2013 Jubilarian – Mary Bea Keeley
Sister Mary Bea Keeley grew up attending Catholic schools. The sisters “seemed joyful, had fun together, supported each other and seemed to love their ministry. I was very attracted to that; I wanted to give service and teach little children.”
She spent 36 years with the IHM Sisters of Philadelphia before joining the IHM Sisters of Monroe.
She was teaching high school and began studying for a master’s degree in holistic spirituality/spiritual direction at Chestnut Hill College. It broadened her thinking.
“I encountered feminism. I had a view that ‘feminism’ meant bra-burning, but I became aware of its deeper roots and its way of going about things in a circular format instead of top-down. I understood how hierarchal our church, our society and our community are.”
During her internships at the Jesuit Center in Wernersville, Pa., Sister Mary Bea began questioning the thrust of the IHMs in Philadelphia. Having met IHMs from Monroe, she realized her thinking was more aligned with theirs. She felt profoundly welcomed each time she came to the Monroe Motherhouse and was taken by “the feisty intellectualism.”
“I read an article by Sister Sandra Schneiders comparing the needs of leadership with new insights in cosmology. I wanted to belong to a group that has that kind of vision.”
After four years of discernment, Sister Mary Bea took a “huge jump” and joined the IHMs of Monroe. It was the right decision, but it was difficult to say good-bye to those in Philadelphia, knowing she would not be around to grow old with friends she made when she entered religious life.
Currently, she is the IHM vocation/formation director. She feels young women will continue to be drawn to the vowed vocation because of community, prayer and mission.
When she entered the IHMs of Philadelphia she was right out of high school. It was easier then to join so young. Now, “we don’t accept women under 25 so they have a chance to mature and have a sense of who they are and can make a decision like this.” Sister Mary Bea is hopeful their numbers will increase; there is a resurgence of interest in women to become vowed religious.
Nuns play a vital role in “working with the causes of injustice and relieving poverty and alienation. People are drawn to the effort women religious make to enrich their prayer and liturgy in ways that help us all connect with the deeper meaning.
“We are not rote, and our prayers are not rote. We help people settle into the God within them.”
Sister Mary Bea says, “I love being a part of a group of women whose task is to live the liberating mission of Jesus. When I first heard that, I thought that’s worth giving your life for.”