Sister Attracta Kelly, OP, Director of the Office of Immigration Assistance for the Adrian Dominican Sisters and former Prioress of the Congregation, was born in Castlerea, County Roscommon, Ireland to a Catholic family. She was influenced by her parents, who both stood for the rights of people who were oppressed. Her father, a farmer, was active in the political struggle for an independent Ireland.
Not long after arriving in the United States at the age of 18 to visit a cousin, a Dominican sister, Attracta also entered the Adrian Dominican Congregation. Since her profession, her ministries included teaching in Florida; serving as a principal in Montgomery, Alabama and in St. Bernard Parish (County), Louisiana; and working as a community organizer for a low-income, African American community in Tennessee.
As a member of the General Council for the Adrian Dominican Sisters from 1986 to 1992, Sister Attracta’s life changed. During the time of the civil war in Guatemala and El Salvador, the General Council was asked to provide temporary housing for refugees while they sought asylum in Canada. Sister Attracta realized that the best way to help immigrants was through the legal system. After her term on the General Council, she attended The Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law in Washington, D.C. and served as an intern with the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC).
From 1997 to 1999, she worked for Jesuit Refugee Services in Ireland, helping people from nations in such areas as Africa and the former Soviet Republic to find asylum. Sister Attracta returned to the United States at the end of October, 1999, to begin an 11-year ministry as an attorney and director of the Immigrants Legal Assistance Project (ILAP) of the North Carolina Center for Justice. Because of her dedication to immigrant law, and her mentoring of numerous attorneys, the Carolina Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) established a scholarship to their national convention in her name.
During the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ General Chapter of 2010, Sister Attracta was elected to a six-year term as Prioress of the Congregation.