April 29-May 5, 2004
By Eileen Jevis/ SUN staff writer
Sister Patricia Schofield, OSF, Brings Her Life Experiences as She Prepares for Her Final Vows
Sister Patricia Schofield, OSF, heard the call to religious life in third grade. When she was 17, she joined the Daughters of Charity and began working with the homebound and sick. One year later however, Sister Pat decided she really wasn’t ready to become a religious and decided to leave the convent and go to college. “But I said to the Lord –– ‘I’ll be back,’” Sister Pat remembered.
Not until 1997 did Sister Pat re-join the convent to become a Sister of St. Francis. “I knew that the Lord was calling me back to go all the way,” she said. In the years since leaving the Daughters of Charity, Sister Pat earned a bachelor’s degree, got married, raised four children and four step-children and is currently the proud grandmother of 13. She says that now she feels right at home as a Sister of St. Francis. “It’s a natural thing. I feel more at home here than I did during my marriage.”
Her 87-year-old father, Arthur Brown agreed. “When Pat was in grade school she said she wanted to become a nun,” said Brown. “When she was in high school, she still felt that way. We said, ‘God bless.’ Go to it.’” Brown said that although Sister Pat left the convent after only one year, they accepted her decision to go to college and then marry. “She enjoyed her years of teaching and being a mother,” said Brown. “But now she feels that she’s doing what the good Lord wanted her to do. We are very happy for her.”
Brown understands his daughter’s past struggles in deciding whether or not to choose religious life. “When I went to college I went with the idea that I would become a priest,” said Brown. “I majored in Latin and minored in Greek. Can you imagine? Instead I’ve been married for 65 years. I have been blessed with eight children, 29 grandchildren and 27 great-grandchildren,” he said. While Brown may not have entered religious life, he is happy to report that he received his wish that his children pursue a religious vocation. His daughter Mary became a Methodist minister. “I’m covered on both sides,” he joked.
Although Sister Pat left the convent, she continued to minister and serve others. She was commissioned in pastoral care through the Formation For Ministry Program and worked in the Albany and Syracuse Dioceses. She also became a secular Franciscan and taught elementary school for 30 years in the public school system in Utica, N.Y. As a lay person, Sister Pat continued to minister to the sick and dying at Steven’s Ministry and with Hospice. “Those experiences were a natural progression for what I’m doing now,” she said. “Ministering to the sick and to those in need is a ministry of presence.” Sister Pat currently works at St. Joseph’s Hospital as a spiritual care provider and patient advocate. “God called me to be a sister –– to be a presence to others. The experiences I’ve had will assist me to be able to be that presence,” she said.
Sister Pat’s association with the Sisters of St. Francis began when she joined the secular Franciscans. “Joining the secular Franciscans was a way to serve the Lord while still married,” she said. Sister Pat’s stepdaughter, who has since passed away, was also a secular Franciscan. As a secular Franciscan, Sister Pat was able to realize her life-long dream of working with the poor in the Appalachians in Pennsylvania and Kentucky. “For three years I traveled to Appalachia with the Franciscans In Action Program where we worked for one week each summer in food pantries and nursing homes, constructing houses and ministering to the poor,” said Sister Pat. She is also a member of the Sister Mom’s Organization –– an organization started in 1998 in Kentucky by a Sister of Charity. Religious women from different communities get together to support and help one another. “There are more than 160 members in the U.S. and Canada,” said Sister Pat. “Did you know that St. Elizabeth Ann Seton was a mother?” During her years of religious study, Sister Pat continued her work as a spiritual care provider at Rosewood Heights Healthcare Center. She compared her work as a religious to that of working as a public school teacher. “You have to be flexible now. Everything continually changes,” said Sister Pat. In addition to her current full-time ministry at St. Joseph’s Hospital, Sister Pat is studying to become a chaplain. She has completed two of the four courses necessary in the Clinical Pastoral Education program.
Sister Pat has seen a lot of changes in the religious community from when she first entered at age 17. “In the past, sisters were told what profession they would be assigned to. Now, you can choose your ministry and when you are called to something you love, you can better minister to those people,” she said. “Because I’m a religious, I can devote all of my time to prayer and ministry. Prayer comes first.” For many years, Sister Pat’s marriage and children came first. She feels her life experiences will be an asset to her as a religious. “To be a sister is a constant conversion of heart,” she said. “You are always reflecting on what you can do to become closer to the Lord.” When Sister Pat takes her final vows on May 1, she will be surrounded by family and friends. She admits that one of her sons had difficulty with her plan to join the Franciscans but has now accepted it. “As your children go off on their own and move away, they have to learn that mom and dad won’t be there forever,” she said. “I’ve moved on with my life as they have. But I’ll always be there to support them, but they have to continue to grow too.”
Sister Ann Kenyon, OSF, has known Sister Pat since she came to the convent six years ago. She feels that Sister Pat’s life experiences will help her in her understanding of people. Sister Ann said that Sister Pat’s time with the secular Franciscans has instilled in her a great love of the Franciscan lifestyle that has carried her through and prepared her for living in the Franciscan community.
Sister Pat shares that strong sense of fellowship with the Franciscans with whom she works and lives. “I received an afghan from the sisters with a saying by St. Francis crocheted on it that says, ‘My God, My All.’ It is a tremendous affirmation that this is where I belong,” she said. While it took her many decades to return to religious life, Sister Pat said that the theme she lives by now is, “Here I am Lord.”