“Where is the sister chancellor?” called out Pope John Paul II raising his hand to pause a photographic moment in the papal greeting line in Rome. It was 1990, and Sister Patrice Konwinski was visiting Vatican City with then-Grand Rapids Bishop Joseph Breitenbeck. Grand Rapids Press reporter Ed Golder wrote of the visit describing the moment in a June 10, 1990 article… “a sea of red and black parted to reveal the diminutive nun. The Pope smiled and pointed to the spot on his right — the Italian place of honor. That’s where Konwinski stood when the camera flashed.”
At the time, the Pope was aware that Sister Patrice was one of only a handful of U.S. nuns named to the position chief administrator of a diocese. Sister Patrice would serve as chancellor of the Diocese of Grand Rapids from 1988-2006.
Sister Patrice Konwinski was baptized “Bernadette” at Sacred Heart Parish, Grand Rapids, attended Sacred Heart Elementary School and Mount Mercy Academy. It was as Bernadette that she worked at St. Mary’s Hospital while still in high school and two years after.
During her college education at Aquinas College, she met the Dominican Sisters and joined the Congregation in 1957.
As she celebrates her 60-year jubilee as a vowed woman religious, few would be surprised that one of her favorite quotes is: “Take time to laugh; it is the music of the soul.” Her warmth and joyful presence has extended from Michigan to New Mexico and back again to the very community where she was born, educated, and blessed to serve.
“Through my years as a Dominican, I have proclaimed collaboration as a virtue,” says Sister Patrice. “Together with sensitivity to multiple viewpoints, I have been able to bring authentic compassion to my many administrative leadership roles: with hospital personnel in Albuquerque, with service as Finance Councilor for our Dominican Sisters Congregation, with resource expertise to bishops, pastors, and parishioners as Chancellor of the Diocese of Grand Rapids.”
In 1994, Sister Patrice was awarded the Elizabeth Ann Seton Award by the Foundation for Catholic Education of Greater Grand Rapids. As she was honored then, the words spoken continue to resonate today: “…by the fundamentals of Christian education, and by the ethos of the Grand Rapids Dominicans. you grace our shared enterprise of Christian education with a reverence for truth, good work, a dedicated and informed spirit, and a sense of the possible.” Read Sr. Patrice’s Jubilee Message