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Sister Patricia McDonnell Celebrates Diamond Jubilee—60 Years Dedicated to Ministry

September 18th, 2014

Director of Pastoral Care at St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center in Smithtown, Sister Patricia McDonnell, commemorating six decades of being a nun this September. She celebrates her very own diamond jubilee. Diamond, a Greek root word, meaning unconquerable and enduring—two words that capture the essence of the tremendously graceful and dedicated woman of virtue.

The Massachusetts native, addressed as Sister Pat throughout the facility, entered the Sisters of St. Joseph of Brentwood in 1954 shortly after completing high school.

Sister Pat had a yearning to grow both spiritually and academically. As she prepped for religious life, she also studied to become a teacher at St. Frances College in Brooklyn. After earning her Bachelors Degree, Sister Pat continued her education at the prestigious Fordham University, where she earned her Master’s Degree in Mathematics. With a certification to teach grades 7-12, she devoted more than 17 years inspiring and educating young students at high schools in both Brooklyn and Queens.

Her desire to learn did not end with one master’s degree—Sister Pat went on to earn a second Masters Degree in Religious Studies from Fordham University. It was after she received her religious studies degree that she began parish work at both Our Lady of Lourdes in West Islip and St. Elizabeth in Melville. Though she enjoyed teaching youth she discovered a passion for parish work, especially as the need grew on Long Island after World War II. “As parishes grew, parents needed to be educated as religious teachers—preparing them for spirituality and prayer,” said Sister Pat. After devoting 22 years of her time to parish work, Sister Pat was certified as a Mid-Life Director and was integral to the development of the adult education programs at the parishes.

Sister Pat is a very humble and faithful individual and though she has embarked on such a jubilant time, celebrating 60 years of devotion to God, the church and its ministry—she sees no need for a fuss—simply  because ministry is her first passion. “I enjoy helping people deal with what’s going on in their life,” said Sister Pat. The work I do here at St. Catherine of Siena is the most meaningful work. I see the staff here working so hard and they are challenged by the health care issues of today—all I try to do every day is lift their spirits up by showing God’s love.”

While Sister Pat may be small in stature, her spirit is tremendously big and full of grace—and it shows every day. She is also full of a few surprises too. At the age of 39, she discovered an interest in skiing. Today, she has embraced the adventurous sport and takes annual vacations up to the beautiful and serene mountains not just to view the tranquil scenery, but to hit the slopes as well. She has even assisted with winter ski races. She also loves music and finds peace and fitness balance in the practice of yoga.

Sister Pat joined the pastoral care department at the medical center in 1996. She has ministered to staff, patients and visitors, one at a time and with the same level of compassion since the very first day she entered the facility 18 years ago.

St. Catherine’s Administration and staff honored Sister Pat at an internal celebration on Wednesday, September 17, 2014. St. Catherine’s Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer Paul J. Rowland stated, “Sister Pat assists with the very important work of this ministry—we are here to celebrate her dedication and continued pastoral guidance.”

Sister Pat simply said “thank you all for allowing me to be a part of the family here at St. Catherine of Siena—I look forward to continuing the journey.”