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Tuesday 21 September |
The Feast of Saint Matthew the Apostle

Straight up: Sister Mary, the nun who used to be a bartender

Deacon Greg Kandra - published on 07/11/16

And she’s ministering, of course, in Vegas:

If ever a nun seemed right for Las Vegas, Sister Mary Kieffer does. The Dominican nun knows, for instance, that a mudslide doesn’t have to consist just of earthy material falling down a hillside — it can also consist of vodka, Kahlua, Baileys Irish Cream, milk and ice. Yes, if 63-year-old Sister Mary wasn’t busy overseeing the spiritual care department at St. Rose Dominican Hospital-San Martin campus, she could work behind the bar at casinos up and down the Strip. Lord knows she has the credentials — above and beyond the 100 drink recipes she knows from memory. She worked as a bartender at New York City’s Tavern On The Green and San Francisco’s Marina Joe’s when those were two of the top watering holes/eateries in the country. Patrons often shared their troubles with her. “God had been honing my listening skills there,” Sister Mary says as she sits inside the chapel at the St. Rose San Martin. “People going through a divorce or having lost a loved one or dying of AIDS didn’t expect me to fix their situations, they just wanted someone to acknowledge and bear witness to their pain.” After spending her early life in southern California, she lived in San Francisco for 28 years. She was such a music fan she knew where Jefferson Airplane diva Grace Slick lived there and also where the Grateful Dead hung out. Though she drank spirits when San Francisco was known to party hard, she says she “never got annihilated.” She says she smoked just enough marijuana to say “wow” and “really” like a Valley Girl. It wasn’t until she hit the age of 48 — by then she had also spent a year bartending in New York City as well as renting apartments and working in the maritime industry in San Francisco — that she decided to commit her life to Jesus and the vision of St. Dominic: to preach the Gospel with her life as well as her words.

Read more.

Photo: Ronda Churchill/Las Vegas Review-Journal

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