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November 14, 2021

AHA Remembers Sister Genevieve Marie Kelleher, SSND

Sister Genevieve Marie Kelleher, SSND, passed away on October 24, 2021, the 188th anniversary of the founding of her congregation, the School Sisters of Notre Dame. S. Genevieve was 97.


S. Genevieve is highly regarded for her 63 years of contributions to the young women who passed through AHA during her tenure. S. Genevieve, who was active at AHA between 1948 (when the campus was in Fort Lee) and 2011, is the longest-serving SSND at Holy Angels. She taught English, French, religion, biology, and history, and logged time as school librarian. She also worked in the Academy’s finance office.


Born Mary Kelleher in Chelsea, Massachusetts, S. Genevieve attended Immaculate Conception Grammar School and graduated from Girls Catholic High School, both of which were run by the School Sisters. She earned her bachelor’s degree in English and history from Emmanuel College in 1945. The same year, she “received the bonnet” in the Malden convent chapel, traveled to Baltimore for her candidature, and began teaching at Notre Dame Preparatory School.
“I can see no starting point in my religious vocation,” she wrote. “It was a steady growth rather than a sudden light. It grew and was nurtured during high school and college days by the example of my teachers and by the excellent opportunities given me for spiritual advancement.”
S. Genevieve taught at Saint John School in Maryland for a year before she was sent to the Academy of the Holy Angels in Fort Lee. She remained at AHA for 11 years. Before she returned, S. Genevieve taught in New Hampshire and upstate New York, and earned an M.A. in English from Seton Hall.

In 1967, S. Genevieve resumed her work at AHA, which had moved to Demarest in 1965. During the summers, she studied library science at Simmons College, and earned her master’s in 1969.
S. Genevieve bookended a sabbatical by serving as assistant librarian at Epiphany School in Cliffside Park and Saint John School in Bergenfield. She returned to the AHA Finance Office in 2000 and remained there until 2011, when she moved to Villa Notre Dame in Wilton.
In 2017, the Academy renovated the convent building which was renamed Sister Genevieve Kelleher Hall. S. Genevieve was the guest of honor at AHA’s October 2, 2017 observance of the Feast of the Holy Guardian Angels. In addition to the celebration of the 138th anniversary of the school’s founding by Sister Mary Nonna Dunphy, the occasion included the dedication of Kelleher Hall.


Once home to 40 SSNDs, the 20,000 square foot building was reimagined several times as the needs of the school community changed. Students who enter Kelleher Hall now participate in interdisciplinary instruction, artistic expression, and worship. On September 10, 2021, the first floor of Kelleher Hall became home to the brand new AHA Middle School.


AHA President Melinda Hanlon shared, “Kelleher Hall stands as a lasting legacy to S. Genevieve’s service to Holy Angels.”

The building named in S. Genevieve’s honor was once her home.


“My bedroom was on the second floor, overlooking the lake,” S. Genevieve recalled at the 2017 dedication.


S. Genevieve enjoyed NPR, the Op Ed pages and crossword puzzles in The New York Times, solitaire, reading, and classical music. In 2011, her failing eyesight brought her to Villa Notre Dame. She entered Lourdes Health Care Center in 2016. Three years later, S. Genevieve moved to Ozanam Hall in Queens, New York.


She passed away just a day after renewing her vows with Sister Charmaine Krohe from the Provincial Council. It had been 74 years since S. Genevieve’s first profession.
S. Genevieve’s wake and funeral were held at Our Lady of Fatima Church in Wilton, Connecticut, on October 29. Burial followed at Saint Mary Cemetery in Bethel, Connecticut.


Founded by the School Sisters of Notre Dame in 1879, the Academy of the Holy Angels is the oldest private girls’ school in Bergen County. While AHA is steeped in Catholic tradition, this prestigious school serves young women from many cultural and religious backgrounds.