Sister Anne Patrick died July 21st, at home in Silver Spring, Maryland, after a valiant battle with cancer. She was 75 years old. Anne taught Religion at Carleton from 1980 until her retirement in 2009 as the William H. Laird Professor of Religion and the Liberal Arts, Emerita. She was a highly respected professor, teaching a wide range of courses on Christianity, including courses on Catholicism, Ethics, Liberation Theology, Religion and Literature, and Women and Religion. Anne had a gift for asking challenging questions in quiet and supportive ways, opening up new perspectives and ideas for her students. She helped shape this campus through her work on numerous committees, including the one that implemented Carleton’s early policy against sexual harassment. Even Anne’s long struggle with cancer gave her opportunities to teach all those around her about courage, faith, and grace in the face of hardship.
As a professed member of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, Anne was active in Catholic issues, including being the president and honoree of the Catholic Theological Society of America. She wrote numerous articles and three books: Liberating Conscience: Feminist Explorations in Catholic Moral Theology (1996), Women, Conscience and the Creative Process (2011), and Conscience and Calling: Ethical Reflections on Catholic Women’s Church Vocations (2013). A fourth book will be published posthumously. A more complete obituary will be forthcoming from Anne’s family.
A Memorial Mass will be held on September 10th at 11am at Annunciation Catholic Church at 3810 Massachusetts Ave NW in Washington, D.C. Cards may be sent to Anne’s family through one of her sisters, Mary Patrick, 4303 Carriage Ct., Kensington, MD, 20895. An additional memorial service will be held at Carleton on Saturday, October 29th at 2pm in Skinner Chapel. A reception will follow in Great Hall.
Anne’s thoughtful, strong, and kind presence will be greatly missed by her former students, her extended family, and her many friends and colleagues. Please hold them all in your thoughts and prayers.
Anne was such a thoughtful teacher. She was smart, kind, and an exacting comps adviser. She wanted to foster the part of her students that pushes toward deeper understanding instead of tarrying around the edges. She was capable of challenging the status quo of established ideas with grace and dignity and impeccable logic. She was one of the most genuine, dedicated people I've ever had the privilege of knowing. I was lucky to get to catch up with her at Reunion not long ago and get a signed copy of her most recent book—a fascinating read. I am so sad that her voice has no more wisdom left to give us, and I hope that she knew how richly she was loved and respected at Carleton and beyond.
What a lovely, intelligent, and gracious colleague Anne was. She certaintly set the bar high for how
to be a good citizen at Carleton! I will miss her very much!
I was so very sorry to hear of the death of my college advisor, Sister Anne Patrick, today. She was quite amazing. Her most memorable quote to me, "The poor cannot eat guilt."
She is the one who encouraged me to take courses about religions other than Christianity while at Carleton, since that would be less what I would be doing in seminary, and thus to take the Intro to Islam class that was so important to me (Thanks, Roger Jackson!).
She is the one who made me consider the importance of staying in the room when in disagreement, because then they have to keep listening to you (from her perspective as a Catholic who believed in women's ordination, I think).
She also introduced me to moo shu pork (with the pancakes! still my favorite Chinese food) when I helped her move into temporary quarters after a fire at her apartment complex.
The world is better for having had her in it, and slightly less rich now that she's gone.
As I was buzzing around seeking a major my first year at Carleton, I saw that a seminar was being offered the following fall called "Conscience and Community: Challenges in Catholic Moral Theology." It was an upper-level course, so I had to meet with the professor to see if I'd be allowed in. That's the first time I met Anne. I had only had Dick Crouter's Intro to Christianity, I told her, but I did go to Catholic school for 13 years. She laughed and said, "Oh, I think you'll be fine, probably way ahead." And that fall was when I was introduced to the tools of the craft that I still practice today. I not only took five classes and wrote comps with Anne, but I learned a great deal from her ability to combine incisive, firm commitments with kindness and true charity. Happily, moving this year to teach moral theology at the Catholic University of America meant that Anne was only a few miles away, and fortunately I got to spend time with her last month right before she entered hospice care. Despite her illness, her joy, her focus - her spirituality is the right name for it - was as present as ever. I knew she was trying to get the final touches on the collection of essays, and as I prepared to leave, I said I hoped for the care that would help her focus on what matters. She gripped my hand and said, "God's love, that's what matters." All I could reply was "Amen, Sister." May she rest in peace.
Anne was such a calming, gracious senior faculty member to look up to in my first years at Carleton and since. I'll never forget the beautiful art postcard she left each of us sitting in the faculty seats during her Honors Convo address when she retired. I only wish I had been able to study with her!
Anne's class on Religious Ethics really stands out as one of the best experiences I had a Carleton. I have mentioned her to many people since then, always conveying all she offered us. She challenged and encouraged us every day. Her devotion to offering detailed, contructive and honest criticism of papers was so helpful and very impressive given the time and care she must have spent. She was an exceptional person; the whole Carleton community was privileged to have her as a member. My sincere condolences to her family.
I met Anne at a reception in the yard of David Maitland, then Carleton's chaplain in 1980, right after we had both arrived at Carleton as new faculty members. It is a tribute to the openness of her mind and the breadth of her interests that we became good friends (indeed, she has remained one of my closest friends for all those years) even though she dedicated her life to the Catholic Church and my own perspective is completely secular. I have so many memories, so many stories, but I'll choose just a couple. It's a sign of her devotion to but flexibility about theological issues than when I noticed her wedding ring at that first encounter and asked if her husband had been able to move to Northfield with her, her answer was both humorous and thoughtful: she explained that she was a woman religious (among many, many other things about her faith I came to understand why that term is preferred), so "in a sense," she said, smiling, the answer was yes, but she saw the ring more as a sign of commitment than a mystical marriage to Christ. I remember the good sense and thoughtfulness with which she talked about questions on which she took issue with the curiate, her careful distinctions between what one should fight on and what one should let rest. I remember that when I had issues in my own romantic life despite the absence of similar experiences in hers, she was one of two or three people to whom I turned. I learned so much from talking with her and also reading her writings over all those years. I hope to share more memories when talking with former colleagues at the memorial. Yes, she lives through her work, through the students who have testified to her influence here and elsewhere, and through the many people who respected and loved her.
I took a year off between my junior and senior year at Carleton. I returned as a more focused student and lucky to arrive back in time to meet Professor Patrick. In sharing about the new faculty member, Bardwell Smith said something like "I think you will really enjoy meeting her," opening the door to a friendship I didn't know was possible between professors and students. Having been introduced to feminism 'speaking to and with' the Roman Catholic tradition partly through Mary Daly, I was prepared and eager for Anne's incarnation of that in her own strong, caring and unique voice.
Anne's quiet demenor was infused with respect for everyone. To me, it seemed stereotypically the demeanor of a woman religious, yet she constantly surprised me throughout the next 26 years. Every stereotype I had about Roman Catholic women religious, and I had quite a few, was laid to rest. Quiet doesn't capture the spirit-filled dynamo that was Anne. She saw in me things I couldn't see in myself. In my experience, she supported students as whole beings, encouraging us in academics, in social engagement with the world, and she looked out for our emotional health.
After graduating I corresponded only occasionally with her, but she answered every email whether I was sharing news or touching base about her health. She was fiercely attendant to students even when she had so many projects of her own. At Anne's retirement celebration she was giving away postcards with a painting of Navajo women weaving. This card reminds me today of how she wove the sacredness of her calling into her teaching, her friendships, her witness in the world, and her writing. Anne inspired me. I celebrate and treasure her life and example.
Sister Anne taught us Creative Writing in Senior Year at the Academy of the Holy Names. I can only echo the comments others have made on her ability to teach, understand, bring out the best in all of us. To this day, I write with great joy and am indebted to her for getting me started on a lifelong career--an avocation and a vocation which I have used to glorify the Lord's name and hopefully make life a little better for folks who are struggling. Thanks, Sister Anne Patrick. A life well-lived.
Anne was one of my most influential professors during my time at Carleton. She was the reason I became a religion major, and the reason I moved from being a staunch atheist to having a much richer understanding of religion and spirituality. Anne was so wonderful at challenging me in a gentle way, posing difficult questions that had me talking about them with fellow students long after class was over. I credit Anne with changing the direction of my personal and professional development, moving this atheistic pre-med student towards becoming a psychologist with a wholistic understanding of individuals and communities. She also awoke the feminist in me, something I had no idea that a nun could do! When I remember Carleton, Anne personifies for me the academic curiosity, strong ethics, social justice, and caring that shaped my 4 years there and beyond. With deep gratitude I remember Anne fondly, and recall her warm smile. Thank you:-)
Anne's intellect and personal dedication to her faith were a breath of fresh air. I entered Carleton a deeply spiritual person, but had lost all faith in the Christian Church. I'm sure, in many ways, it is because of Anne that I was willing to reconsider Western Christianity, and over time, Anne opened my mind, my heart, and my eyes to Christian perspectives I never knew existed. I owe much of my own personal spiritual development (and healing) to Anne's classes, and I don't believe I would be a minister serving a religious institution today if it hadn't been for the gentle persuasions of Sister Anne Patrick. She will be deeply missed, though her ministry clearly persists through the many lives she touched.
I LOVED watching Sister Anne Patrick laugh. I did a great impression in college. She laughed silently. In a circle. With both hands on her belly. Then she turned pink. It was divine. Just like her.
I was a rascal of a student. Full of pomp and irreverence. Her steadfast quietude and affection in the face of such exuberant chaos was not only calming to me, I'm sure, but those around me as well.
A couple of us once played a prank on a fellow religion major at college that involved a forged note on Sister Anne's personalized stationary...she ended up in the Dean's office. I got a nun called into the Dean's office. Like I said. I was a rascal. Confronted with the note (on which professor was misspelled) she pointed out it was most definitely not her hand-writing.
When my co-conspirator and I slunk into her office to confess our sins...Sister Anne Patrick laughed. Silently. In a circle. Then she turned pink.
What I wouldn't give for one last note on that infamous (and incriminating) stationary. One last round of silent laughter.
"The perfect is the enemy of the good," is my most cherished mantra of hers. This from the most perfect person I ever met. So full of goodness, and forgiveness, and mirth.
Laugh on, Sister.
As a Religion major, I remember clearly and fondly the several courses I took from Anne: Religious Ethics and Catholicism. In those courses, I gleaned ideas and perspectives which influenced my life work: an exposure to Liberation Theology, which deepened my sense of the global nature of poverty and social injustice and inspired my Comps essay comparing Gustavo Guttierrez and Gandhi along with a commitment to join the Peace Corps after graduation; a sense of moral complexity and grayness pervading life (the film Breaker Morant captures this beautifully), that the line dividing good and evil runs down the middle of each human heart as Dostoevsky wrote; and, looking back 30+years later, the first time I heard the idea that sexual sin is less of a problem than the "social sin" of extreme poverty, lack of education, economic uncertainty and poor access to health care.
Anne, we connected briefly in person at a past reunion (your delight was heart-warming) and via email sharing tips on how to battle cancer. You were unfailingly kind, generous, thoughtful and loving in a way equally moving and astonishing. You are loved and missed and I wish we could have had that phone conversation we talked about but that I regrettably never made happen. Thank you for your warm heart and cool mind and gentle presence. Godspeed Anne . . .
I was so sad when I learned of Anne's passing. She was really one of the key forces/people who helped spur me on to completing my dissertation (by always asking, giving me a range of U of C related stuff including a song book, scarf, and most significantly her maroon robes, telling me, "Now you'll have to finish.") Each time that I put on her robes, I think of her and feel like I carry her spirit with me. I did so most recently with the Sesquicentennial event at Carleton where I wish she could have been.
Fortunately I was able to share friendship with her over time, not only when my office was kitty corner to hers but also because I visited her several times in Washington DC going out to breakfast with her at a local Salvadoran place and more recently having pancakes with her in her apartment as we discussed how to eat for health. I was and am truly inspired by her female supportive and centered vision of Catholicism and carry her vision with me as a form of hope. I thought of her and wished for her company and reflections when I visited my childhood friend in Lourdes at a cloistered nunnery this summer. I feel so fortunate to have known Anne and been able to see her home in DC and hear the stories that accompanied the art that hung on her walls and her vision for how the world and her faith could be. You are deeply missed.