sister kathleen (kay) naughton


January 31, 1941 - September 17, 2013

Lord, Here I am to do your will.

Kathleen Suzanne was the first child of Thomas and Olivia Naughton, but her family called her Kay. Raised in the World War II era, her mother stayed home to care for three children. Her father was a union machinist.

The family was very active in parish life. Kay, her brother and sister all graduated from Nativity of Our Lord School in St. Louis, operated by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet. Kay’s parents had a great devotion to St. Joseph and as a child, she was drawn to stories of the saints, especially St. Therese of Lisieux.

Leaning toward a contemplative life, she met with a spiritual director during her junior year at Incarnate Word Academy (where she became life-long friends with Sister Judith and Ann Miller). She decided to enter the Carmelites, but her parents asked that she wait a year and work. Kay worked as a clerk-typist in a bank, saving her money for her dowry. After her year was up, she entered the Carmelites, but due to pain and discomfort in her back, she was asked to leave after only 13 days. 

A very difficult time in her life, Kay worked at the downtown public library until Sister Antonia Palumbo, principal of St. Philip Neri School, asked her to temporarily teach second grade. Her religious vocation still strong, she sought entrance to the Sisters of St. Joseph, fully disclosing her back problems. With her parents’ full blessing, she entered on September 15, 1963. She was received into the novitiate as S. Thomas Louise in honor of her parents.

S. Kay’s fine administrative skills served her well in her many positions from teaching to secretarial work, including work in the offices of the treasurer, association and social justice.

But over her 40+ years in ministry, her work was interrupted by 25 surgeries, including seven attempts to correct what was finally diagnosed as a congenital malformation of the spine. It was during those times of helplessness and suffering that she felt that God fulfilled and strengthened her call to the contemplative life. She made the decision to embrace the cross with the suffering Christ, offering up her pain and illness for the sanctification of priests. At her funeral, Msgr. Dennis Delaney remarked, “Kay has experienced for so many years a kind of martyrdom in the most authentic sense of the word.”

When she was confined to her home, she continued to do things for others such as crocheting afghans and clown dolls; making quilt patches for the parish quilters and prayer shawls for the children in the parish school who had experienced loss; sent cards to countless people, and wrote poetry. She would busy herself working jigsaw puzzles, seek’n finds and reading. In the past few years she loved having dog companions in the house. S. Mary Kay Hadican says,  “Kay never lost her zest for life or ability to laugh and enjoy life.”

She greatly valued her relationships in the CSJ community as well, sharing monthly prayer and reflections with Srs. Christopher Brockman and Laura Gruber. Her friendship with S. Phyllis Bardenheier was a special gift from God. She became friends with her 31 years ago when Kay was once again on the flat of her back.  “Kay faithfully lived her desire to embrace her sufferings and illnesses in union with the sufferings of Jesus,” S. Phyllis says. “She sought God’s Will, doing so cheerfully for the sanctification of priests.”

Now, as one of our sister saints, we are reminded of the blessings S. Kay bestows on us. In the words of S. Sally Harper,   “Thank you, Kay, for the testimony that you gave us. We ask that you bless us now with your gifts.”

S. Phyllis Barndenheier

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