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Sister Alice Kelley (nee Lillian Hurley) - Autobiography


Posted By: A. Bruce Owens (email)
Date: 4/17/2016 at 15:35:11

Autobiography of Sister Alice Kelley


Polka Money Pays Way to Convent

Blessed by God that I am a Catholic and a Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration!

When I was 2 1/2 years old, my mother, a Lutheran, got very ill. Her appendix had ruptured. The good pastor at my home had heard about my mother's suffering and pain and came out the four miles with his horse and buggy to see her and pray with her.

Father did more than pray. He talked to her, and then baptized her and gave her Holy Communion. Then Father invited all of us into the room, where he anointed Mother. She smiled and looked at the eight of us children and said, "I wish you would all become Catholic. It is sweet to die in the Lord." While Father still held Mother's hand, she went to her Creator.

A young couple, Mr. and Mrs. D.J. Kelley, married about three years and not blessed with children, came to Mother's wake. I was sitting on Mr. Kelley's lap, where I went to sleep.

The next day was my mother's funeral - the first time for her to enter the Catholic church. After the funeral, we, with our good pastor, my older brother and my father, went to the bank where the business of that little town was usually taken care of. There the Kelley's adopted me. My father had tuberculosis, and passed away about a month after my mother.

When I was eight, my adoptive mother took me to La Crosse for my first train ride. Mother wished to visit her sister who was at St. Rose Convent. This was the first sister I had seen or met, for we did not have sisters around our area of New Albin, Iowa.

While Mother and her sister were visiting, they invited me to take a walk to the fish pond in St. Rose yard, where some goldfish intrigued me. Outside, I noticed a sister sitting on a bench near the pond. This sister motioned for me to come over and sit with her. I did.

She asked me many questions. One was, "Would you like to be a sister?"

"Yes," I replied.

Sister then took a piece of paper from a notebook she had in her large pocket and wrote her name in beautiful script. She put this piece of paper into my little velvet purse, saying, "When you are 16 years old, please write me."

After graduating from the eighth grade in New Albin, I wrote to this sister - her name was Sister Seraphine. The reply was very prompt and included an application sheet. I could fill this sheet out but for one thing. I was to bring $40, according to Canon Law. I was not earning any money - how was I to get the $40?

That fall I attended the parish Thanksgiving dance. My dad had to help sell pop, and my mother sat on the bench watching us dance. They loved to dance, as I did. In the course of the evening, the announcer said, "Ladies' choice, for a polka." It was to be a dance contest. I jumped up and whistled across the hall for my brother, who had taught me to polka and loved it himself.

We danced with the other 75 couples. The number got down to 25 couples, then 10, and finally two. My brother said, "Now, Sis, do your stuff." We did and won - $25 for the best lady dancer and $25 for the best gentleman dancer.

Oh, now I had half of the fee - I was delighted! Daddy had refused to pay the $40 before, but perhaps now he would give me the $15 I still needed. But he refused. "No, not for leaving us," he said.

Now in the course of the evening I danced with my brother again. While dancing, I asked him to give me his $25. He wanted to know what I wished to get from it. I told him if he gave it to me, I would take the 9 a.m. train to La Crosse the next day to join the sisters at St. Rose Convent. He handed it to me.

The next morning I arose early and did the chores on our farm. they were about finished when Dad appeared. When I told him my plans, he realized that I was serious and became rather silent. We had breakfast, got ready and drove to town to catch the train. When we got to the depot, behold, there were our good pastor, my brother and a cousin, ready to board the train with us. The train ride was rather solemn.

Upon arriving in La Crosse, the six of us took a taxi to St. Rose. I handed this little piece of paper with Sister Seraphine's name to the portress, who gave me a questioning look. Father said, "This is the sister we want to see. We had no knowledge that she was the Mother Assistant."

In a short time, Mother Seraphine came to the parlor, hugged me and took me with her to the fourth floor, where a sister fitted me out with a black dress and little black veil. I smiled at the rest of the postulants sitting there.

Back to the parlor we went to bid farewell to my parents, who had to catch the 4 p.m. train for home. All went well until I kissed my daddy, and he fainted. A good sister near there took care of him, and I was hurried away to join the postulants.

So now I've taught high school as an FSPA for over 60 years. My first love however, has always been teaching or training teachers for CCD work - spreading the Good News. This I have done since being missioned at St. Ann's in Spokane, Wash., in 1925. One Saturday the good pastor came to the Sisters and asked me to teach CCD to a group of 75 adults. The teacher was ill or away. I went in obedience and finished the class the rest of the year.

I retired to Villa St. Joseph in 1979 and have often served as a substitute for the grade and high school CCD classes here at nearby St. Joseph's Parish.

I find much love and concern here at the Villa. The many good Sisters are a group of saints who love and thank their Creator through their waiting, suffering and praying.

Thank you, dear Jesus, for inviting me to become a Catholic, and a Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration, through the Hold Spirit and dear Mother Seraphine. Thank you, Jesus, for the Sisters I live with in this caring Villa home.

~Times Review, October 4, 1990; clipping from the FSPA Archives, La Crosse, WI (the clipping included the photo)

Contributor notes:
Sister Alice Kelley is the adopted daughter of D.J. Kelley who appears in Biographies from Past & Present of Allamakee County Vol II. (link below)

Sister Alice was born April 23, 1900, the seventh of eight children to John and Gertrude (Pause) Hurley on a farm near New Albin, IA. She was named Lillian. She died Thursday Nov.2, 2000. Whether she was formally adopted by the Kelley / Kelly family is not known.

D.J. Kelley biography, 1913

Allamakee Biographies maintained by Sharyl Ferrall.
WebBBS 4.33 Genealogy Modification Package by WebJourneymen

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