enjoyed “ZOOMING” with her the last several months and discussing our shared experiences growing up in Erie.

  7. My prayers are with the Sisters now— all of you. Sister Mary Kay was taken away by an “invisible monster.” It is heartbreaking to see such an accomplished life cut short.

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