Proclaiming Jesus through education and Christian formation.

Sisters in Ministry May 2011
Sister Pat Lynch: A presence of joy for college students


When Sister Pat returned from St. Louis ready to lead faith formation, the community’s lone postulant left. “I didn’t have a ministry,” she said. “That’s when I went to Lawrence to do campus ministry at KU.”

She was involved in mostly student interaction at Kansas, working a 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. shift. “I had a bible study group and phone volunteers, and did all kinds of activities in outreach ministry.”

Sister Pat was a councilor on the final leadership Council for the Ursuline Sisters of Paola. She is joined here in this Jan. 11, 2008 photo with the rest of that Council, Sister Kathleen Dueber to her right, and in the back, from left, Sister Helen Smith, Sister Jane Falke, and Sister Kathleen Condry.

Earning her master’s degree at KU and ministering there for seven years turned her into a rabid Kansas Jayhawks basketball fan, and watching their games is one of her favorite pastimes. “I was in Lawrence when Danny Manning and the miracles won” the national championship in 1988, she said.

During vocation training sessions in the 1980s, Sister Pat struck up a friendship with the vocation director from Mount Saint Joseph who was also passionate about basketball, except her “big blue” was the University of Kentucky – Sister Rose Marita O’Bryan.

“At one of the vocation gatherings, I brought Sister Pat over to Desenzano, where I was living, and she and I watched the Jayhawks of Kansas spar with another NCAA basketball team into the late evening hours,” Sister Rose Marita said. “In that match-up, Sister Pat and I were of one accord — the Kansas Jayhawks. A match-up between UK and KU would find us both respectful and yet, cheering wildly for our respective team.”

Now having Sister Pat as an Ursuline of Mount Saint Joseph is “one of the marvels of life,” Sister Rose Marita said. “She has such a gentle and genuine spirit and she brings that gentleness and authenticity to one-on-one relationships as well as to the Ursuline project of community,” Sister Rose Marita said. “Her skills of deep listening are superb. Sister Pat has a beautiful honesty and an ability to ‘stay the course’ with the courage and hope of our founder, Angela Merici.”

While at Lakemary in 1982, Sister Pat was elected to the community’s leadership Council. She served in leadership for 22 of the next 26 years, until the Ursulines of Paola merged with Mount Saint Joseph in 2008.

Heather Hauskins, a junior nursing student at Emporia State and the activities coordinator for the student council at the Didde Center, brings Sister Pat a quesadilla for lunch during the Busy Bee Retreat in March.

She had just finished eight years as a councilor when in 1990 she turned down the request to continue serving. “I’d only been at KU a few years, I thought it was not the time,” she said. “Four years later, I felt very peaceful about saying yes to a leadership role.”

It was in 1994 that she was elected superior, a role she filled until 2002. The community had its centennial in 1995, but likely the largest effort of her tenure from the public’s perception was the renovation of the Paola Motherhouse in 2001-02.

The renovation offered some rebirth during a time of sadness. The day after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, Sister Karen Klaffenbach, a member of the Council, died of lung cancer at age 42. “She was one of our bright shining stars,” Sister Pat said.

Following the end of her second term as superior, Sister Pat was elected to serve as a councilor again, and she also took on the role of director of vocation and formation ministry in 2002. In 2006, she added spiritual direction to her ministries.

“Spiritual direction was something I felt called to do,” she said. “If you’re a good listener, people come to you. I wanted to learn more about spiritual direction and also to know more about God.”

Her tenure in leadership ended with the approval from Rome that the Paola and Mount Saint Joseph communities could unite. “The decision to close the Motherhouse in Paola was sort of shocking. I will never forget our Council met with the Kentucky Council, all of us in a room,” Sister Pat said. “I knew it was the Holy Spirit present, we said we were closing the Motherhouse. The decision was a life-giving experience for us, now we have all these companions. We could not have two motherhouses. We saw it as an opportunity to share our gifts, and for them to share their gifts.”

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