Sister Jean Patrice Keenon
“And the Holy One will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these, my sisters and brothers, you did it to me.’” (Matthew 25:40)
“This is the Scripture reading that Sister Jean Patrice Keenon chose to be read today. And it is certainly appropriate for she who served God and others in so many ways. Sister Jean Patrice left us, quickly and peacefully, the other morning. It was a surprise to us, but apparently she was ready, since one day last week she had asked Sister Joan Kirkpatrick to prepare the dress she was to be buried in, and she had her rosary and vow card all ready for the coffin. When Sister Paula Modaff offered her some cookies last week, she said, no, thank you, she didn’t need any more. And then on Thursday morning, she died as she lived, peacefully,” said Sister Margaret Quinlan in her commentary for Sister Jean Patrice Keenon, who died Aug. 6.
Born Mary Margaret Keenon April 2, 1920, in Chicago, she was the daughter of Bernice Keenon and Martin Ryan. She attended grade schools at St. Edmund, Oak Park, Ill., and a public school in Chicago. Her secondary education was completed at Providence High School, Chicago. She entered the Congregation Feb. 2, 1939, and professed first and perpetual vows Aug. 15, 1941, and 1947, respectively. Sister Jean Patrice earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College and a master’s degree in education from DePaul University.
Sister Jean Patrice began teaching in 1941 at St. John, Vincennes. In Indiana, she also ministered at St. Ann, St. Philip Neri, St. Thomas Aquinas, Holy Cross, Cathedral Grade School, Holy Spirit and St. Agnes Academy, Indianapolis; St. John, Newburgh; St. Simon, Washington; and Central Catholic High School, Fort Wayne. Sister Jean Patrice spent two years teaching in Burlington, N.C., at Blessed Sacrament. In Illinois, her classrooms were located at Our Lady of Sorrows, St. Columbkille and Providence-St. Mel, Chicago, and Mother Theodore Guerin High School, River Grove.
“Sister Cathy Campbell remembers her as effective as a teacher because of her infinite patience, especially with slower students,” continued Sister Margaret.
From 1970 to 1982, Sister Jean Patrice ministered at the Woods in a variety of capacities with a two-year stint as activity director at Providence Retirement Home, New Albany, Ind. From 1986 to 1988, she served as a librarian at St. Mark, Chicago. Sister Jean Patrice returned to the Woods in 1988 and ministered the next two years as the director of activities/volunteers in Health Care. She retired in 1990 and volunteered in a variety of ways.
“Sister Jean Patrice was very easy to live with. One sister remembered her as aware of others, a person who created a sense of community by bringing people together. One of the nurses in Mother Theodore Hall South commented that she was a sweetheart, always worried about everyone else,” shared Sister Margaret.
“One of my own favorite memories of her was from the evening when she moved in to the convent at Mother Guerin High School in River Grove. That evening she and I were sitting, chatting, in the community room, when one of the sisters came running in, saying, ‘Come quick! The rain is flooding the basement!’ So we hitched up our skirts or pants legs or whatever we were wearing and ran down to start mopping. I just had to laugh — her first evening in the house, and there she was mopping up the basement! What a good sport. And it was her being such a good sport that led us younger sisters to include her in our escapades, our clandestine parties, which included a liqueur we somehow had access to and potato chips. Though in actuality we were in our 30s and she was only in her 50s, her age seemed to add legitimacy to our adventures. On the other hand, her spirit of openness and her gift of being on an even keel were very helpful during those difficult years of change in community and in society,” said Sister Margaret.
“Sister Jean Patrice shared her talent for drawing and for writing poetry with us. This is a poem she wrote:
Summer, autumn, winter, spring —
Tell me, when does the year begin?
You say in winter, yet for me,
I do not understand how this can be.
In winter everything looks dead.
Flowers and trees have gone to bed.
It seems like it should start in spring
For that is when it does begin.
The grass springs up, the flowers bloom.
The trees grow green,
And God’s creative love is seen.
“Sister Jean Patrice, thank you for your openness to people and to the circumstances given to you by Providence. Pray that we may all be so open to Providence as you were, and that we, too, may recognize God as you did, in the hungry or ill, in the stranger or the prisoner,” concluded Sister Margaret.
The Mass of Christian Burial for Sister Jean Patrice was celebrated Aug. 11, with the Rev. Daniel Hopcus presiding. She is survived by her stepbrother, Ronald Stedman.
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