IN MEMORIAM Sister Mary Noël Kernan Remembered for Role as Co-Founding Director of the National Catholic Center for Holocaust Education
When Sister Mary Noël Kernan was returning to the United States from volunteer service in Korea in early 1987, she decided to stop in Israel to visit with her friend and fellow Sister of Charity of Seton Hill Gemma Del Duca.
Sister Gemma had been living and working in Israel since the 1970s, and Sister Mary Noël was interested in learning more about her work and life in the country.
So when Sister Gemma returned to the United States later that year with an idea to start a Holocaust education center on the Seton Hill campus, she knew exactly who to turn to for help.
“It seemed great that Sister Mary Noël could be the person to represent the National Catholic Center for Holocaust Education (NCCHE) here on the Seton Hill campus since she was so fresh with ideas about Israel and what we were doing there,” Sister Gemma said.
Sister Mary Noël Kernan ʼ48, the co-founding director of the National Catholic Center for Holocaust Education at Seton Hill, died on April 17, 2022. She was 95.
A Pittsburgh native, Sister Mary Noël entered the congregation of the Sisters of Charity in 1948 from Saint Bernard Parish.
She earned a bachelor’s degree from Seton Hill College, a master’s degree in English from Duquesne University, and a Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh.
Sister Mary Noël taught at Seton Hill College and in secondary schools in the dioceses of Pittsburgh and Tucson. She also served as the director of the English Curriculum for the Pittsburgh diocese and ministered in the Western Pennsylvania Correctional Facility.
In 1986, during a sabbatical, Sister Mary Noël traveled to Korea, where she inaugurated a program in which American Sister volunteers taught conversational English to high school teachers and students.
It was on her return from that trip to Korea that she stopped in Israel to visit Sister Gemma.
Sister Mary Noël would serve as the co-director of the NCCHE at Seton Hill from 1987 to 1996. She was the face of the Center in the United States, while Sister Gemma represented the venture in Israel.
In 1996, while she left the day-to-day operations of the NCCHE and became Co-Director Emerita, Sister Mary Noël still lent a hand from time to time – editing documents or providing assistance in the office.
“I can’t say enough about what Mary did to really establish the roots of the Center at Seton Hill,” Sister Gemma said. “She deserves our thanks.”
Concerning her years of religious life, Sister Mary Noël observed, “My life has been blessed by the people with whom I’ve worked and by the work I’ve been given to do [which] provided situations to keep me learning about God’s plan for me and for all creation.”