Sister Alice Walsh (formerly Sister Julia Therese)
“That is why I am telling you not to worry about your life and what you are to eat nor your body and how you are to clothe it.”
—– Matthew 6:25-26
“So Jesus went round all the towns and villages teaching in their synagogues announcing the good news of the kingdom.”
—– Matthew 9:35
Those of us who knew Sister Alice well will understand why I chose these passages from scripture. As I continue, they will become self-evident. It is well know that teaching was her passion, but food was just something necessary, said Sister Mary Mark Dede in her commentary for Sister Alice Walsh, who died on Tuesday, Feb. 24. She was 81 years old and had been a Sister of Providence for 62 years.
Before continuing, I would like to acknowledge the blessing of these commentaries. They were implemented by Sister Luke Crawford when she was on the Provincial Team here at the Woods. As our sisters return to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, often frail and weak, we do not realize the tremendous gifts they have been as Women of Providence. It gives us the gift of knowledge.
How many of us knew that Alice and her partner were roller skating champions? After high school, her partner skated professionally, but Alice chose to work for a short time and then entered the Sisters of Providence. Sister Alice ministered in schools in Indiana, Illinois, North Carolina, Massachusetts and Washington, D.C.
When Immaculata closed, Sisters Alice and Annette Cecile applied to Rosarian Academy in West Palm Beach, Fla. Imagine their surprise when they learned that Sister Mary Louise O’Connor had applied to the same academy! All three were accepted and supplied with a car and living quarters. They spent many weekends exploring south Florida. Sister Alice loved it and became a much more relaxed person. By the early 90s, Sister Annette Cecile and Sister Mary Louise had moved to other ministries, but Sister Annette Cecile returned after one year to the west coast of Florida. We had about a dozen Sisters of Providence on the Gulf side. Sister Alice would frequently drive over.
At this time, I was teaching at Sacred Heart School in Pinellas Park. The principal had resigned and the pastor asked if I knew of a Sister of Providence who would come as principal. I called Sister Alice, and although she did not want to go back into administration, she did want to be near more Sisters of Providence. That was when I became her close friend and confidant for the next 25 years. At Sacred Heart, she made order out of chaos. We added a second first-grade classroom, so Sister Alice hired an experienced teacher who also had a master’s degree. The first day of school, several parents went to the principal’s office asking that their children be placed in the older first-grade classroom. The new teacher was black. Sister Alice listened, but wisely said, “Mrs. Davis will stay, but you certainly are free to place your children in another school.” Every child stayed!
At the end of that first year, the upper grades math teacher had to resign because her husband was transferred out of state. Immediately, Sister Alice hired herself and resigned as principal. There could not have been a better teacher. If the students did not understand the math, Alice offered to help them after school. They would ask her each day if she was going to be “open” after school. Finally, a seventh-grade student made a sign for her door with “open” on one side and “closed” on the other. At least four days out of five the sign read “open.” Every year, there was a new principal, so Sister Alice accepted a position as math teacher at Saint Cecilia School in nearby Clearwater. She was greatly valued and continued after retirement to spend her days at Saint Cecielia’s teaching math to small groups who needed help. When she returned to the motherhouse, Saint Cecilia School gave her a cell phone so that she could keep in touch. It was not just the cell phone – they paid the bill.
Some of Sister Alice’s happiest days were the winters her sisters Peachie and Doris spent in Florida. Every weekend, the three of them went to yard sales and the mall. No one loved finding a bargain more than Alice! Speaking of bargains, for many years Sister Alice colored her hair. Sometimes on a Monday morning, I’d look at her and just, “ALICE!” Her reply: “But it was on sale!”
One of Sister Alice’s nephews lived in Sarasota He had a high fever as a small child and as a result, was mentally challenged. One day, Sister Alice made him a piece of toast with butter. From that time on, he would say, ‘Buzzy is a good cook.” She loved to repeat that because Buzzy (her family nickname) was NOT a good cook. Her idea of a good meal was her morning banana, toast and real butter. Later in the day, it was bread, peanut butter and tea. For Alice, this was her banquet. It was not until she returned to the motherhouse that she was diagnosed with celiac disease and all food had to be gluten-free.
A few years before she returned to the motherhouse, Alice was on her way to school when she had to make a detour. She was in unfamiliar territory and was in a serious accident. By the time I got to the ER, they were transferring her to ICU with a serious concussion, but no broken bones. She was in ICU for several days. When my sister and I went to the garage to get personal items, we were amazed that she lived. The car was completely totaled. Just a few weeks ago, she called to tell me of her concerns. She said, “I’m saying things I don’t intend to say, but they just come out.” I felt it was still a result of her accident.
Alice dearly loved her nieces and nephews. She prayed for them constantly. She could not have a greater gift than those last days her nephew Johnny spent at her bedside.
I would be remiss not to mention the hospitality of the sisters in Wakefield. She always knew that she had a home away from home. The flowers by the casket were their last gift.
Alice spent her last days lovingly cared for by our staff and hospice. She was surrounded in prayer by her community and Father Dan. When I was in high school, our religion teacher was also one of our chaplains. The one thing I will always remember is this statement: “The Sisters of Providence will always be blessed because they take such loving care of their sick.” Alice was blessed with that care. I have no doubt that she skated into heaven for a joyous reunion with her friends and family and a thank you to God for her life as a Sister of Providence.
Rest in peace, Alice. You will be missed.
Services were Friday and Saturday, Feb. 27 and 28.
A wake took place from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m., on Friday, Feb. 27, with Vespers at 4:30 p.m.
Mass of Christian Burial was at 11 a.m., on Saturday, Feb. 28.
We welcome you to share your memories of Sister Alice in the comments section below.
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I will miss you. It was good to know you and to hear of your trips back home. Sorry you had to go so soon in life.
S. Alice was a champion roller skater back in the day. She probably skated right into Heaven. God Bless her!
Sister Alice was the best teacher I ever had and I owe so much of the person I am today to her. In addition to being the best math teacher I ever had and inspiring me to pursue an engineering degree – Sister instilled a solid foundation to my Catholic faith. She taught me about accountability and responsibility. She was strict yet compassionate and loving. I am so thankful she was at Sacred Heart during my formative years was such an amazing influence in my life.
Eternal Rest grant unto her, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon her. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.
Sister Alice was an amazing educator. Both of my children now grown adults were blessed to have her as a teacher at Sacred Heart. She taught them to be responsible and strive to be the best. She was always available for extra help. She shared her strong faith to all knew her. Rest in peace Sister Alice, the world lost a good one.
Could you please share where she was laid to rest. I was a student of Sister Alice and I would very much like to go pay my respects the next time I am in town.
Sister Alice Walsh was laid to rest in the cemetery at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods
My mom and Buzzy went to school together at Cheverus in Malden mass and then i had her as my 7th grade math teacher also at Cheverus. Oh what a teacher and character. .RIP Sister Alice. Thanks for all the great memories
Sister Alice was one-of-a-kind. She said it like it is, you always knew where you stood with her. She was an amazing Person and Teacher. I had the honor of working with her at St. Cecelia School. She also taught my children. She could always make me laugh when she talked about the children. She had such a great sense of humor. The kids loved her even though she was tough and wouldn’t take anything from them. I loved her little nick names she had for them.I feel blessed to have known her and I have no doubt where she is now.God bless and hug her for me.I will miss her, Marreen Majer
Thank God for giving me Sister Alice as a close friend that I met in Florida. After every morning mass in the Holy Cross Church we used to chat. We have to thank God for picking her as a sister and a good teacher of children.
I knew her only as Sister Julia Therese at St. Rose School in Chelsea, MA. She was my 7th grade math teacher. RIP.
I just got an urge after so many, many years to look up my favorite teacher as a young girl. Found my way to this site and was still unsure I had the correct person. The last time I saw her was in 1960-61. I tried to cover her hair and just look into her face since it has been over 40 years. I was almost sure by looking into her eyes (I believe I also recognized her teeth). Those big, bright and inviting windows to her soul. It was only made perfectly clear after finally reading the last comment from a Thomas McCarthy who knew her as I did – Sister Julia Therese from St. Rose in Chelsea, MA. She was my 7th grade teacher and then lo and behold, she was promoted to 8th grade as I was promoted to 8th grade. I will never forget crying the last day of school and then her comforting me with the joy of finding out the day I was to graduate from the 7th to the 8th she would be with me again. I will remember fondly the days I waited for her to leave school at the end of the day and carry her books to the convent. I will also remember watching her in church as she always put her two index fingers to her mouth. So many things about her I found fascinating. Small things as I previously mentioned but yet, meant so much to me. She was an incredible nun and a more incredible woman. She was generous, compassionate and loving. I was truly hoping I might find her and write to her. I guess this is as close as I will get.
Sister Alice was a great person. She was the principal at chevrus centennial in malden ma. Never let anyone settle for less than their best. Her humor would catch you off guard. She would always give you a nickname opposite of what you would expect. Mine was slim and my brother was einstein.