Meet Sister Ann Bernadette Barnes – 70-Year Jubilarian

In her senior year at Notre Dame High School, Belmont, Patricia Barnes was approached by one of her teachers who startled her by saying, “I hear you’re going to enter.” Becoming a nun was NOT in her plan, however, and after graduation, she went off to San Jose State University. During that next year, she continued to keep in touch with one of the Sisters. It was through her encouragement and Pat’s own growing attraction to a life of prayer that eventually moved her to join the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur.

As Sister Ann Bernadette, she remembers making her first vows on a Saturday, and on the following Monday she was teaching a 5th grade class at St. Joseph Elementary School in Alameda! After five years in elementary schools she was assigned to teach at her high school alma mater, where one of her students was her own sister, Bonnie (now Bonnie Fox). In 1968, she became the Assistant Principal for Notre Dame High School in San Francisco and then served as Principal from 1970-1975, and later returned to the school as Dean of Curriculum.

Sr. Ann Bernadette Barnes with an adult student graduate at the Notre Dame Education Center in Lawrence, MA.

Sister Bernie also worked with Father Miles O’Brien Riley as an associate director of communications with the Archdiocese of San Francisco and then, in 1983, she was asked to assume ever-expanding responsibilities at the newly established Emergency Housing Consortium in San Jose. There, she worked with people who were experiencing homelessness, and helped set up programs for those needing advocacy and assistance through mental health programs and employment services.

Returning to the classroom for seven years at the Notre Dame Education Center in Lawrence, Massachusetts, was one of Sr. Bernie’s favorite experiences – teaching English as a Second Language and coordinating a high school diploma program for students ranging in age from 18 to 70. “Adults are so eager to learn,” she says with a chuckle, “and there are no discipline problems!” Ricardo Franco from Colombia was one of the many adults she taught. In 2007, Ricardo wrote Sister, “My life has been changing a lot for the better, thanks to your dedication and patience … encouraging me to give the best of myself. As a result of it, I continue my education, and I am working on my associate degree! You will always be a role model in my life.”

Sr. Bernie Barnes (far right) performs with students and other SNDdeNs at a fundraiser for Cristo Rey High School.

When Sr. Bernie returned to California, she volunteered to be one of four SNDdeN pioneers to help establish Cristo Rey High School in Sacramento. She brought her lifetime of educational experience and energy to this new school, where she enjoyed teaching students and mentoring new teachers.

Other ministry assignments have included directing the sacramental program and coordinating the liturgy program for the large, multi-cultural Most Holy Trinity Parish in East San Jose, CA, from 1987 to 1992. She also served for several years on the Board of Trustees for Notre Dame de Namur University, and assisted at the Notre Dame House of Prayer in Carmel.

Sr. Bernie was a member of the Province Center community in Belmont for ten years before recently moving to Mercy Retirement and Care Center in Oakland.

A generous, multi-talented person, Sister Ann Bernadette has been committed most of her life to working on behalf of those struggling with poverty and who have found themselves on the fringes of society. “At this time of Jubilee,” she said, “I am grateful for the wide range of educational experiences I have enjoyed, the students who have enriched my life, and the co-workers who believed in the work we were engaged in.”

Sr. Bernie Barnes with her family in 2010.

Sister Ann Bernadette's Ministries

1953-54 St. Joseph Elementary School, Alameda, CA
1954-56 Notre Dame Elementary School, Chico, CA
1956-58 Dolores School, Santa Barbara, CA
1958-64 Notre Dame High School, Belmont, CA
1964-65 Notre Dame High School, Alameda, CA
1965-66 Mora High School, Watsonville, CA (Assistant Principal)
1966-68 St. Francis High School (Bishop Armstrong High School), Sacramento (Assistant Principal)
1968-75 Notre Dame High School, San Francisco, CA (Assistant Principal and Principal)
1975-76 Provincial House, Saratoga, CA
1976-80 St Columbkille School, Los Angeles, CA (Elementary Principal and Teacher)
1980-81 Notre Dame High School, San Francisco CA (Dearn of Curriculum and Teacher)
1981-82 Archdiocese of San Francisco, San Francisco, CA (Assistant Director, Office of Communication)
1982-87 Office for Human Concern & Emergency Housing, Diocese of San Jose, San Jose, CA (Associate Director & Volunteer Coordinator)
1987-92 Most Holy Trinity Parish, San Jose, CA (Sacramental Coordinator, then Liturgy Coordinator)
1993-96 Carmel House of Prayer, Carmel, CA (Staff)
1998-2005 Notre Dame Education Center, Lawrence, MA
2005 Provincial Service, Saratoga, CA
2006 Cristo Rey High School, Sacramento, CA

Sr. Bernie Barnes (second from left) with Sisters Marie Veronica Wagner, Loretta Olsen, and Ruth Ella at the Carmel House of Prayer in 1994.

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