The Diocese of Orange has been mourning the recent unexpected loss of Sr. Kathleen Marie Pughe, CSJ. She died tragically in a car accident on March 31, as she drove home from a dinner with friends. The sudden shock of her loss was palpable to everyone who knew her.
As a religious sister for over 70 years with the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange, Sr. Kathleen Marie had an immense capacity for relationships. She was a religious sister, teacher, mentor, aunt and friend.
BISHOP KEVIN W. VANN EMBRACES SISTER KATHLEEN MARIE PUGHE, CSJ. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE DIOCESE OF ORANGE
Sr. Mary Beth Ingham, CSJ, the General Superior of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange, honored Sr. Kathleen Marie at her funeral by selecting Article #15 from the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange’s constitution. This article says, “We dedicate ourselves in all our works to creative collaboration in ministry with others. Sharing our spirituality is an important dimension of that collaboration.”
“She always had time for people, said Sr. Mary Beth. “None of us can fathom the numerous lives she touched and transformed during her lifetime.”
Bishop Kevin Vann, who presided at Sr. Kathleen Marie’s funeral, gave thanks for the gift of her life-giving friendship and support of his ministry in the Diocese of Orange. He reflected about his early experiences with several religious sisters who taught him as a young student in Springfield. As a “nun’s boy,” these encounters formed his natural closeness and admiration for religious sisters. Shortly after moving to Orange County, Bishop Vann met Sr. Kathleen Marie and they quickly became friends.
“All of her relationships and friendships began to show me the face of the ‘Dear Neighbor’,” reflected Bishop Vann. “In God’s providence, he weaves our lives and histories together with those whom we meet or cross paths with. Our lives are changed and are molded for the better when these histories come together with the Lord’s guidance. This is how I would describe my friendship with Sr. Kathleen Marie.”
Sr. Kathleen Marie taught in Catholic education for over 50 years. In 1964, she was the first-grade teacher and principal of Kevin Buck. She grew close to Kevin and supported his family when his parents went through a divorce. Kevin stayed connected through adulthood and Sr. Kathleen loved to give him a listening ear and tell him how proud she was for all that he had become.
As a consultant for the Diocese of Orange, Kevin was grateful to often see Sr. Kathleen Marie at the Pastoral Center for various meetings. He did not realize that a moment for a hug and to catch up would be his last visit with her.
“It is challenging to put into words what her role was for me. It shifted and deepened as the decades went on. I have only known family members longer than her,” Kevin reminisced.
KEVIN BUCK AND SISTER KATHLEEN MARIE PUGHE, CSJ. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE DIOCESE OF ORANGE
Over the years, Sr. Kathleen Marie served as principal of St. Joachim School in Costa Mesa, Holy Family Cathedral School in Orange, St. Mary’s School in Fullerton, St. Joseph’ School in Santa Ana, Our Lady of Guadalupe School in La Habra and St. Bernard’s School in Bellflower. Sr. Kathleen Marie’s collaborative abilities allowed her to work closely with countless teachers and principals throughout her life.
She also supported the ministry of priests. Msgr. Stephen Doktorczyk, Vicar General for the Diocese of Orange, recalled meeting Sr. Kathleen Marie in 2007. As parochial vicar at St. Joachim, Sr. Kathleen Marie and Msgr. Doktorczyk worked closely together. Msgr. Doktorczyk fondly recalled a memory in which he needed to respond to an emergency sick call at Hoag hospital after an Easter Vigil Mass. Sr. Kathleen Marie wanted to join him, and they made the visit together.
“When Sister expressed interest in accompanying me to the hospital that late evening, I accepted her gracious offer,” said Msgr. Doktorczyk. “I recall that sister’s presence and the words she uttered provided comfort to the sick person and to his family.”
After retiring from St. Joachim School in 2019, Sr. Kathleen Marie continued to collaborate and serve wherever she felt needed. At the time of her death, she was a member of the Oversight and Review Board for the Diocese of Orange. She also was assisting the Diocesan Schools Office of Advancement in raising funds to support Catholic Schools.
Although Sr. Kathleen Marie’s sudden death is a tragic loss to the many who loved her, Sr. Mary Therese Sweeney, CSJ, offered this reminder at the funeral, “She loved you. I know that and my community knows that, because every time our community was together, she told us. She told us about her family, her nieces and nephews and her students. She told us about priests and their goodness regardless of their challenges. She told us about her colleagues and parents of children. She rejoiced in your accomplishments, was present in downturns of life, anticipated sports events, tests, weddings, babies with you. She was present in grief and illness. Whatever the event or the outcome she just loved you, unconditionally, she taught us how to trust in the love of God.”