Sister Patrick Bruen OLC
Born February 19, 1928
Entered February 6, 1951
Final Vows December 8, 1956
Entered Eternal Life August 22, 2012
Rite of Christian Burial August 28, 2012
After a lengthy illness Sister Patrick Bruen, OLC, died peacefully at the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity Convent in Carrollton, Ohio Aug. 22 at the age of 84. Mostly remembered for her pastoral work at Catholic Charities in Corpus Christi, Sister Patrick also ministered to families at St. Pius X and Corpus Christi Cathedral Parishes as well as refugees from Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Poland.
Sister Patrick was well known for her compassion for the underprivileged and the vulnerable. She was Executive Director of Catholic Charities from 1997-2003 and following the example of Jesus (who fed the masses with loaves and fishes,) Sister Patrick based her ministry on the belief that you had to feed the hungry before you could teach them.
Sister Patrick was born February 19, 1928 in Rossport, Co. Mayo, Ireland, to Michael and Maria Hegarty Bruen. She was the youngest of six children: Tessie, Mamie, Michael, Liam and Ellis. She was reared on the Bruen farm and educated in the school where her mother taught.
After graduation, young Catherine was employed by the Irish Civil Service for several years before deciding at the age of 23 to leave Ireland to join the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity in Dallas, TX in 1951. She professed her final vows on December 8, 1956 and lived them out in the mission of the Sisters, caring for and ministering to girls and young women who were facing challenges in their lives.
Overtime the Sisters began to extend their mission to the various ministries which involved them directly, as well as to supporting diocesan and other religious groups using the extensive facilities that had previously been built for their founding ministry. Sister Patrick was twice elected Superior by the community of sisters, during a time of change and restructuring for the Community.
After having served two terms as Superior, she made a retreat at a retreat house in Sarita, TX, located in the Diocese of Corpus Christi. It was at the end of this retreat that Bishop Drury sent Msgr. Robert Freeman and Msgr. Richard Shirley to visit her with an invitation to do pastoral ministry at Catholic Charities and Corpus Christi Cathedral Parish.
At Catholic Charities she organized a group of women volunteers to assist in the work at the social service ministry, not the least of which was preparing hundreds of sandwiches every morning to feed the homeless who came to the Charities’ Office looking for something to eat. Sister Patrick also began the distribution of food to households that were facing empty pantries and hungry families. With the addition of Sister Patrick and later Sister Therese Blanchette who had joined her in Corpus Christi for physical recuperation, Catholic Charities expanded their services to the poor and needy in the general population.
One significant area that became a new focus for their work was ministering to numerous refugees that came to the Diocese from Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Poland. Besides arranging for husbands and fathers to find jobs in local restaurants washing dishes and doing other kitchen work, the sisters rose before dawn every weekday morning to pick the men up from their temporary homes, drive them to work and take them home at the end of the work day.
Several evenings a week they would drive them to and from Rockport for “English as a Second Language” classes, all the while working at Catholic Charities in-between shuttling workers to work, home, classes and home again. Both of the Sisters sought out more permanent homes for these refugee families. They helped to enroll their children in school and acclimate themselves to life in their new home.
During this time, Sister Euphrasia Ling joined the Sisters and began work as Sacristan at Corpus Christi Cathedral and in the parish office. When they were not at Catholic Charities they were serving at the parish in various pastoral ministries, principally attending to the homebound, parishioners in nursing homes and visitation of the sick in hospitals.
Shortly after Msgr. Shirley was assigned as the pastor of St. Pius X Parish, he invited the sisters to continue their work with him in ministering to about 1500 families. While still continuing their work at the parish and at Catholic Charities, “Sister Pat,” as she was often called by parishioners, was later asked by the Bishop to be the Director of Catholic Charities.
She oversaw the extended growth of new programs that reached out to many individuals who were elderly and unable to personally care for the management of their homes or finances, immigration services, professional counseling for those on limited incomes, reorganizing emergency aid, assisting families facing foreclosure of their homes and outreach to the other parts of the diocese.
Looking to the future funding of Catholic Charities’ mission, she organized the first annual fundraiser, “An Evening with the Bishop,” and later featured a prominent Cardinal who delivered a challenging speech to the packed dining area at the first and subsequent fundraisers. The funds were designated both for the operations, as well as for an endowment fund for Catholic Charities, raising more than $300,000 every other year from a broad base section of the community, Catholic, Protestant and Jewish workers and attendees.
Linda McKamie, now director of Catholic Charities spoke of her predecessor, as being very compassionate and very “tight” with donations. “Sister Patrick treated every nickel as if it were a $1000. She believed she had a responsibility to the donors. She set a precedence on how we do things today. “She was a wonderful businesswoman and new exactly what she was doing,” McKamie said.
Sister “Pat” continued her ministry at St. Pius as well, establishing a Widow’s Ministry, visiting and ministering to the sick of the parish, filling in as a substitute when a volunteer receptionist was unable to answer the door and telephone. She organized an annual rummage sale to assist with the cost of remodeling the kitchen in the parish hall and other projects.
After working about twenty-eight years at Catholic Charities, the Corpus Christi Cathedral and St. Pius X Parishes, she felt the need to retire and return to her community in Dallas, but after only a year she decided to return to the parish and pick up where she left off.
She was beloved wherever she served, as were Sister Therese and Sister Euphrasia, during the years they worked in the Diocese and the two parishes.
Sister Patrick made a significant contribution to the ministries of the diocese and the two parishes where she served. The bishops, priests, deacons, religious women in consecrated life and laity who labored with them in this part of the Lord’s vineyard were are well aware of the lives they touched over the years and are grateful to the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity for allowing them to continue the work of Jesus in our midst.
Both Sister Therese and Sister Euphrasia were called to their heavenly home several years ago, leaving Sister Patrick who struggled with the lingering effects of the stroke she suffered in 2010.
A Memorial Mass will be celebrated on Tuesday, August 28 at 6:00 p.m. at St. Pius X Church, followed immediately by a reception in the parish hall.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Education Fund, Sisters of Our Lady of Charity, PO Box 340, Carrollton, Ohio 44615.