Home » Obituaries » Sister Betty Donoghue (formerly Sister Clare Patrice)


Sister Betty Donoghue (formerly Sister Clare Patrice)

A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Matthew:

Jesus said to his followers: “When the Messiah comes in glory, together with all the angels, the Messiah will sit on a glorious throne. Then the Chosen One will say to some, ‘Come, O blessed ones of God, inherit the realm prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then those who were chosen will answer, ‘When did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 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 25:31, 34-45)

Sister Betty Donoghue

Directly related to this Gospel passage is the favorite memory of Ann Casper, SP, about a story Betty told on herself: When Betty was a nurse’s aide working primarily with sisters with varying degrees of cognitive issues, Sister Clara, who had a rather severe cognitive loss and who said very little, was crying out “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.” When Betty entered the room, she said, “Sister Clara, I’m not Jesus, but may I help you? Back came a quick reply, “If you’re not Jesus, who is?”

Our sister Betty was born on June 5, 1937, in Melrose, Massachusetts, to Jeremiah and Elizabeth Geary Donoghue and was baptized Elizabeth Ann, said Sister Paula Modaff in her commentary for Sister Betty Donoghue, formerly Sister Clare Patrice, who passed away on Dec. 1, 2020, in Terre Haute, Indiana. She was 83 years old and had been a Sister of Providence for 66 years.

Sister Paula continued: Sister Betty entered the Congregation on July 22, 1954, and was given the name Sister Clare Patrice. She professed final vows on January 23, 1962. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Saint Mary of the Woods College. Of her 66 years as a Sister of Providence, she ministered as a primary teacher for 19 years in Indiana, Illinois, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire. In 1976, she moved from education to health care. As a certified nurse’s aide, she ministered at the Motherhouse Infirmary for the next 25 years. Retiring from this position, she served in Providence Health Care as a Minister of Care, visiting, supporting, and praying with residents until the week before her death.

Sister Betty is survived by nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by a brother, Jeremiah, and sisters Jane Donoghue and Nancy Butt. We offer our deepest sympathy to her nieces and nephews, her co-workers and friends, and most especially to her one remaining band member, Carolyn Kessler, SP, and to Betty Hopf, SP, her primary health care representative who was with Betty when she died. Betty Hopf was untiring in her care for Betty each time that she was in the hospital. During Betty’s last hospitalization, Betty checked with the doctor regularly to ensure the best possible care for her.

Sister Betty Donoghue and Sister Jane Bodine

Immediately after the announcement of Betty’s death, various spontaneous comments began to appear on email. To quote just a few:

From Sister Dorothy Rasche: “I imagine she is having a grand reunion with her beloved inmates in heaven. May she continue to minister to inmates on Death Row here below until the death penalty is no more!”

From Sister Jeanne Hagelskamp: “I was thinking the same thing! She can advocate from heaven now!”

From Sister Mary Mundy: “One of our strongest women who is being rewarded for all of her work for justice!”

From Sister Rosemary Nudd: “She is where death will be no more. May she continue to advocate for when the death penalty will be no more. Betty, rest in power!”

From Sister Betty Hopf: “What a blessing it was to be with Betty when she died. She died very peacefully. We tried so hard to get her back to the Woods to die there…”

Betty’s love for her family is evident from the memories of her niece Clare Pappagallo: “Our memories are few as she did not come back this way often. But we managed to stay connected and she never missed a birthday. Even when her nieces and nephews had kids she remembered their birthdays too! And every card had a prayer or an article that she thought might be of interest. She also managed to drop some sports knowledge … Humble. A woman of few words with a touch of sarcasm.”

Betty’s great-niece, Lauren Donoghue, also had joyful memories. Lauren especially recalled the visit of some of the Donoghue family to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods during the summer of 2017, the 50th Jubilee of her cousin by marriage, Danielle Sullivan. Lauren stated: “It was a special time and allowed us a glimpse into the life Aunt Bet built (at Saint Mary’s) and the passionate work she’s been a part of. We think she enjoyed showing us around and introducing some of her Boston family to her sisters. … (I)t also helped show how she shared with us a favorite Donoghue family trait — a great sense of humor! Aunt Bet’s ministry with death row inmates inspired us. She was fearless and selfless in her love and compassion. Her example of loving others will be one we hope to carry on in our families and communities.”

Sister Betty Donoghue all decked out as Santa’s helper

As we noted previously, Betty was active until the end of her life. Completing a ministry information sheet for archives in January of 2012, Betty listed her activities outside of her health care ministry as follows: prison, Pax Christi, centering prayer, book discussion, Eucharistic minister, and lector. Betty was engaged in Volunteer Ministry in Mother Theodore and led the Rosary in the health care chapel right up until the day she fell and broke her pelvis leading to her death from congestive heart failure on December 1.

Sister Josephine Bryan shared fond memories of the years when she ministered with Betty in health care. She described Betty: “an Easterner, frail, small in stature … who listened more than she verbalized …” Jo also noted Betty’s care for Sister Clara Sears: “… Betty loved her with a sense of healing dignity. Not used to feeling any worth, Clara was a challenge but Betty walked her into eternity with a sense of well-being … Betty was smart, read lots of spiritual books, …and shared with others her inspirations from reading until this past year when she found reading a challenge.”

Sister Betty Hopf gathered impressions of the health care staff with whom Betty ministered. The thoughts of some of them follow: “You always felt like you were an equal with her — like part of the team … She never made you feel like you didn’t know anything … She had a gracious way of dealing with the difficulties the staff had. She would say, ‘It will be ok; you’ll get used to it,’… If we tried to get away with something, she would say: ‘Don’t pull that card.’ She used to say, ‘This is my calling. This is what God wants me to do.’ She did everything from her heart and for the love of the Sisters. She knew everything about every resident in 2 North. The Sisters there admired her and respected her … She had the magic touch with some of the Sisters and could get them to do anything. She definitely knew how to relate to Sisters with dementia. She was very humble about it all and so unassuming. She was funny about everything … She was an ‘all or nothing’ kind of person. She could be compassionate and adamant at the same time. When she made up her mind about something, she would do it. She was very attentive to details. She was a very spiritual person and looked out for the spiritual needs of the Sisters.”

Sister Rosemary Schmaltz recalled her teaching days with Betty. She noted: “Betty enjoyed teaching but felt that she did not do as good a job as the children deserved. She told me that she wished she could teach half days and have the other half to prepare.”

Providence Associate Lorrie Scheidler declared that she first met Betty in 1982 when both of them were involved in the Pax Christi group. Some of Lorrie’s memories of Betty are as follows: “Her kindness was evident over the last 35-plus years at the many cards, articles, and well wishes I received from her. This included birthday cards, Christmas Cards, Congratulation Cards, and articles she thought I might like, and ones that supported me in my work life, married life, and motherhood. Her influence in my life was that of a woman behind the scenes. The love and acceptance I felt from her went a long way in building up my confidence and self-esteem. She strengthened my faith life by knowing that ‘we are the church’ and sharing that message. Betty was humble, a true servant, and a lover of all that was good. I enjoyed her sense of humor…When My second grandchild was born with medical complications, Betty sent a holy card with a beautiful prayer and I believe a relic of a saint. All I know is that I was so touched to see it over Nora’s bed in the NICU. Again, a simple, but a profound gesture.”

Providence Associate Rosaline Secrest an associate and another member of Pax Christi wrote of her relationship with Betty: “I have struggled to find a story, a comment, a tribute that would be adequate to tell of our love of Betty. (She) began coming to our home for the group picnic. That’s when my husband got to know Betty, and they hit it off. Betty with her dry sense of humor, and Harry with his foolish teasing became friends. Betty always asking “How’s Harry?” with her Boston accent and Harry smiling at any reference to Betty. Harry came with me one night for Taize when I was reading, but he didn’t want to sit up front with me. It was Betty who came to sit with him and help him to feel comfortable. Over the years when she wasn’t well, we visited her in Providence, and when we received the news yesterday of her death, we both cried … Yes, Betty was all the things others will say about her: so dedicated to social justice, so well-read, always suggesting articles and other sources, so helpful, so considerate, so humble — all of this and more. But the important thing for us was she was our Friend.”

Today sisters offer hospitality to guests in Owens Hall, at left. Below, Jolene Brackey, right, shown here with Sister Betty Donoghue, stays in Owens while visiting a death-row inmate.

Sister Carolyn Kessler revealed that she is the only remaining member of Betty’s original band. She recalled that although Betty did not like to travel, she accompanied her other band member, Sister Mary Rita Griffin (RIP), and Carolyn on three memorable trips. Carolyn stated that she admired Betty’s “deep spirituality.” Recalling that Betty had two aunts who were Sisters of Providence, Sister Mariam Patrice, and Sister Agnes Margaret, Carolyn stated that the main crucifix in the Church of the Immaculate Conception was a gift from the Donoghue family.

In conclusion, finally, being Betty’s second health care representative, I want to say that each time that I met her in the hall these past few months, I did not want to leave her. I believe that I sensed that she was on her way home. I begged her to assist me in creating this commentary and she did, right up until the last word.

So rest in power and in peace, dear Betty. We know that your spirit moves and continues to love among us.

Funeral services for Sister Betty took place on Wednesday, December 9, 2020, in the Church of the Immaculate Conception.

A Virtual Wake took place at 10:30 a.m., followed by Funeral Liturgy at 11 a.m.

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

Memorial contributions may be made in Sister Betty’s honor to the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.

Complete list of Ministries

In Illinois: Teacher, Our Lady of Sorrows, Chicago (1957-58); Teacher, Immaculate Conception, Norwood Park (1960-63); Nurses Aide, Norwood Park Home, Chicago (1980-81).

In Indiana: Teacher, St. Mary, Lafayette (1958-60); Teacher, St. Philip Neri, Indianapolis (1963-69); Nurses Aide Infirmary, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods (1976-80); Nursing Assistant, Health Care Services, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods (1981-2001); Local Coordinator for Health Care, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods (2001-2002); Minister of Care, Ministry of Care, PHC, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods (2002-2016); Volunteer/Ministry of Care/Residential Service, PHC East West, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods (2016-2020).

In New Hampshire: Teacher, St. Mary, Rochester (1969-74).

In Massachusetts (Teacher, St. Patrick, Stoneham (1974-76).

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  1. Avatar Sister Connie Kramer on December 3, 2020 at 9:14 am

    Sister Betty has always been one of those special SP’s that I wanted to be like when I grew up. I have always been inspired by her kind heart and gentle spirit that affirmed everyone she encountered in whenever she could. May she read in peace from her labor in Christ’s name.

  2. Avatar Rebecca Caldwell on December 3, 2020 at 9:43 am

    Iam sad my old friend that we won’t be seeing each other again in this world.I know your basking in glory of heaven. I will miss you everyday that I walk into PHC. Will always remember everything you taught me over the years and carry it with me rest of my life. James says thank you for all bananas over the years.We both loved you so much.

  3. Avatar madonna on December 3, 2020 at 10:58 am

    Thank you so much for your posts. Thank you for always including the places Sister taught or served. May Sr. Betty rest in peace and the angels take her to paradise.

  4. Avatar Bert Richey on December 3, 2020 at 10:12 pm

    Sister Betty was one of the first sisters that train me as a nurses aid back on 2 north as I was a young inexperienced girl I am ever so thankful for her she taught me so many things lm so blessed to have been with her thru out these years if ever there was an angel it was her so kind caring giving unselfish she was loved by many I’m heartbroken heaven gain one of the best love and miss you may you rest now

  5. Avatar Becka Cross on December 4, 2020 at 4:04 am

    Sr Betty was such an inspiration. She did not complain, and was always sure to brighten your day. She will be missed by all who knew her.

  6. Avatar Patrick Naughton on December 4, 2020 at 10:40 am

    I met Sister Betty when she taught at St. Philip’s in Indy. She taught my younger sister, who thought she was one of the kindest teachers ever. I kept in contact with her for some years and have some great memories of her. I will always remember her selfless acts of care and her gracious personality. Rest in peace!

  7. Avatar SHIRLEY THOMAS on December 5, 2020 at 3:31 pm

    I met Sister Betty when I had cancer. She always made me feel there was hope for the future and that she personally cared about me. She never forgot my name. When my husband was very ill she saw me in the hall of the hospital and came and prayed with me for his recovering. That meant so much to me and I think God heard her prayer as he is still with me. I don’t know if there is a heaven but if there is, I know she is there. Thank you Sister Betty. You will not be forgotten nor will your acts of love and kindness.

  8. Avatar Elizabeth Bormann on December 6, 2020 at 11:34 am

    Sister Betty was one of my dearest friends. We shared joys and sorrows. Loved her humor and directness. Betty told “it as it is”. She had a great love for the Sisters of Providence, especially those in health care. She often sent me articles relating to social justice. Appreciated her great love and loyalty to me.

  9. Avatar Cindy Bown on December 9, 2020 at 10:48 pm

    Sister Betty. Thankyou for your Friendship and for Your ministry to fight for the Death Penalty. You were the sweetest. Lady. I remember Sister Betty driving Me to the Prison to see My Son She drove very fast she didn’t want Me late for My visit. Thankyou Sister Betty I will miss You My Friend

  10. Avatar Dwayne H. Carter on December 16, 2020 at 7:05 pm

    I knew Sister Betty as Sister Clare Patrice as my first grade teacher at St. Philip Neri here in Indianapolis , lost contact with her till around 2016 when my Mom saw an article about her in the Criterion, A Catholic newspaper that is circulated in Indiana , I sent her a email, and she wrote back to me Religiously especially around the holidays , she was one of the first to correspond with condolences when my Dad passed in 2017. i was informed of her passing just today when a Sister Betty Kopf wrote to inform us she passed only 4 days before she received our Christmas card . I am saddened to hear of her passing , but as we are always taught , she served her life doing what she enjoyed , and she is home with God now , will feel NO further pain , and WILL live in the house of the Lord forever.

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