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)
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.
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.”
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.”
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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