Sister Kathy was born in Brooklyn, NY on December 7th, 1930 to Mary E. (O’Brien) Courtney and Joseph F. Gilfeather. She had 2 brothers and 1 sister.
After graduating from Bishop McDonnell High School in 1949, Sister Katherine ‘Kathy’ entered the Maryknoll Sisters on September 6th, 1949 at the Venard, near the Sisters’ Center in Ossining, NY. She pronounced First Vows in NY March 7th, 1952 and Final Vows, also in NY, March 7th, 1955. During formation, she earned a Bachelor of Education degree from Maryknoll Teachers College in 1955.
In addition, she earned a Master of Arts degree in English Literature from Catholic University in Santiago, Chile in 1965, a Master of Arts in Sociology from Columbia University, NY in 1974 and a Master of Arts in Theology from Maryknoll School of Theology at the Maryknoll Society Seminary in Ossining, NY in 1986.
Sister Kathy’s first overseas Assignment was to Chile in 1955. She spent the first ten years after language study teaching in rural schools. After 1967 Sister Kathy was a member of a research team dedicated to cultural and religious investigation in Santiago at the Bellarmine Center for Research and Social Action (CISOC). The Center, under the direction of the Chilean Jesuit province, included the team of lay Chilean professionals with whom Sister Kathy worked.
One of the aspects of Sister Kathy’s work was involvement in the preparation and publication of the Center’s ‘Boletin Pastoral.’ This bulletin has as its central purpose the creation of a public forum where clergy, bishops, religious and laity can express their positions on pastoral themes, thus creating a dialogue including all. Their sociological investigations have brought many pastoral problems to light and the bulletin has become an important means of communicating these situations.
Sister Kathy has authored numerous articles for publications including one on the changing role of women’s ministry in the Church. Soon after she finished a study on Religious women in marginal apostolates, she was requested by the Maryknoll Sisters leadership to do an opinion survey of all Maryknoll Sisters in preparation for their 1978 General Assembly. She was always ready to share her services with her Sisters in Chile. “It has been enriching for me, and I hope for them, too,” she said.
Sister Kathy returned to the Maryknoll Sisters Center in 2010, where she remains an active volunteer.