Msgr. Jim Telthorst remembers Sr. Pat, “a bold lady”
Our development assistant, Justine, sat down with Msgr. Telthorst to talk about his history with EnergyCare.
I met Msgr. Telthorst in a small meeting room at the parish center at Mary, Mother of the Church, where he is the pastor. Having only joined EnergyCare in December 2013, I have heard a few stories about our founder, Sr. Pat, around the office, but am always eager to learn more. I also wanted to get some insight into why Msgr. Telthorst has continued to be a supporter of EnergyCare for all these years.
Msgr. Telthorst shared with me that he lived in Normandy, MO, briefly teaching at Incarnate Word Academy high school (of which I’m an alumna) and serving as a chaplain to various groups of Sisters of the Incarnate Word who lived in the area. This is when he met Sr. Pat Kelley, who would later found EnergyCare. Msgr. Telthorst says that Sr. Pat was “a fun lady, a bold lady in a sense, but you gotta be bold to do what she did.” He and Sr. Pat stayed in touch even after he was no longer her chaplain. EnergyCare executive director (and Sr. Pat’s brother) Dennis Kelley recalls that Sr. Pat and Msgr. Telthorst used to attend Cardinals games together.
Msgr. Telthorst remembers helping Sr. Pat by installing an air conditioner in a needy person’s home one summer. He says he was “somewhat of an electrician back then.” The house across the street from Holy Trinity church, and the A/C was going in “an awful basement”. Msgr. Telthorst seemed grateful that he has never had to worry about living in those kinds of terrible conditions.
When I asked why he continues to give to EnergyCare, so long after the death of his friend, he said “I think I continue to give… I can’t stand the idea of people being too hot or too cold.” He is grateful that he has the security of a nice roof over his head, safely temperature controlled. “I can’t stand the thought that people can’t have that in this country, or any country.”
As he thought back over his favorite memories of Sr. Pat, Msgr. Telthorst recalled a funny story. Sr. Pat met a man who was out of kerosene, his only source of heat during a bitter winter. She called a wealthy acquaintance who showed up in an expensive car, wearing a very nice coat. The man probably assumed he would be asked to open his wallet – instead, Sr. Pat had him drive her to pick up kerosene, lug it while wearing his lovely coat, and haul it in his luxury car! “Exteriors didn’t matter to her, she just saw people that needed help and she was bold enough to make it happen” Msgr. Telthorst said. “All she sees is a man who can help her and a car who can help her. You couldn’t say no to her.”
Msgr. Telthorst was not only Sr. Pat’s friend, but ultimately her eulogist. When talking about her life and death, Msgr. Telthorst said “She died in the very building where she tried to help people. She died doing what she loved best.” He speculated that Sr. Pat would have forgiven her murderer, and perhaps quoted Jesus – “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34) Msgr. Telthorst sees Sr. Pat as a kind of martyr for the faith, not that she was killed because of the work she did, but doing that work did put her in a vulnerable position and exposed her to dangers. But that was no matter to Sr. Pat. “She probably trusted everybody; she didn’t want to make judgments about their broken side” said Msgr. Telthorst.
He recalled a picture of Jesus that he used during Sr. Pat’s eulogy. “In His Image” by William Zdinak still hangs in Dennis Kelley’s office at EnergyCare today. It depicts the face of Jesus made up of many different smaller faces, some recognizable as famous, some everyday people. The artist once said of this work “It really doesn’t matter which persons are depicted. We are all one in Christ as St. Paul has told us. Hurting one, we hurt all; helping one, we help all.” This seems so appropriate for the work Sr. Pat did and the way she viewed people.
I would like to thank Msgr. Telthorst for taking the time to sit down with me and share such great memories of Sr. Pat. It helps me have more insight on why I do what I do every day. The board and staff at EnergyCare, as well as the people we serve, are truly grateful to Msgr. Telthorst for his many years of support as we continue doing the work that Sr. Pat believed in.