Lady of Many Talents
By Therese Arru, SCN
Ellen Mary (Nellie), the fifth of seven children born to John Denis and Nellie Browne Egan, was reared in Louisville, Ky. Her father was born in Louisville but his parents came from County Galway, Ireland. Nellie’s mother came from County Limerick, Ireland. They had a wonderful family life together in spite of the ups and downs during the depression. The Egans had strong family ties with the extended family and were very proud of their Irish heritage. Nellie’s mother always talked of going home to Ireland. After the children were grown, she finally did get back to Ireland, and after three days wanted to return home to Louisville.
In high school Nellie knew she had a vocation, but ignored the signs. She attended Mercy Academy, and after graduation went to work for the L&N Railroad. World War II broke out and, because so many of the men were drafted, Nellie was promoted to comptometer operator.
In 1947 Nellie’s brother, Joe, was killed in an auto accident. This affected her deeply. At the funeral home one of her teachers from Mercy said to her “I wish you’d do something with your life!” That remark really affected her. She thought she was doing fine — traveling, money in the bank, and enjoying life! Nellie had a good time from high school–dating, being with friends, and dancing. Despite feeling a strong call, Nellie had a tremendous struggle accepting her vocation. In later life she recalled her father telling her she would be fine if she could keep her mouth closed and her feet still.
S. Barbara Peterson, a friend from L&N, who entered Nazareth, was an influence on Nellie. In January 1949, three years after Barbara’s entrance, at the age of 25 Nellie entered the novitiate. She professed vows as Sister Mary Kevin in July 1951. Her parents were proud of her vocation.
S. Mary Kevin’s first mission began in the novitiate as Nazareth Post Office Manager. After first vows she was sent to Owensboro to teach grades one and two. Then it was back to the Post Office from 1952 – 1966 at which time she became Superior at St. Mary’s Academy, Maryland. Next she was Superior at Nazareth and then elected Provincial of Nazareth Province. From there she ‘journeyed’ to Nazareth Home as Treasurer followed by a secretarial position with Provincial Barbara Peterson in Massachusetts; then back to Louisville to assist Provincial Katharine Hanrahan, SCN. Her next ministry was a lengthy stay at St. Joseph Hospital in Lexington where she served as Receptionist in Admissions. Currently S. Mary Kevin resides at Nazareth as Director of Guests.
Mary Kevin adds, “What has kept me going is my trust in God which I believe ‘goes with the calling’! Also I have been blessed with a healthy sense of humor which helps me to ‘Go with the flow.’”