Sister Kathleen Curtin was born in San Francisco to Nell and Daniel Curtin, both natives of Co. Limerick, Ireland. She and her brother, Dan, grew up in an extended family of aunts, uncles and cousins. The love of the Catholic faith and their Irish roots were deeply instilled in them.

The Presentation Sisters at St. Anne’s School educated Kathleen and Dan in grades 1-8; Kathleen went on to Presentation Academy. She entered Presentation Convent on November 20, 1952 and professed her first vows on July 2, 1955. Dan, after earning his law degree at USF, married Myrtle Wanke. They had five children in five years, and now the Curtin family has been extended to four generations.

Sr. Kathleen Curtin with her parents (left) and her brother Dan (right).

Sister Kathleen received her BA in education from USF, her MSW in 1974 from San Jose State, and her Clinical Social Worker License in 1978. Her education served her and many others well throughout her career as teacher, social worker, and consultant.

Sister Kathleen began her teaching career in 1954. She taught in Catholic parish schools until 1970. She worked during three summers as a Head Start preschool teacher as part of the War on Poverty program. The most interesting assignment was to give classes to the children in a prune orchard in Gilroy. The program was given one of the small cabins that a family would live in without any water or bathroom facilities. There was a large sink outside at the end of the row of houses, and an outhouse. Volunteers were there to assist with recreation. The playground was a narrow strip of road between the cabins and the prune orchard. One day a child was playing on one of the branches of a prune tree and broke it off. Sister Kathleen immediately picked up the branch and put it in the trunk of her car so that the owner would not be aware of what had happened.

After Vatican II the sisters were encouraged to revisit the vision of their foundress, Nano Nagle, and were invited to explore other apostolates in keeping with that vision. In 1970 Sister Kathleen, with two other Sisters, received permission to live and minister in a low-income area in East San Jose. They supported themselves by teaching in public education. A house was rented in the area which soon became a meeting place for teenagers and their parents.

Sister Kathleen Curtin in Chiapas, Mexico c. 1979

In 1979, Sister Kathleen finally got her wish to go to the Mission in Chiapas, Mexico. The most memorable experience was the Mission team’s visit to the Lacandon Jungle at the border of Guatemala. Sister Kathleen, with the Mission team, traveled by truck to the Usumacinta River and then by canoe to visit several villages in that region. This was land given to Mexicans who were poor, but they had to build everything from scratch.

Sister Kathleen eventually returned to California and worked as a social worker with Catholic Charities in El Centro and Stockton. In Stockton she met several families from Guatemala who were fleeing from the Civil War in that country. This renewed her desire to return to Mission, but this time to Guatemala. Sister Kathleen became a Maryknoll Associate and went to Guatemala with the Maryknoll Sisters. She and another Sister began their ministry in a newly formed parish outside of Guatemala City.

Sr. Kathleen Curtin with Hermanas Misioneras de la Eucaristia, San Andres Semetabai, Solola, Guatemala

This was the beginning of what became the rhythm of Sister Kathleen’s life for over four decades. Work as a social worker in a variety of locations in California was broken up with further missions to Guatemala, and eventually a mission connection was established in Texas, as well. That came about in 1999 when she returned to Guatemala to work with Madre Tonia Maria Orland, foundress of a native Guatemalan community of Religious Sisters, Hermanas Misioneras de la Eucaristia. Madre Tonia was a Sister of the Presentation when she founded this community.

Kathleen Curtin with Missionary Sisters of the Eucharist USA Foundation, Houston, Texas.

Sister Kathleen lived at the House of Formation in Guatemala for two years before leaving with three of the Sisters to start their first Foundation in the United States. This was a request that had been made by Madre Tonia before she died on November 11, 2000. Sister Kathleen and the Missionary Sisters of the Eucharist traveled to Houston, Texas on December 3, 2001, where they joined a ministry to the homeless at Magnificat Houses.

At present Sister Kathleen lives at the Motherhouse and is a volunteer Chaplain at Laguna Honda Hospital twice a week. She continues in her role as advisor to the Missionary Sisters of the Eucharist and visits them in Houston often. These Sisters are now working with the elderly in a new location.

Kathleen is grateful to God and to her community for giving her the opportunities to be of service to the people of God. She is most grateful to be able to continue accompanying the Missionary Sisters of the Eucharist in Houston, and to bring hope and support to the Sisters with whom she lives and to the residents of Laguna Honda Hospital and Rehabilitation Center.

It is her prayer that Nano’s call, “to spend your lives for the poor” will continue to motivate her, every day of her life.

Ministries

1954 – 1955 Teacher, St. Joseph School, Berkeley
1955 – 1956 Teacher, St. Agnes School, San Francisco
1956 – 1957 Teacher, St. Benedict School, Montebello
1957 – 1958 Teacher, St. Elizabeth School, San Francisco
1958 – 1960 Teacher, Epiphany School, San Francisco
1960 – 1963 Teacher, St. Anne School, San Francisco
1963 – 1967 Teacher, St. John Vianney School, San Jose
1967 – 1970 Teacher, St. Patrick School, San Jose
1968 – 1970 Teacher, Head Start Preschool program (3 summers), War on Poverty, Santa Clara County
1970 – 1971 Substitute Teacher, Alum Rock School District, San Jose
1971 – 1972 Teacher, Mayfair School; Emmaus House Initiated, San Jose
1972 – 1974 Student, San Jose State University, San Jose
1972 – 1979 Counselor, Social Worker, Project Director, Emmaus House, San Jose
1978 – 1979 Field Instructor, San Jose State University, San Jose
1979 – 1981 Member of Missionary Team, Ocosingo, Chiapas, Mexico
1981 – 1982 Social Worker, Catholic Social Services Eastside Center, San Jose
1982 – 1983 Clinical Director, Catholic Community Services, El Centro
1983 – 1988 Director of Parish Services, Catholic Charities, Stockton
1988 – 1993 Missionary/Maryknoll Associate, Parroquia Jesus Nipalaquin, San Juan Sacatepequez, Guatemala
1994 – 1997 Social Worker, Stanislaus County Mental Health, Patterson and Modesto
1997 – 1998 Social Worker, Gilroy Family Center CPS, Santa Clara County
1998 – 1999 Social Worker, Raphael House Family Shelter, San Francisco
1999 – 2001 Instructor, Hermanas Misioneras de la Eucaristia, San Andres Semetabaj, Solola, Guatemala
2001 – 2005 Advisor/Social Worker, Missionary Sisters of the Eucharist, Magnificat Houses, Houston, Texas
2004 – 2005 Teacher Aide, Our Lady of Guadalupe School, Houston, Texas
2005 – 2006 Sabbatical/Accompaniment
2006 – 2009 Parish Team Member, Parroquia Jesus Nipalaquin, San Juan Sacatepequez, Guatemala; Advisor, Social Worker, Hermanas Misioneras de la Eucaristia, Hogar de Ancianas, Guatemala and Houston, Texas
2009 – 2010 Accompaniment, Missionary Sisters of the Eucharist, Magnificat Houses, Houston, Texas
2010 – 2015 Volunteer, Redwood City Catholic Worker, Redwood City
2010 – Present Advisor, Missionary Sisters of the Eucharist, Houston, Texas
2015 – Present Volunteer Chaplain, Laguna Honda Hospital and Rehabilitation Center, San Francisco