Christine Kavanagh was treasure to the school community of St. Mary Academy Bay View. A faith-filled educator, she inspired so many with her passion for the arts and a personal commitment to countless young women of mercy over the past 39 years as a faculty member and director of the school’s Performing Arts program.
Hearing of Kavanagh’s passing on January 6, at the age of 69, took the wind out of me and so many who knew her, who were educated by her and who loved her.
I first met Kavanagh when I started working at Rhode Island Catholic, covering Bay View’s renowned Manhattan at the Bay in 2010. The whole production was extraordinary, down to every last detail. But what was behind the curtain was just as stunning. Seeing Kavanagh’s heartfelt connection with the students was the performance that will stand out in my memory.
As Performing Arts Department Chair, she knew what it took to put on a show. And she knew what it took to harness the talents, nurture their God-given gifts and wait for the beautiful results to blossom.
Mrs. Kavanagh was sometimes firm — she had them put in the work required to be successful — but she was always so very loving. She encouraged their faith, their strengths and individuality. To her, these girls were unstoppable.
Each June, amidst the sea of white caps and gowns, I’ll always remember hearing the voices of the Bay View Chorale, under the direction of Christine Kavanagh.
During Bay View graduations over the years, I would always make my way across to the Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul to photograph the chorale as they prepared their medley, a culmination of their high school career in song.
Mrs. Kavanagh would make eye contact with her girls and then they would sparkle throughout their performance. It was always so moving and I would look forward to this front row seat each year. When the class of 2022 graduates in June, we know her spirit and memory will be present at the cathedral — in our hearts and in the voices of her chorale.
Among the many tributes online, Jean Feole wrote, “I hope you received a glorious choral entrance into heaven.” What a beautiful image for a beloved Catholic educator who has left a lasting legacy. On behalf of the staff of Rhode Island Catholic we offer our deepest condolences to Mrs. Kavanagh’s family, and to all the Bay View community that loved her so dearly.
Laura Kilgus is the assistant editor of Rhode Island Catholic.