When Mary Pat was in elementary school she often thought of becoming a Sister. She was taught by the Holy Cross Sisters at St. Matthew School in San Mateo, Calif., and felt loved and cared for by them. She then attended Notre Dame High School in Belmont, Calif., and continued to consider religious life. Her Latin teacher, Sister Madeline Spencer, was a great support to her during those years. Mary Pat entered the Sisters of Notre Dame in 1960.
Sister Mary Pat began teaching at Guadalupe Elementary School in Santa Barbara, Calif. where she loved her 52 seventh graders. She was then assigned to teach at Notre Dame High School in Alameda, Blanchet High School in Seattle, and Notre Dame High School in Belmont.
After studying for her MA and PhD degrees at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, she joined the faculty of College of Notre Dame (now NDNU) in Belmont. While teaching religious studies classes, Sister Mary Pat was known for challenging her students to find what is important in their hearts and to be true to those beliefs.
Dr. Miriam Zimmerman, NDNU Professor Emerita recalls, “She was a blessing to me for her ability to listen to students without judging. My ‘spiritual IQ’ ratcheted up a few notches each day as I entered my office next to hers.” Through the paper-thin walls between offices, Dr. Zimmerman heard the relief in students’ voices as they came to Sister Mary Pat for advice, academic help or emotional support.
Retired from NDNU now, but still a teacher, Sister Mary Pat has learned Spanish and teaches it at Fair Oaks Senior Center in Redwood City, Calif. She also teaches at the Catholic Worker English Language School in Redwood City. Sister Mary Jane Floyd, the former director of the language school, said, “Sister Mary Pat came to teach English but she has done much more than that. For months she was “auntie” to a homeless little girl and guided her into a new school while she helped the girl’s family find a home. Another time, after she sent requests to neighboring parishes for volunteer teachers, the phone was soon ringing off the hook!”
Sister Mary Pat also works with Notre Dame Associates in California. She describes her involvement with them as “a source of new life within me.”
Sister Mary Pat’s heart has opened to the diverse world of women and their struggle for justice. On the occasion of her 60th anniversary as an SNDdeN, she said, “Jubilee is a time to celebrate who we are as Sisters and how far we have come on our journey. It is also a time to recognize that for women in the world today there is still a long journey ahead in our search for justice.”
Faced with the current realities of climate crisis, immigration injustice, economic inequality, and more, Sister admits that there are times that she can feel depressed, anxious, angry and fearful. “But deep within me,” she says, “I experience a universal goodness that is able to confront all threats. Where did I learn of this goodness? I learned of it from the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, past and present, who support me in my struggles to confront my daily challenges with resilience.”
Sister Mary Pat's Ministries
1964-67 Guadalupe Elementary School, Santa Barbara, CA
1965-67 Notre Dame High School, Alameda, CA
1968-70 Blanchet High School, Seattle, WA
1970-71 Notre Dame High School, Belmont, CA
1987-2003 Notre Dame de Namur University, Professor of Religious Studies and Chair of the Department of Religious Studies
2003-Present Catholic Worker English Language School, Redwood City, CA