Sister Mary Kenneth McGuire was a Sister of Mercy for 69 years. She was born and raised in Baltimore City, where she attended St. Ann’s elementary school on Greenmount Avenue, and she was taught by the School Sisters of Notre Dame. The family lived in St. Ann’s Parish, and Sister Kenneth remembered, well into old age, a happy childhood in a loving family and close-knit neighborhood. Thanks to a scholarship, she attended Mount Saint Agnes High School, where she first met the Sisters of Mercy. She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in History and Education at Mount Saint Agnes College. During these years, she made many friendships that would be lifelong and grew ever closer to some of the Mercy sisters.
Sister Kenneth’s goal was entirely clear in her mind: she had been educated to be a teacher, and teaching was what she would do. She had no desire to be a Sister of Mercy herself, despite the opinions of her sister friends. She felt that she had to “run from a vocation” when Sister Mary Xavier Higgins told her that “God has His finger on you.” Nevertheless, young Kitty McGuire pursued her own goal and went to work teaching in a Baltimore public school. She loved her pupils and felt respected and valued by the school’s professional staff. She later remembered that she had been happy in her job yet somehow felt dissatisfied. She confided in Sister Mary Kathleen Moore, who suggested that perhaps she “ought to be teaching for the Lord.” And so, Sister Kenneth’s vocation was brought into the light, and she entered the Sisters of Mercy at Mount Washington in 1952.
Soon Sister Mary Kenneth, a name she would keep for the rest of her life, a tribute to her father, Canice, the Irish version of Kenneth. At 25, she was the oldest in her band but the first to begin her ministry. Already educated and experienced as a teacher, she taught in Baltimore at Mount Washington Country School for Boys, Mount Saint Agnes Lower School, and St. Peter’s Business School. She recalled feeling that being at the latter place was “very special,” viewing St. Peter’s as “the cradle of Mercy in Baltimore.” She was happy to return there in her later years, though not as a classroom teacher.
A few years later, Sister Kenneth was called from the classroom into a new ministry in administration at her alma mater, Mount Saint Agnes College. She held several positions there, including Registrar, Director of Admissions, Director of Student Activities, Assistant Dean of Students, and Coordinator of Atkinson Hall. During those years, though she was not formally teaching, she felt that her interaction with young college students was a “kind of teaching about life,” work that kept her “young and up to date.”
In 1974 she left the college and moved to The Villa, then the Mercy retirement home in Baltimore, though definitely not to retire herself. For the next four years, she kept things running smoothly as Administrator of The Villa. Next, Sister Kenneth’s multifaceted career took her back to St. Peter the Apostle Church. She held administrative and managerial positions for almost a decade, then stayed on as Pastoral Associate. Considering her varied ministries for over 40 years, all of them in her birthplace, Baltimore, her final active ministry was surely the most surprising. In 2004 Sister Kenneth joined her close friend Sister Judith Schmelz in faraway Georgetown, Guyana, where she lived and ministered wherever she was needed for another decade before retiring in 2015. In retirement, she would remember those “missionary” years as her happiest time as a Sister of Mercy. In a 2004 interview, Sister Kenneth said she could not recall any time in her life or any ministry when she was not happy. In a word, she described herself as “always joyful.”