"The greater the work the more
important it is to establish it on
a solid foundation. Thus it will
not only be more perfect; it
will also be more lasting.”

St. Louise de Marillac

“Be diligent in serving
the poor. Love the poor,
honor them, my children,
as you would honor
Christ Himself.”

St. Louise de Marillac

 

Countless Blessings

By S. Joan Elizabeth Cook

In her spare time, S. Patrice Vales enjoys reading and relaxing with her cat.

Many Sisters of Charity appreciate S. Patrice Vales’ friendly, generous presence around the Motherhouse, where she serves in her current ministry. And S. Patrice’s monthly reflections on the 22nd of each month call us to appreciate the gift of Earth. For S. Patrice, these contributions are part of her lifetime of devotion to Eucharist, scripture and service.

S. Patrice’s parents, Harriet and John Vales, had complementary traits they shared with her. She thinks of her mother as her spiritual director who taught S. Patrice to be prayerful and observe religious customs; for example, to create May altars during the month of May. She remembers her mother’s diagnosis of diabetes when she was in third grade. The custom in their parish was for the parents to receive Holy Communion with their children on First Communion day. Because of the diabetes, S. Patrice’s mother was not able to fast until after Communion; she was disappointed when the parish priest did not make an exception for her. Her father was very practical. S. Patrice liked to watch him repair things around the house. Throughout her life she has relied on those lessons when she fixes things rather than call on a repair person. She remembers fondly their happy family life. Sundays were special times for all of them to enjoy family activities.

S. Patrice had two younger siblings. Her sister, Florence, was 18 months younger, and the two have always been close. S. Florence wanted to be an SC like Patrice but was hesitant to leave her mother because of her diabetes, but her father encouraged her to go ahead. After the Second Vatican Council, S. Florence transferred to the Poor Clare Sisters in New Jersey, where she lives today.

S. Patrice’s brother, Robert, was born six years after her. He served in the U.S. Navy, then worked for the U.S. Postal Service until he married Sharon. They bought a dairy farm near Danville, Ohio, and reared their five children there. Bob died in 2017. Sharon remains in Danville and is involved with the bereavement committee of her parish, preparing meals for families.

S. Patrice attended Holy Name elementary and high schools in Cleveland, where she met the Sisters of Charity. She remembers always having an inkling that she might want to be one of them. She has particularly fond memories of S. Modesta Bain, her first grade teacher, whom she remembers as very kind. And two of her high school teachers stand out in her memory. S. Mary Bernice McGrath, her junior English Literature teacher, frequently quoted Shakespeare and the Bible. And S. Loretta Marie Auer, the music teacher, who stopped her on the playground one day and said, “I think you might have a vocation.” She encouraged S. Patrice to write a letter to the Mother General. Patrice asked S. Loretta Marie to be the one to write the letter, which Patrice signed and mailed – and the rest is history!

After high school, when it was time to go to Cincinnati, her parents and grandmother drove her. They arrived on Labor Day before Sept. 8, so her father would not miss days of work. S. Patrice told God she would stay for a month. By the end of that month she had forgotten about it, and had settled into the life of an SC postulant. S. Patrice remembers that S. Camilla Smith, the director, asked her which saint she liked. When S. Patrice named the Little Flower, S. Camilla gave her a biography to read. S. Patrice learned that the Little Flower had cried when she left home, as did Patrice. So she never read another book about the Little Flower!

S. Patrice laughs when she recalls a day when the postulants walked to the cemetery for a burial. She read the sign at the entrance, “Sisters of Charity.” That was her first realization of the name of the congregation – she had always thought it was Holy Name Sisters because they were the ones who taught her in elementary and high school!

When she received the habit, she was given her own name, Patrice, in memory of a recently deceased Sister. Receiving the habit and making vows were exciting moments for her.

(From left) Sisters Florence and Patrice Vales both entered the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati before S. Florence transferred to the Poor Clare Sisters in New Jersey.

S. Patrice’s first mission was Saint Anthony School in Kenton, Ohio. The four school Sisters lived at San Antonio Hospital with the hospital Sisters. She recalls how grateful she was that S. Catherine Noreen Driscoll helped her plan the following week’s lessons every Wednesday. She needed to plan for two groups at once because each of the four classrooms had a double grade.

S. Patrice loved teaching the little children from first to fourth grades in Kenton and at St. Mary’s, Chillicothe, Ohio; St. John Baptist de la Salle, Chillum, Maryland; St. Gabriel, Glendale, Ohio; and St. Albert the Great, Dayton, Ohio. The younger students enjoyed listening to the stories that Patrice loved to tell.

After 15 years in the classroom at St. Albert the Great, she was asked to create a new position in the parish: pastoral minister. S. Patrice was happy to take this step to implement the spirit of Vatican II. She sought advice from people in other parishes, then recruited parishioners to serve in bereavement and RCIA programs, plan liturgies, visit people who were homebound or in hospitals, and work with the women’s Christ Renews His Parish weekends. The people responded eagerly to her invitations because they appreciated her service to the parish community during her years in the school. She served as pastoral minister in the parish for 15 years, until she celebrated her 75th birthday.

At that point S. Patrice and her cat moved to Cincinnati and Patrice began the next phase of her life and ministry. She tutored at Holy Family School, then S. Marty Dermody asked her to work in the Communications Office. After the COVID pandemic she began her service in the Archives, indexing and digitizing materials, and preparing pictures for display in the Motherhouse corridors. She enjoys “floating” among different offices, running errands and delivering materials throughout the Motherhouse, greeting Sisters, employees and visitors along the way.  She participates in the Earth Justice Circle, and invites all of us to reflect on the gift of Earth in her monthly Earth Day email messages.

S. Patrice observes that she finds herself more fulfilled and satisfied as the years go by. She counts her blessings daily, especially the awareness of God’s presence in her life, opportunities to watch basketball and the Cincinnati Reds, moments to read, relax and do crossword puzzles. And we all thank God for the blessing of S. Patrice among us.

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