Sister Patricia O'Brien

August 30, 1935 - November 26, 2017

(S. Robert Margaret)

Capable, alert to needs, eager to help

Patricia O’Brien was born August 30, 1935, in Evanston, Illinois, the first child of Robert and Margaret (Reuter) O’Brien. Eventually, there were sisters and brothers to complete the family.

Due to their father’s work, the family moved from Illinois to Kansas City, Missouri, where Patricia first encountered the Sisters of St. Joseph. When she graduated from St. Teresa Academy she considered a religious vocation. Her spiritual director suggested that she wait a year to be certain. She attended the College of St. Teresa for a year and then entered the Sisters of St. Joseph, September 15, 1953. On March 19, 1954 she received the habit and the name Sister Robert Margaret.

S. Patricia began her years of ministry in March 1956 right after finishing the novitiate. She was sent to St. Margaret of Scotland in St. Louis to fill in for a primary teacher who was ill. That same year in April, she found herself in Wisconsin for the last three months of the school year at St. Joseph Academy, filling in for someone who was ill. This time it was teaching high school students. S. Patricia felt a strong call to the medical field and was given permission to study at the College of St. Teresa, earning a bachelor’s degree in biology (1958).

After finishing her student training at St. Joseph Hospital (Kansas City) she became a lab technician there (1959). In 1961, she began nine years of ministry as laboratory supervisor at St. Joseph Hospital, Hancock, Michigan. Next she was a laboratory supervisor at St. Joseph Hospital in Kirkwood, Missouri (1970), until becoming a lab technologist at St. Joseph Hospital (Kansas City) in 1972.

Deciding she needed further education, she became a student at Oklahoma University in Tulsa (1973). She received her master’s in health care administration in 1974.

Sister Rosemary Flanigan writes: “Often when I was at Rockhurst, I would be delivery person for something for Pat and I would travel the couple of blocks to her parents' home where she was living. I didn't see her often—she would be at work, but I always thought she must feel the presence of her family as she spent those years in their home alone with the memories. I think she loved her work and loved her home and felt secure.”

S. Patricia became the laboratory supervisor at General Hospital in Kansas City from 1975 to 1977. For the next 34 years, S. Patricia served as a medical technologist, beginning at Shawnee Mission Medical Center, Shawnee Mission, Kansas (1977). Menorah Medical Center, Kansas City (1980) was next, followed by Research Hospital, Kansas City, from 1994 until she retired to Nazareth Living Center in St. Louis in 2011 due to medical problems. There she began her new mission of prayer and presence.

Pat spent many years as a member of Visitation Parish in Kansas City, Missouri. During those years she was a member of the choir, a significant group in her life. An annual highlight for her was attending the National Association of Pastoral Musicians (NPM) in the United States with fellow choir members. Sister Mary Kay Liston

Sister Roberta Schmidt shares what she described as “the absolute joy that S. Pat O'Brien experienced on the Tuesday before she was called Home ... My joy was returning to my room … to find Pat O'Brien [who was unable to speak] at my computer, her eyes glued to a video, mouthing words of the beautiful songs being performed; she was in those performances, and was visible, on the right end of the front row.” (Sister Pat Dunphy had set up videos sent by a fellow member of the choir Sister Patricia had been in for over 20 years.)

By Sister Helen Oates