Speaking Personally: Kay Finnegan

Kay Finnegan
Kay is a Sister of our Lady of Charity. For the past ten years she has been working with women in prostitution and other vulnerable women in the Kings Cross area and as a Chaplaincy Volunteer in Holloway Prison.  

Where do you think your commitment to justice and peace comes from?I was greatly influenced by my father. During my childhood I was aware that two nights a week he was out on St Vincent de Paul business. I knew that he visited less privileged families than ours and that these visits entailed bringing material help. I was also aware that he was co-founder of our town’s Trades Union Council and was very busy when all the local factories went on strike. He and the Parish Priest were involved in negotiations. I was impressed by his knowledge of the Church’s Social Teaching and the periodicals he subscribed to. So, joining a congregation that worked with marginalised women just seemed the natural thing to do. In my early days in Religious Life I attended Juniorate studies in Portobello Road for two years. Sisters there were from 47 different nations and there were many missionaries. I was particularly disturbed by the problems of Rhodesia when Unilateral Independence was declared and concerned about the struggle for independence from colonial rule in Africa. I was in Kenya during the 70s and experienced for myself how the other half lives. Later I studied Liberation Theology and this blew my mind. I think all these experiences, plus our charism and apostolate, and the life of our founder, St Jean Eudes, have all moulded me into who and what I am.

What for you are the most important areas of concern today?
The whole area of marginalisation and oppression of women at every level of society in every part of the world. And I think prostitution is one of the forms that the abuse and exploitation of women takes in a very overt yet hidden way. Also the violence that we do to each other and to the rest of creation. All the injustice in the world, all the people who are dehumanised and impoverished at every level. You just have to look at the monopolisation of knowledge which keeps so many millions of people in ignorance and powerless, so that power belongs to the few.

What sustains you in your commitment?
I’ve taken a fourth vow as a Sister of Our Lady of Charity to be actively involved in ministry to vulnerable women to the end of my days. The vow doesn’t feel like something I’m obliged to do. How can I describe it—it’s almost as if a seed has been planted inside me and ever since it’s just kept growing and become a vital part of who and what I am. I have a passionate desire for right relationship with and for everybody. I’m moved by people’s pain and suffering. Secondly and just as importantly, I am sustained by my prayer life and prayers and example of other Sisters. As I grow older I am more aware of the need to open myself in prayer in order to be fed and sustained and transformed. And of course the women themselves are a huge source of inspiration, and give me so much. 

What are your hopes for a Church like ours in the 21st Century?
I would like to see a real implementation of Vatican II. WE are The People of God. I’d like pastors to feed congregations with the Social Teaching of the Church. I’d like a Church that listens to and is more influenced by the People of God. A living, changing Church. A Church that is relevant. A Church that challenges injustices and that asks relevant questions.