Spotlight: Sister de Montfort Kinchellagh, OP
Called to Serve – A Woman for Our Times
Sister de Montfort Kinchellagh’s life of commitment as a Dominican Sister of Caldwell gives evidence of her personal dedication, energetic drive to be a voice for the voiceless, and activism addressing the needs of the times over a span of 66 years in ministry. Her life of service in behalf of the poor and marginalized of society spans not only her religious life, but her earlier years growing up in a family that cultivated those Christian values of concern for others. Her family provided the nurturing environment that helped shape her values, character, and faith life that led her to consider entering religious life.
Sister de Montfort’s years in community have provided her with support and opportunities to minister as an educator, as an administrator in various roles, and as an elected member of the congregational leadership team as Councilor for Ministry. In that position, Sister established the Church and World Committee, later renamed Commission on Global Issues. She has served as justice promoter for the congregation and liaison to the Northeast Dominican Justice Representatives. Issues that engage these groups include: climate justice, racism, economic justice, immigration/migration, human trafficking and peace, and security for all.
Whether it was hosting Sister Simone Campbell speaking on economic justice and Mend the Gaps, coordinating donations to First Friends of New Jersey and New York for undocumented detainees through annual “Stamp Out Despair” drives, collaborating with the NJ Coalition Against Human Trafficking or networking with other social justice ministers nationally and locally, Sister de Montfort has been in the forefront with her untiring leadership in behalf of those in need. She attended the first National Convocation of Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC), Entering the Transforming Future: JPIC Ministry in the Coming Age, in 2014 and was quoted saying, “Alone, no; together, yes we can make a difference in the lives of others and our world.”
Sister de Montfort always says she works with others to achieve her goals. The work of justice and peace is a shared work; however, without her leadership and consistent diligence, the accomplishment of these works would have missed her oversight and enthusiasm. She is a teacher, a preacher, who even in her retirement from the ministry of academic life, continues to inspire all of us through her example, leadership, and community engagement to be what each of us is called to be: women and men of the gospel.
Sister has served on the Board of Trustees of First Friends of New Jersey and New York, an association dedicated to promoting compassion and hope through volunteer visitation, resettlement assistance and advocacy for the undocumented who are incarcerated in detention centers in the State of New Jersey. Her initiatives include the annual “Stamp Out Despair” charitable effort that provides packets of writing materials, “Forever” stamps and telephone cards to the undocumented detainees. In addition, she works on the annual dinner and continues a grant writing initiative that provides financial assistance to the work of First Friends.
As March 2020 saw COVID-19 spread across our communities and change the way we live, Sister de Montfort found herself confined to St. Catherine Convent and Healthcare Center. Here Sister is busy assisting the wellness coordinator in planning prayer services and liturgical celebrations along with her duties as sacristan. Of note, the prayer service held in St. Catherine’s commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Four Women Martyrs of El Salvador was included in a video developed by the Racine Community of the many commemorative services held across the country.
Sister has been honored for her leadership in justice and peace and the recognitions attest and bear witness to her life’s work. These include: the New Jersey West Essex Chamber of Commerce Profile in Excellence Award (2003) acknowledging her countless leadership roles, the Dominican Sisters Peace Award recognizing her leadership and service on justice and peace issues (2008), and the Caldwell University Veritas Award, for excellence in social justice advocacy (2017).
These acknowledgements of Sister de Montfort confirm her life story. Tales can be told that are both enjoyable and yet remarkable of her love of life’s experiences as a Dominican serving God’s people. We know how grateful we are to have been blessed with persons who have made a difference in our lives. Sister de Montfort is one of those persons. She is a caring, generous person driven to do justice for the sake of the mission in whatever calls forth her gifts. Sister de Montfort Kinchellagh, OP, continues to be “a woman for our times,” deserving of recognition for her commitment and outstanding ministry in the church and society.