Sister Mary Kay Kottenstette

This 60th Jubilarian served the dear neighbor of Peru for 25 years. Meet Denver native Sister Mary Kay Kottenstette.

Sister Mary Kay was born and raised in Denver, Colorado. She entered the community upon graduation from our high school, St. Francis de Sales, receiving the habit in 1958 as Sister Michael Ann, in the same ceremony in which her sister, Sister Maureen, made her first vows. Sister Mary Kay received her bachelor’s degree in biology from Fontbonne College in 1962.

Her first two missions were teaching first grade at Holy Angels Grade School in Indianapolis, Indiana, and at St. Matthew the Apostle Grade School in St. Louis.

In 1966, Sister Mary Kay realized her dream of serving in the missions of Peru where she spent the next 33 years as a member of the vice-province. From 1966 to 1977, she served on the desert coast in Chimbote where she taught either kindergarten or first grade for seven years at Santa Rosa de Lima School. She lived in Barrio Acero (1970-75) with another CSJ sister to simply be neighbors in solidarity with the people. They moved two months before the earthquake that took 70,000 lives, including Sister Gabriel Joseph and Sister Edith, a Franciscan friend. From 1976 to 1977, Sister Mary Kay lived in a community of four CSJ sisters and worked with social justice issues, especially consciousness-raising with domestic workers (a form of slavery), at that time.

In 1978, in Moho near Lake Titicaca, department of Puno, at 13,000 feet, Sister Mary Kay worked in pastoral ministry with 120 Aymara villages, especially with catequistas and in disaster relief. The CSJ sisters were the pastors there since 1973. Other sisters worked in health care and education.

After a sabbatical in St. Paul, Minnesota, at Durham Community, she returned to Peru to work in Yanaoca, a high province in the Dept. of Cuzco with the Quechua Indians, again, at 13,000 feet. There, she served in the parish as pastoral assistant, including coordinating health care for those in need in the parishes and as house mother at the CSJ boarding house for high school girls. At the prelature level, she worked at the center for children with special needs in Sicuani as director of rehabilitation and coordinating surgery for all children in the prelature suffering from birth defects (averaging about 150 yearly).

Sister Mary Kay returned to the United States in September of 1999. In 2000, she began as a middle school Spanish teacher at two Catholic schools in Denver. In 2004, she continued at Christ the King team teaching three year olds to eighth graders with Associate Mary Ellen Lawrence. She retired in 2010 but continued to work part time for the next four years as a home school teacher and as a Spanish teacher at Julia Greeley Academy. Sister Mary Kay volunteers four mornings a week with childcare before school. She loves working with clay, woodcarving, making cards, reading and enjoying her dog, Ananda.