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Sister Bernadette Mary Carroll

Sister Bernadette Mary Carroll

A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew:

“At the time Jesus answered: I give praise to you, God of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike, ‘Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.’”

The Gospel of the Lord

This familiar passage from Matthew’s Gospel reminds us once again that Jesus’ message is one of hope and new life. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me …. A yoke literally means a band, or something that binds. So what is it to take on the yoke of Christ? To take Christ’s yoke is to accept God’s transforming love. To take Christ’s yoke is to bind ourselves to him. To take Christ’s yoke is to learn to be humble of heart. And Jesus says that if we take this yoke, we will find rest for the yoke is easy and light. To take Christ’s yoke is easy because it requires only this: To love God and to love others. Sister Bernadette Mary Carroll did indeed take Christ’s yoke and learn from him and, in doing so, became a woman who was meek and humble of heart, said Sister Paula Damiano in her commentary for Sister Bernadette Mary Carroll, who died Friday, September 22, 2017, at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana. She was 94 years old and had been a Sister of Providence for 78 years.

The Carroll family had three children – Catherine, Chuck and John – when Julia May and her twin brother Joe were born in Alhambra, Calif., in December 1922 to Irish Catholic parents, Charles and Margaret O’Brien Carroll. Julie’s family belonged to All Souls Parish and it was there that she was baptized and attended grade school where she was taught by the sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary.

Her first year of high school was at the Holy Names School, Ramona Convent, but at the conclusion of her freshman year, she entered the Sisters of Providence juniorate at Marywood in Anaheim. Julie joined the Congregation in 1939 and was given the name Sister Bernadette Mary. Her years of formation were in California, so her first visit to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods came in 1946 in preparation for her final vows the following year. She referred to the Woods as a wonderful, magic place.

Sister Bernadette Mary received a bachelor’s degree in English from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College and a master’s degree in education from Indiana State University.

For nearly 30 years, Bernadette taught middle grades and junior high in schools in California and Indiana and was principal at Saint Joseph School in Hawthorne, Calif. Of teaching, Bernadette said, “It has been wonderful. I would do it all over again.”

Sister Bernadette Mary Carroll

Teacher for 28 years in schools in Indiana and California

In Indiana: St. Catherine, Indianapolis (1946-47); St. Benedict, Terre Haute (1947-53); St. Andrew, Indianapolis (1953-54); St. John, Newburgh (1954-56); St. Simon, Washington (1956-58); St. John, Vincennes (1961-66).

In California: St. Elizabeth, Van Nuys (1941-44); St. Ambrose, Hollywood (1944-45); St. Anthony, Gardena (1945-46); St. Teresa of Avila, Los Angeles (1958-61); St. Elizabeth, Van Nuys (1966-68); St. Joseph, Hawthorne (1968-69).

In 1969, she was elected to the Provincial Team of St. Michael Province, and after two years, became the Provincial. Sister Maureen Abbott tells a story about Bernadette’s head for numbers. As a Provincial, Bernadette made frequent trips from California to the motherhouse. Maureen remembers one time picking her up from the airport. Bernadette walked in the door of the convent around midnight and spotted a bank statement among the mail on the table. There was nothing to do but sit right down and balance the checkbook!

In 1976, Bernadette was elected to the General Council for a five-year term, necessitating a move to the motherhouse. Sister Nancy Bartasavich remembers when she was a canonical novice and Bernadette was on the General Council. The younger sisters found her welcoming and friendly, even offering her office as the drop off spot for their guitars.

Sister Jan Craven found Bernadette a particular support to her during her transfer process; always offering encouragement, listening to her concerns, and, according to Jan, truly saving her vocation. At the conclusion of that term, she returned to California as the Provincial treasurer while also serving as a substitute teacher.

Never one to sit idle, Bernadette launched into a new ministry as the retreat hostess for Marywood Center in the Diocese of Orange, Calif. She was so well-loved there, offering hospitality to retreatants and providing encouragement and support to the staff, many of whom were Mexican immigrants, and in what little spare time she had, would tutor many of them to learn English.

Her seven years at Marywood flew by and the Congregation was opening Casa Providencia, a house in Los Angeles for Hispanic women who might be interested in religious life. Working together with Sister Marilu Covani, Bernadette threw herself into this ne ministry, offering support and encouragement to this endeavor. About this ministry, Bernadette said, “My interest in promoting vocations has always been a special part of my ministry, especially being a mentor or guide for those discerning religious life. This is one way I can perhaps create hope for others.” During her years in Los Angeles, she also worked in the Parish, St. Teresa of Avila, managing most of the parish’s finances.

In 2008, Sister Bernadette Mary received Ecclesiastical Honors from Pope Benedict XVI. The award is the highest medal that can be awarded to the laity and clergy by the Pope.

But that same year brought about a big change in Bernadette’s life. Her widowed sister, Catherine, was in need of assistance due to failing health. Bernadette moved to Pasadena to help care for Catherine, volunteered at the parish and did work for the Archdiocesan Office of Restorative Justice. She often expressed her gratitude to the Congregation for permitting her to stay with her sister. Catherine’s death in 2012 gave Bernadette a chance to move here to the Woods and finally have  bit of a rest. Well, that rest lasted all of about two weeks and she then began her volunteer ministry in Health Care and with us at Providence Spirituality & Conference Center.

Sister Bernadette Mary Carroll

This is what she did during her life, but more important is who she was. She was meek and humble of heart. She was generous, considerate and kind. Many of us found her to be a wise mentor, offering sage advice and providing support during difficult times.

Bernadette had her share of suffering through the years. In her earlier years in community, debilitating migraine headaches would sometimes incapacitate her. In addition, she often believed she was quite good enough for whatever it was the Congregation asked her to do. She felt inadequate to lead the programs for tertians preparing for final profession. However, most of us who had the privilege of being with her felt otherwise. She was gentle but directive; relaxed but fully in charge and inspiring us to try to be our best selves.

What did Bernadette enjoy?

Sister Kay Manley knew she enjoyed travel and they shared wonderful trips together, one to Ireland to connect with her Irish heritage. Bernadette was an excellent seamstress and enjoyed crocheting. Sister Mary Jo Piccione knew her to be an avid reader. In fact, Bernadette loved it so much, she would frequently give it up for Lent! She enjoyed playing tennis, loved California’s beaches and mountains, ball games and watching golf on television. She was a frequent visitor to Disneyland, and for those of you of a certain age, you may remember the television show Dallas … she never missed an episode.

Rarely did she miss attending the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, finding it a way to keep up on current theology while deepening her own spirituality.

Bernadette enjoyed her cat … and it was HER cat!

It was sometimes hard to keep up with Bernadette; she had a good deal of energy. Sisters Nancy Bartasavich, Mary Jo Piccione and Bernadette once visited Yosemite. Nancy and Mary Jo could barely keep up with Bernadette, who was about 30 years their senior.

She enjoyed her family and up until a few days before her death, referred to her grown nephews John and Jim as “the boys.” She loved you very, very much and those of us who knew her can assure you that she prayed daily for you and all your family. No doubt that continues now in an even stronger way.

Sister Bernadette Mary was a woman of prayer … she described her retreat days and times of prayer to Sister Kay as “wasting time with God.” Her daily routine was to pray in the Shrine Chapel before Saint Mother Theodore’s remains and then to continue her prayer for at least a half hour before the beginning of daily Eucharistic Liturgy. She nurtured her spiritual life through reading, and Thomas Merton was one of her favorite authors.

After returning from a three-month spiritual renewal program, Bernadette had a revitalized spirit and dedication that remained throughout her life.

The day before her death, she told us she was ready to meet Jesus. A bit later that day, she said, “but not today.” Well, she was correct. Her peaceful death came just a few hours past midnight on Friday, September 22.

Bernadette did take on the yoke of Christ throughout her life. And now, Bernadette, you will find rest, for that yoke is now easy and you live in the true Light. Thank you for who you have been to us. May your life continue to enlighten us.

Services for Sister Bernadette Mary took place on Wednesday, September 27, and Thursday, September 28, in the Church of the Immaculate Conception at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.

A Wake took place from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m., on Wednesday, September 27, with Vespers at 4:30 p.m.

Mass of Christian Burial took place at 11 a.m., on Thursday, September 28.

We welcome you to share your memories of Sister Bernadette Mary in the comment section below.


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  1. Avatar Judy on September 29, 2017 at 3:04 pm

    Sister Bernadette Mary knew me when I was a young nun. Although she was from the west and I belonged to the eastern province, we somehow connected and became friends. She was a good listener and could impart great advice a lot of the time without my realizing she was trying to steer me in the right direction. We remained friends over the years, even long after I left the SP’s and I always looked forward to seeing her when I would return to the Woods. I saw her only briefly this past summer, but she was still very much into knowing how things in my life were going, while volunteering little of what she was dealing with all the time. I will miss seeing her and loved her dearly. She is one of the many SP’s who helped shape me. Rest in Peace, Bernadette. I will miss you and look forward to our talks when I see you again. Love, Judy

  2. Avatar Stacey Velazquez on October 5, 2017 at 4:28 pm

    I remembered Sister Bernadette Mary Carroll at Marywood Center and met her for first job at Diocese of Orange She was nice woman , always smile , talk together with peoples for laugh . She need rest her life and go heaven for her . She was so stronger long life . God Bless

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