Sister Patricia Geis (formerly Sister Anna Marie)
A reading from Paul’s letter to the Colossian 3:12, 14
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”
All of the virtues cited by Paul may well have been said of Sister Patricia Geis. Sister Carol Meyers notes that on the April 17, the day of Patty’s death, the quote on Mother Theodore’s calendar was “Particularly I admire two virtues: A profound humility and immense charity,” said Sister Janet Gilligan in her commentary for Sister Patricia Geis, formerly Sister Anna Marie, who passed away on Monday, April 17, 2023, at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana. She was 88-years-old and had been a Sister of Providence for 71 years.
Sister Janet continued: Apparently even Mother Theodore knew and admired our dear Sister Patty Geis. When Patty went to God, she was 88-years-old and had for 71 years lived a joyous and committed life as a Sister of Providence.
Patricia Jane Geis was born in Chicago on Dec. 14, 1934, to Henry and Alice Ciszykowski Geis. She had an older sister, Mary, and a younger sister, Rosemary. Because Mary had rheumatic fever as a young child and missed months of school, she and Patty were in the same class through high school. They remained very close all of their lives and they have been together again this past year in Providence Health Care.
Patricia’s parents separated when she was very young, so her mother had to work outside the home and the sisters spent much time with their devout Polish-speaking grandmother. Patty even learned to understand Polish although she never became fluent in it. Her mother had six siblings, and Uncle Stanley, Patty’s favorite, was like a father to the Geis family.
Patty remembers her grandmother as a very prayerful woman who “Herded us off to church even when she could not go herself.” Apparently, they did not spend all their time praying, because Rosemary says that when she was 5-years-old, Pat, then 10 at the time, taught her how to play poker and got really mad when Rosemary won.
Patricia was taught by the Sisters of Loretto at Saint Bernard School for her first four years. Then, at Saint Mark’s School, she was taught by the Sisters of Providence. Of those years, she says, “I was always drawn to the Sisters. We would go help the nuns at the convent … They were always kind and wonderful. I took to them very much.”
After graduating from Saint Mark’s, she attended Mundelein Cathedral High School. When she was a senior, one of her Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary teachers (BVMs) encouraged her to consider becoming a nun and suggested she talk to her eighth-grade teacher. Patty followed her advice, talking to Sister of Providence Ann Imelda O’Hara. The BVM who recognized Patty’s vocation must have been a bit taken aback when Patty announced she was joining the Sisters of Providence.
So, on July 21, 1952, Patricia Geis entered the congregation of the Sisters of Providence. She said, “I had never set foot on the SMW grounds before I got there to enter the congregation.” She arrived a day early and she was immediately swept into the arms of the Providence Community, clothed in the garb of a postulant and enjoying the rank of the oldest in her band since she arrived first.
Her recollections of this time are a synthesis of who she always was: “I thought things would be tougher than they were. The glove fit! I bonded with my band members right away. I wanted to serve God and I was willing to do whatever it took to do it.” A special moment for Patty was when she received the habit in 1953, a time of transformation in appearance and in spirit, that made her feel part of the community.
She chose the religious name Sister Anna Marie, made her first profession in 1955 and her final profession in 1960. She earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College in 1964 and a master’s degree in education administration from Northern Illinois University in 1971.
She began her 49-year teaching career in 1955 and ended it in 2005, with a year off for a sabbatical at Boston College. Most of her years of teaching were in Illinois, with short stints in Indiana, South Dakota and California.
She served in administration at Saint Mary Carmelite in Joliet and Saint Columbkille Day Nursery in Chicago, but her great passion was teaching young children. She loved the children and they loved her. She tells how every morning, she would give the children a chance to say something, one at a time. “They feel like they are being heard, appreciated, and loved.” When I taught with Patty at Saint Mary Carmelite, my eighth-grade class waited patiently on the steps at the end of the school day while Sister Pat gave each first grader a hug. After her retirement from full-time teaching in 2006, she took on two new ministries – literacy tutor and registrar of the records of Marywood and Providence and St. Columbkille.
Patty was not just a star in the classroom, she also had a gift of bringing people together. Under her leadership, our diverse faculty at Saint Mary Carmelite became a family. Patty got along with everyone and she appreciated everyone. As she put it, “I just treasure the memories of the beautiful people who touched my life in a special way.” Her friend, Sister Lois Ann, says she had no acquaintances; she only had friends. She was open-hearted, accepting of all she met, all stripes, all ages. She was no Pollyanna; she was realistic and perceptive, but if someone was a bit difficult or different, she would just say “God loves variety.”
Her affection was boundless and contagious, both fun and affirming. She was full of life and laughter. She loved the Peanuts cartoon, and after Sally began to call Linus, “My Sweet Babboo,” she and Sister Denise adopted this as their greeting of each other. It was not only the living who earned her attention; each morning she would avidly read obituaries, relishing the stories of people she never knew.
She remained close to her family, playing with her three nieces, Karen, Diana and Adrienne, when they were children. They called her a funster, a playmate, a good sport, always clowning. Adrienne recalled that “Aunt Pat came with our family on many family vacations when we were younger. My parents, sisters, me and Aunt would drive together in the same car to Florida. Aunt and our dad would take a raft out to dive for sand dollars for us. Aunt Pat said she was the wild one, but I found her to be very thoughtful and responsible and she always wanted to be on time. She was very smart and her mind was so sharp at 88-years-old – she was amazing.”
Patty was also adventurous all her life. She went to Ireland twice and kissed the Blarney stone. She taught Native American children in a remote area in South Dakota. She spent a summer in New York City driving children to see their mothers in prison. “It was challenging and refreshing although exhausting at times. The NY highway and bridge system, maze of traffic NY drivers – it made the Dan Ryan seem like a piece of cake.” She loved to go bird watching with her good friend Louise Augustine, and one summer they talked a group of sisters into driving through the night to bird watch at the Padre Island Bird Center.
When she was my principal in Joliet, she apparently felt everyone needed some adventure, so she kept volunteering me for various committees and workshops. I just wanted to stay home and read, but I ended up valuing and enjoying the experiences. And she did let me have a dog – to this day I am not sure why – maybe she saw it as another adventure.
Patty loved sports, especially the Chicago Cubs and Notre Dame football. She was even an unseen extra in a crowd at Wrigley Field for the making of the film “Rookie of the Year.” She also loved to go to casinos with her sister Mary, a passion that reappeared in health care when she played Bingo, eager to win candy – although she made sure she only won once so someone else could win.
The core of Patty’s life remained her faithfulness to the gospel and to her religious commitment. When religious life began to change after Vatican II, Patty accepted the challenge, although she struggled with parting with the habit she loved. “I thought I would be wearing the habit the rest of my life.” Transitional habits, shorter skirts, non-uniform kinds of clothing: These took a little getting used to. But in spirit, she was always clothed, as Paul’s letter urges, “with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”
Of the deeper and more demanding shifts after Vatican II, Patty stated: “It’s a time to recommit myself to my initial call from God and to embrace the challenges of responding to new and creative ways of living my vocation as a vowed religious in our contemporary society.”
In 2020, Patty’s health deteriorated and she came home to the Woods. She bore suffering patiently. Still positive and cheerful, she said “it’s good to be here. These grounds. These surroundings. Our spiritual life. And I have time to really step aside and enjoy everything around me.”
Her niece says of the last years of Patty’s life, “Aunt was always cheerful and fun and calm, peaceful. When we visited at Easter, last week, she wanted to go to the grotto, so we sat out there and she closed her eyes and had the sun on her face and she looked so peaceful.”
The loss of Sister Patricia Geis leaves a hole in the community of the Sisters of Providence, for we could always depend on her cheerfulness and her warmth. But we are grateful that we were blessed to have her among us. We echo the sentiments of her good friend Joanne Hannigan, who writes “I admired the warm, funny, genuine person you were, and my life will be enriched because you were a part of it.”
We can be sure that her grandmother, her mother, her niece Diana and Mother Theodore will greet Patty with open arms on this her final adventure, her transition into eternal life.
Funeral services for Sister Patricia took place on Monday, April 24, and Tuesday, April 25, at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana.
A Wake took place from 2:30-4:30 p.m., on Monday, April 24, followed by commentary.
Mass of Christian Burial took place at 11 a.m., on Tuesday, April 25.
Memorial contributions may be made in honor of Sister Patricia to the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.
We welcome you to share your memories of Sister Patricia in the comment section below.
Sister Patricia Geis (formerly Sister Anna Marie)
In Indiana: Teacher, Annunciation, Brazil (1958-64); Teacher, St. John, Loogootee (1964-67); Prayer, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods (2020-23).
In Illinois: Teacher, Immaculate Conception, Chicago (1955-58); Teacher/Principal, St. Mary Carmelite, Joliet (1967-71); Teacher, St. Francis Xavier, Wilmette (1972-73); Teacher, St. Agnes, Chicago (1973-76); Teacher, Our Lady of Hope, Rosemont (1979-80); Teacher, St. Cornelius, Chicago (1980-81); Director, St. Columbkille Day Nursery, Chicago (1981-83); Teacher, St. Dennis School, Lockport (1983-89); Teacher, St. Zachary School, Des Plaines (1990-99); Developmental Instructor, Mount Saint Joseph, Lake Zurich (1999-2000); Teacher, Santa Maria Del Popolo School, Mundelein (2000-01); Teacher, St. Charles Borromeo School, Bensenville (2001-03); Teacher, Divine Savior School, Norridge (2004-05); Registrar Marywood, River Grove (2006-18); Tutor, School on Wheels, St. Francis of Rome, Cicero (2006-18); Literacy Tutor, School on Wheels, Northlake (2018-20).
In North Dakota: Teacher, St. Bernard Mission, Fort Yates (1976-79).
In California: Teacher, St. Anthony, Gardena (1971-72).
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