Our Nun: Sister Kathy

Our Nun: Sister Kathy

If you attend Trinity High School, you have heard of or even interacted with Sister Kathy. Whether it be because she is your math teacher, your academic counselor, at a Seton house meeting, or just passing by her in the hallway, everyone knows her as Trinity’s one and only nun. Sister Kathy joined Trinity High School in 2008, and joined us as a sister in 2011. She even endured through the 2020 COVID year as a part time contact tracer. (She was only part-time in 2020, as she planned a year-long trip to Peru with some of her fellow sisters, but Peru closed its borders, and she was not able to go until they reopened.) Though most may know of her school life, they may not know of her religious lifestyle as a nun. Choosing to be a nun is a sacred choice in a women’s religious lifestyle and symbolizes a new beginning in faith. So, to better understand Sister Kathy and other nuns, we must hear the story from the beginning.

Early Life of Sister Kathy

Sister Kathy grew up in a Southern Baptist area of Eddyville, Kentucky, and was one of the only Catholics in the area. At an early age she learned to explain her beliefs to those around her, like her friends, which she believes deepened her faith, which, as she grew older, was particularly important to her. When she was a young kid, she had two dreams: one of being to be an astronaut or to be a teacher. Sadly, due to her poor eyesight, she was unable to pursue the astronaut career path and went on to her second dream of becoming a teacher. Sister Kathy loved working with her fellow classmates since the second grade, and she loved helping them figure out things. She enjoyed discovering innovative ideas and naturally wanted to be a teacher as she felt she was always a teacher.

In college while perusing her math and teaching degrees, her faith helped her to make the right decisions for her by helping her see what type of people she wanted to hang out with. The people she connected with were chill and religious, being very connected to the campus ministry. Even at times if they did not know what to do and did not want to do their normal movie-watching college-type things, she would say “Let’s go pray at mass,” and then after find something else they wanted to do. Sister Kathy realized and really liked her decision in her friend group because “they lifted me up in a faithful way.” After she got her degrees and did her student teaching in 2004 at Forest Park High School and taught at DeSales for a while, she was looking for a Catholic school near her community. Finally, in 2008, there was a job opening at Trinity. At the same time she was becoming a teacher, though, she was also becoming a nun.

Becoming a Nun

On August 15, 2004, Sr. Kathy started her new faith journey as a Sister of St. Benedictine from Monastery Immaculate Conception in Ferdinand, Indiana. Before one can become a nun, though, one must meet the requirements of her community. In general, a woman needs to be 18 to 21 years old and to be a Catholic for at least three to five years. They also must have a good moral standing with the Church and show you have not done anything against them. The Church will then look over their criminal record and see if the women were ever charged with major crimes, and if they have not shown major repentance, they will be deterred from the life of a nun. Also, it is possible to be ineligible in becoming a nun if you are married, and again if you committed major crime. When going through the process of becoming a nun, there is a full day where the monastery will do a psychological test where the candidate is about her life story to see if this lifestyle is the right choice for her.

For Sister Kathy her process of becoming a nun took from August 15, 2004, when she first entered the monastery, to April 28, 2007, when she made her first profession of temporary vows to see if the nun life is right for her. Finally, she made her perpetual profession (or permanent vows) on October 1, 2011, making her fully fledged into a nun giving her new life. She became Sister Kathleen Marie Cash after seven years. The length of time for becoming a nun can differ for every nun, with it being at minimum a five-year process. The nun’s community can extend the process as they see fit to make sure the nun is ready for her new life. For Sister Kathy, her temporary vows were extended by a year. For other communities, however, this could be normal as they each follow a different order of teaching. For instance, there are the monastic type of nuns who focus on prayer, but also keep a work life balance. Then there is the apostolic type of nuns over at Sacred Heart Academy with the Ursuline sisters who have a work life, but emphasize prayer more. Then there are contemplatives who are 100% devoted to prayer and committed to service of their communities, most commonly baking cookies, and bread for the people. For Sister Kathy, she follows the Benedictine Order, which is oldest order.

While becoming a nun, Sr. Kathy was in a convent: described to be anywhere an order of nuns live. More commonly, anything could be attributed to be called monasteries if it follows monastic rule. When Sister Kathy first started her journey, there were about 210 nuns living in her monastery, along with her Mother Supreme. In her community, her Mother Supreme is known as a Prioress and is elected by her fellow sisters to make decisions on her sisters’ behalf, give talks about spirituality, and share her faith live with everyone as a spiritual leader.

Being a Nun Today

Today, Sister Kathy lives her life by enjoying her hobbies of hiking, reading books, and hanging out with her family. She does note her life is different than other women who did not make vows to God saying, “People who make conscious effort to set themselves away religiously commitment to community.” She does have her daily prayer, her own prayer, community to the church prayer, also some vows they take that do set her apart faithfully from women. Sister Kathy has stability vows which make her have obedience to her leader and each other, respect for everyone in community, and fidelity to life. Along with her stability vows she took a vow of poverty and a vow of chastity, as most nuns do. Her vow of poverty entails they she legally owns nothing, she does not make money for herself and is given back to her community, and when given a gift she must ask her Prioress to keep it. In short, she owns nothing and everything she has is shared, because the community gives her everything she needs. Her vow of chastity is common among nuns as whatever one chooses everyone is called to be chaste, and for Sister Kathy, it is never dating, never marrying, and devoting her life to prayer.

Today’s nuns also have a few distinct differences from back in the day. Older people today might think of big communities and think of women dressed head to toe with a wimple, being all the same with praying all day every day. For Sister Kathy, this is not the case as she focuses on the balance of work with prayer. In general, she prays three to four times a day: in the morning, afternoon, evening, and night. All nuns are supposed to set time aside for private prayer, Lectio Divina, which means to read from the scripture. Her community of nuns also has a work side tending to take jobs that are socially minded, such as teachers, volunteers in homeless shelters, working in parishes, working with Hispanic and immigration, even becoming veterinarians, lawyers, and big civic leaders in organization. “As long the job has no opposition with the Catholic church and its teachings, there is no limit”, but the nuns make sure to utilize the social aspects of the jobs.

Keeping the Vows

Sister Kathy did not always want to be a nun, saying “When I was a kid, I wanted to get married and have four kids. I had already named them.” This consequently made her question why she became a nun and sometimes still to this day. When she first started her journey, she had difficulty discerning whether she wanted married life or a nun life, but today she thinks what God called her to do was, on some days, hard. With her community on the decline getting smaller with it having 100 less people than it did back in the day and Sister Kathy being one of the youngest nuns in the benediction and her own community, it is sometimes hard for her to relate with her fellow sisters. “I know it’s hard, but God called me, and it has given me a miraculous way to serve.”

Communities have a way to work around this by allowing nuns to renew their vows more often than most orders where you are stuck with vows until you undeclare them or die. For the Daughters of Charity nuns, they only make their vows once a year, re-promising them every time. For Sister Kathy, her vows work a little differently because hers were stretched out over seven years. The first year of her time in the monastery was spent semi-free to get adjusted to the life of living around the Catholic fully. Her second year was spent more seriously with prayer and novice, and at the end of year for three years she committed her vows to see if they suited her and after all that she made perpetual profession and became a full nun. With their vows being permanent her convent does a special celebration every 25 and 50 years after a woman commits to their new life.

A nun however, if she wanted, can renounce her vows after committing to them. This could be for a variety of reasons: a nun falling in love, the vows not making her happy anymore, feeling like they have lost their faith, or feeling like they have broken or violated their vows. A nun would then have to go and speak with their Mother Supreme or Prioress and see if it is the right thing for them to do. If it does turn out to be the right decision, paperwork is filled out and sent to the Vatican to be signed by the Pope himself, and once sent back, she will not be a nun.

Decline of Nuns

One question that may be asked however is how come people do not see as many nuns in America today, and with the help of Sister Kathy this question could be answered. In the United States and Europe, there has been a significant decline in their nuns, while in Africa and Asia their nun rate is increasing rapidly. In the history of the church, this happens regularly because of war and other tragic events as the church grows where it is needed. Sister Kathy believes however “the rise of nuns will come back to the Americas and Europe in due time.” She believes that nuns will never die out in an area completely as the need for them will change over time allowing them to swoop over time.


Sister Kathy has filled many roles in her life and at Trinity and has had an amazing journey along the way as she became a nun. Knowing her religious life is important to see all of her instead of just a figure you’ve seen, so maybe the next time you see her whether that be in a math class, in academic services, or just in the hallway, say hello to her and maybe even thank her for coming to Trinity and sharing her story, guidance, and faith with us.

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  • B

    BillyApr 30, 2024 at 6:59 pm

    wow! what an amazing! best thing i’ve read all year!

  • D

    Dan ZoellerNov 10, 2023 at 11:05 am

    What a tremendous story! We are so lucky to have Sr. Kathy on staff. She brings many gifts to this ministry.