Sister Kathleen Reiley

“I have learned a great deal working among the marginated people in Yokahama.”

kreiley_lgSister Kathleen Reiley was born in Pottsville, PA, the youngest of six children. Her brother is Maryknoll Father Bob Reiley. After graduating from Nativity BVM High School in 1962, she enrolled for a year at Georgetown School of Nursing in Washington, D.C. Sister Kathleen entered the Maryknoll Sisters Congregation in 1963, and her first assignment was in Japan. The following year, she began to practice Zazen with Yamada Koun Roshi in Kamakura, Japan.

Sister Kathleen was asked to join the Catholic Tokyo Volunteers, whose main responsibility is ministering to the people of Fukushima, Japan. They had to evacuate after the March 2011 tsunami destroyed the nuclear power plant there, spewing radiation into the environment. Sister Kathleen has a background counseling child cancer victims.

Sister Kathleen graduated with a B.A. in Far Eastern Studies from Sophia University in Tokyo. Returning to the United States in 1978, Sister Kathleen did mission education and promotion work until 1981, when she returned to Japan. Along with her teaching work among children and women, Sister Kathleen became involved in a hostel for abandoned children and worked in ministry with alcoholics and day laborers. These day laborers worked hard but benefited least from Japan’s economic strength, and Sister Kathleen remarked, “I have learned a great deal working among the marginated people in Yokahama.”

From 1986-1988, Sister Kathleen earned her M.A. at Maryknoll School of Theology. This was followed by a 15-month course program in Clinical Pastoral Education at Penn State University Hospital in Hershey, PA. In 1989, Sister Kathleen began work as a volunteer counselor in the children’s ward of the National Cancer Center Hospital in Tokyo, her current ministry. The following year, Sister Kathleen helped start Family House in Japan for families of children with cancer. It’s similar in America to the Ronald McDonald House. In 1991, Sister Kathleen was given permission to help guide others in Zen practice. She also began leading retreats at Zen Christian Zendo in Tokyo and in Munich, Germany, an activity she continues today.

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