The 2019 Mother Caroline Freiss Distinguished Alumna is Mary Kathleen Roach, NDP Class of 1959. Kathy, as she is known to her friends is courageous, a true servant, and the epitome of why the Friess award was created. The award honors those cherished alumnae who selflessly give back, because they aspire to transform the world!
A daughter, a sister, a student. A nurse, a mother, a grandmother, a friend. The story of Kathy Roach takes us all over the United States and most importantly to her work in the impoverished nation of Guatemala. In 2005, almost 45 years after graduating from NDP, Kathy landed in Guatemala. She not only assisted in the births of beautiful babies, she taught local nurses surgical assisting techniques. Within a few short months, the primitive hospital in which she worked was destroyed by a mudslide. For the next seven years, Kathy devoted her life to the people of Guatemala, helping and healing them, and trying to figure out what it was that was making so many of them sick with respiratory illnesses. Through home visits, Kathy soon realized that the impoverished villagers were using unventilated stoves in their small one-room homes. The homes would fill with smoke causing the people she had grown to deeply care for to become ill.
Through extensive research, a skill we are sure she honed at NDP Kathy discovered a type of stove existed that could replace the primitive stoves and allow for proper ventilation. After making connections, fundraising, selling jewelry made by locals to customers here in the US, Kathy and her friends were able to have the properly ventilates stoves installed in the community she served.
Classmate, teammate and friend, Melanie Dugan describes Kathy Roach as “another Mother Theresa” and feels a sense of privilege when referring to her friend.
Classmate Barbara Mackowiak Harps who wrote to us from her home in Germany expressed how “inspired and moved” she is by the work of Kathy Roach.
From her classmates who campaigned for Kathy to receive The Mother Caroline Freiss award, I quote the following.
“Veritatem Prosquimur, We Pursue the Truth, inscribed on our school rings, this inscription has been Kathy’s creed throughout her life. She engages fiercely in her pursuit of helping people in need around the world. Kathy believes in the inherent dignity of every person and that much can be accomplished with simple, and in her case, not so simple acts of kindness. She continues to bring a level of unconditional love, sincerity, and passion for transforming and making the lives she touches better.”
Kathy lives in Virginia and continues to work as a nurse and translator at a local clinic. She helps members of the immigrant community find work and is active in her church, spearheading Catholic Hispanic ministries. As she continues to grow in her faith, Kathy has taken five pilgrimages along the Camino of Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain. Tradition has it that the remains of Saint James are buried there and it is a route many take as a form of spiritual renewal and growth.