Kathryn Margaret Walsh, CSJ, better known as Sister Peggy was a hero to her many students and so many of those in Southside Williamsburg whose faith was strengthened by or who were aided by this sister of St. Joseph. The order of the Sisters of St. Joseph began in France over three-and-a-half centuries ago as a non-cloistered congregation that welcomed women of all classes. The goal of the Sisters of St. Joseph continues to be to foster love, unity and reconciliation among all people. For 67 years, Sister Peggy devoted her life to helping others, especially immigrants, and teaching as a Sister of St. Joseph. Her memorial service was held at Transfiguration Church (263 Marcy Avenue), where she ministered for sixty years. The community, family, friends, and clergy filled this church to honor her memory and legacy at the mass given for her.
Father Jason Espinal has known her since his boyhood. He observed, “Peggy would be the first one to tell me — ‘don’t canonize me today, it’s not about me, it’s about Him!’ — I’m going to ignore you as I always do!”
“She was very dedicated to the parish to working with the people here, very humble, strong, a phenomenal person, great human being,” said Monsignor Anthony Hernandez, the church’s pastor.
Sister Peggy was born in Brooklyn. After she graduated Bishop McDonnell High School she joined the Sisters of St. Joseph in 1952. Her strong commitment was remarked upon by her friend, Sister Mary Ellen Vesey, the Regional Superior for the Sisters of St. Joseph, “I would say faith filled, and that was something she practiced in her daily life, and nourished, and also gave to others.”
Soon after Sister Peggy began her work at Transfiguration, its community inspired her calling toward aiding immigrants. She worked hard to refine her Spanish to broaden her communication with her parishioners. Sister Vesey explained, “She was involved in the immigration movement because of where she was ministering. There was such a need within the parish, a lot of people had come to Transfiguration and they needed to change their status.”
“The Southside Mission worked to do that and Peggy was there for the people from 1977-2008. As in the reading from Proverbs in today’s liturgy, Peggy reached out her hands and extended her arms to the needy and did whatever needed to be done to help families arriving in a new land,” said President of the Sisters of St. Joseph, Sister Helen Kearney, when she spoke at Sister Peggy’s memorial service.
Sister Peggy became a certified advocate for immigrants. She helped them with their status, their documents, and accompanied them in court. Although she began her ministry as a teacher and transitioned to pastoral ministry, she was always a teacher. On September 21, 2016, The Tablet’s Antonina Zielinska reported that at a late summer street festival hosted by Transfiguration Church Sister Peggy refused to sit in the shade (out of the hot sun), because she wanted to make sure that people saw her. She said she was happy to make this small sacrifice to be with the people, and that her mission was two-fold, to get the children and adults who have yet to receive the sacraments of initiation and to engage the people who received the sacrament as children, but did not have a relationship with Jesus as adults.
At Sister Peggy’s funeral mass, Father Espinal said, “Sister Peggy, today we bid farewell to her with the sure and certain hope that because she lived her life out of love for others, the Lord will reward her that was just the kind of person she was.”