Sister Christine Patrick
I want to welcome Christine’s family and friends and all the Sisters of Providence not physically present here in the church but present in spirit as we celebrate the life of Christine. We offer her one surviving sibling, Zoe, special love and prayer. We Sisters of Providence know how much Christine loved you, Zoe, said Sister Denise Wilkinson in her commentary for Sister Christine Patrick, who passed away on Wednesday, March 18, 2020, at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana. She was 89 years old and had been a Sister of Providence for 70 years.
Sister Denise continued: Christine’s and Zoe’s siblings have all predeceased them – brothers Bernard and Dan as well as sisters Margaret, Joan, and Sisters of Providence Sisters Ann William and Paul. We know you are present here as part of the communion of saints.
Her nieces and nephews found a beloved aunt in Christine. We are mindful of all of you and all of Christine’s family. How we wish you could be here.
Sister Marianne, Christine’s very good and faithful friend, our hearts go out to you. We love you, Marianne.
But … even given the very crisis that keeps sisters, families and friends, Providence Associates, unable to be together in this sacred space to celebrate Christine’s life, I think I know what Christ would tell us: “Offer it up to God.”
I’m sure of this because of a story her niece Rita shared. Christine was babysitting Rita and her five siblings. Christine sent 10-year-old Rita out to trim part of the yard with a handheld grass trimmer. Very warm in the sun and bothered by sweat bees, Rita went back in the house only to meet up with Christine. Rita explained why she couldn’t possibly finish her job. Christine’s response? “Offer it up to God!” We are, Christine, but it’s hard.
Eleanor Mae Patrick was born to Walter Charles and Anna Scheidegger Patrick in Indianapolis on Feb. 5, 1931. She was educated by the Sisters of Providence at St. Philip Neri Grade School and St. Agnes Academy High School in Indianapolis.
She was received into the novitiate on Aug. 15, 1950, and, on that same date, made first and perpetual profession of vows in 1952 and 1957, respectively.
She earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College and a master’s degree in educational administration and a master’s degree in education administration and supervision from Indiana University.
Christine ministered 44 years as a teacher or principal – a few times as teacher and principal – in schools in Indiana, Illinois, Oklahoma, Washington, D.C., and Florida. She also served as an aide and as health care administrator of our infirmary. Her volunteer ministries included working at Southeastern Guide Dogs and as a Home Visitor and Senior Outreach Minister at St. Joseph Parish in Bradenton, Florida.
All of these facts were important in shaping Christine’s life. More importantly, though, was the why of what she did. At the last supper, Jesus encouraged his 12 friends with these words: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.”
Christine’s belief in God carried her through the death of her parents and siblings. In particular, it carried her through the deaths of her Sister of Providence sisters. Christine thought one of her greatest joys would be to live as a Sister of Providence with her Sisters Ann William and Paul. Yet, Ann William died two years after Christine’s final profession and Paul died four years after Christine’s final profession.
This sadness stayed with Christine these many years; and that same sadness deepened her faith, her belief in a loving God. She resonated with the words of St. Paul heard in the first reading: “I consider the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us.”
Christine’s family appreciated Christine’s confidence that prayer was a powerful force for the good.
From her niece Patsy, with Christine when she died: “The memory that will stick with me forever is being blessed to be with her during her last two weeks of life. I was able to witness her strength and ultimate faith in God and God’s will and Divine Providence up to her last breath.”
From her niece Barb: “She always told me to take care of myself and reminded me she was praying for me. I have no doubt that her prayers helped sustain me through difficult times.”
From niece Julie: “Aunt Christine was a very prayerful person. When I first called to tell her that I had met the man I thought I would marry, she said to me in her direct way, ‘Are you sure? I have been praying that you have a religious vocation.’ Because I was just sure she had a pipeline to God, I visited Church for three days trying to discern God’s will for me before I accepted my husband’s proposal. We will celebrate 57 years of marriage in June.”
Her nephew Jim described her as “deeply spiritual,” and her nephew-in-law Bob as “the best pray-er I know.”
Sister Marianne told me that Christine had a great devotion to Mary, the mother of Jesus. She loved the prayer of the rosary and prayed the rosary daily. Most of us may not know that Christine prayed what she called the Hurricane Novena every year – June 1 through November 30. All who might be or were caught in the hurricane’s path were remembered and prayed for during her Hurricane Novena.
Christine brought the fruits of her prayer life to her ministries. She gave to each ministry her gifts and talents, her qualities of directness, determination and tenderness.
In her career in education, Christine taught every grade from second through eighth. Christine’s last ministry as principal in a grade school in Bradenton, Florida, elicited this comment from one of our sisters: “I was in awe … that she could walk into a school in shambles and see exactly what it could be in five years. Her board, her teachers, her janitors caught the vision and became part of the transformation.”
Christine treated all equally and set high standards in regard to study and good conduct. She expected adherence to her standards of excellence from students, teachers and parents. As we all know, Christine could be described as formidable, a force to be reckoned with.
Marianne shared a great story that illustrates this. During the time she was principal at St. Joe’s in Bradenton, she formed a professional relationship with a parent of one of the students. This gentleman was one of the most generous benefactors of the school.
He and another father of a student wanted their sons to be granted early dismissal so that the boys could participate in a Pop Warned Tournament. These two grown men, both very successful business men, flipped a coin on their way to Christine’s office. The loser had to ask Christine for the permission. Formidable and fair – a great combination.
Several of Christine’s friends and family remarked on her humor. Her niece Donna related that Aunt Christine made it very clear that she liked dark chocolates. Each year, Donna and her husband’s birthday gifts to their aunt was a box of dark chocolates and a dollar for each year. Just last year, they delivered the gifts. Christine opened the box to make sure the chocolates were dark. She then looked at the check and said, “You owe me $2.” Donna had gotten Christine’s age wrong. Needless to say, Donna and her husband paid up – immediately.
Nephew Jim remarked that Aunt Christine had “a wonderful laugh … she was serious … but could be funny when she wanted.”
Christine’s niece Joan mentioned a moment when “Aunt Christine did one of her famous eye rolls.” How well we Sisters of Providence know that look …
Sister Virginia, a cousin, remembers how much Christine, then missioned in Washington, D.C., enjoyed lunch with her aunts Dorothy and Stell. They loved catching up on family news. Family was always important to Christine.
For me, no commentary on Christine’s life would be complete without mentioning this quality of Christine’s life, her integrity. She lived her values with unflinching courage.
Her cousin Mary hints at how Christine lived this when Mary wrote about her visits to Christine: “our conversations were around the dinner table and thus bound by ‘dinner table’ rules.” Christine was clear – very clear – about her religious and political beliefs. Thus “table rules” for conversation were probably necessary.
Clear and committed as she was about her beliefs, she had an ability to put relationships first.
These examples stand out for me.
The first is Christine’s friendship with our Sister Kathleen Desautels. The two could ‘t have been farther apart politically, and in so many other areas – even in personality. Kathleen is a flaming extrovert. Christine was not. This was abundantly clear at Congregation meetings. Both women spoke their truths candidly.
But for all their differences, they had an authentic affection for each other. Upon Christine’s death, Kathleen wrote: “I’m not sure how we became friends What I do know is that she has been one of those friend-gifts that living in a religious community often surprises us with.”
This next example if personal. I hesitated a long time before I decided to include it, but I’m going to because it highlights who Christine was for more people than just myself.
When I was in elected leadership, I was part of a decision very hurtful to Christine. It was one of those decisions that no one feels good about. Again, Christine’s response came from her sense of integrity, her sense of fairness. I never felt her disagreement was rooted in opinion or taking sides. I recognized it as rooted in her values. For a couple of years, our relationship was marked by respect for each other but it was very strained.
Along came a community meeting. I can’t remember if it was one of our General Chapters or one of our annual summer meetings. I don’t even remember the issue – but I’m pretty sure it was whether or not the Sisters of Providence would issue a corporate statement publicly declaring our objection to the death penalty.
I do remember that Christine was seated several tables away from me but in my direct line of sight.
The question was called: “The Congregation of the Sisters of Providence will issue a public statement delcaring our objection to the use of the death penalty. All in favor indicate by raising your hand.”
I saw a sea of hands. I thought everyone in the room had voted in the affirmative. Then the facilitator asked for those who objected to raise their hands. Again, I assumed no one would.
But then I saw Christine with her hand raised. The only hand raised on objection. I was stunned – not by her stance, not by what she believed. I was overwhelmed by her courage.
We took a break right after the vote. I beat it over to Christine to tell her how moved I was by her courage. We had a conversation – not about the death penalty – but about mending our relationship. From that day one, we began a wonderful relationship – putting the past behind us and moving into a new moment. What a gift.
Christine chose to bring her uniqueness to the Sisters of Providence. She chose to live her life according to the Constitutions of the Sisters of Providence.
Article 5 of our Constitutions is titled “Call to Community.”
Let me read it as part of our celebration of how Christine lived as a Sister of Providence
Call to Community
This particular Congregation is called into being by God to participate as a community in extending the providential designs of God to all creation. The sisters work to build community since its continuing call into being depends upon each one’s affirmative response. Community is formed by faith, hope and love lived not only in moments of light and peace but also in the pain and darkness of human existence.
Christine, we celebrate you for all the times you called the community into being. We thank you for the times you lived community not “only in times of light and peace but also in pain and darkness of human existence.”
Rejoice in living in the fullness of life, in light and peace!
Rejoice that the words of Jesus are fulfilled for you: “In God’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself so that where I am you may also be.”
Rejoice, Christine. Rejoice!
Funeral Liturgy Outside Mass for Sister Christine took place at 11 a.m., on Friday, March 27. It was closed to the public.
We welcome you to share your memories of Sister Christine in the comment section below.
Sister Christine Patrick
In Illinois: Teacher, St. Mel-Holy Ghost, Chicago (1952-63); Teacher, Maternity BVM, Chicago (1956-57); Teacher, Maternity BVM, Chicago (1957-58).
In Oklahoma: Teacher, Immaculate Conception, Tulsa (1953-56).
In Indiana: Teacher, St. Margaret Mary, Terre Haute (1958-61); Teacher, Sacred Heart, Whiting (1961-62); Teacher, St. James, Indianapolis (1962-65); Teacher/Principal, St. James, Indianapolis (1965-69); Principal, Middle Central Catholic, Indianapolis (1969-77); Administrator/Middle School Principal, Central Catholic Education Complex, Indianapolis (1977-78); Infirmary Aide, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods (1982-83); Administration Health Care Facilities, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods (1983-89); Principal, St. Edward School, Lowell (1989-94).
In Washington, D.C.: Principal, Dunblane (1978-82).
In Florida: Principal, St. Joseph Catholic School, Bradenton (1995-2004); Volunteer, Southeastern Guide Dogs, Palmetto and Sarasota (2004-07); Volunteer, Southeastern Guide Dogs, Palmetto (2007-12); Home Visitor, St. Joseph Parish, Bradenton (2007-12); Volunteer/Senior Outreach, St. Joseph Parish, Bradenton (2012-20).
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