“For all that has been, I say ‘Thanks’… for what is yet to be, I say ‘Yes’.”

~ Dag Hammarskjöld

The eldest of eight children, Bernadette Konwinski was born February 14, 1937 in Grand Rapids. Her parents Bernard and Lottie Przybysz Konwinski were a major influence in her life, teaching her to recognize her talents in order to be generous in her service to those in need.

Her education began at Sacred Heart School; for high school she attended Mount Mercy Academy. Drawn to the world of business, her earliest employment was in the business office at St. Mary’s Hospital while still in high school. She worked for two years after graduating, and then attended Aquinas College for two years where she worked in the bookstore. It was here that she met the Dominicans and joined the congregation in 1957.

As a novice, Bernadette received the name Sister Marie Patrice, which she later shortened to Patrice. After completing studies in Business Administration from Aquinas, she was assigned to Nazareth Hospital, Albuquerque as business manager. Recognizing her skill in the field she was sent to Xavier University, Cincinnati where she earned a Master’s in Business Administration.

She returned as administrator of Nazareth Hospital, assisting in the transfer to new owners and the new name, Vista Sandia Hospital. While in New Mexico, Sister Patrice was appointed the congregation’s representative to the South-Central Vocation Committee, a consortium serving the states of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, New Mexico, Kansas, and Missouri.

In 1980, Sister Patrice was called to congregational leadership as Councilor for Temporalities and Gospel Values. It is a fitting name as she committed herself to both the financial concerns of the congregation and the resolve to create a climate of understanding and appreciation for the dignity of the individual – embracing the Gospel mandate to love one another.

When her two terms as Councilor were completed, she was named Chancellor of the Diocese of Grand Rapids – one of a handful of women in the country to hold such a position. In this role she was the overseer of the diocesan budget, working closely with parishes on their budgets, personnel policies, and other matters. She held this position for nineteen years, serving under Bishops Joseph Breitenbeck, Robert Rose, Kevin Britt, and Walter Hurley.

At the time of her retirement in May 2007, a solemn vesper service at St. Andrew Cathedral brought an overflow crowd, not only of clerics and religious but also of parishioners who deeply appreciated her competence in matters of both business and interpersonal communications.

Sister Patrice received many awards and recognitions during her lifetime. She is listed in Who’s Who of American Women, 9th edition 1975-76 for her work as Administrator of Nazareth Hospital. She was appointed to the Aquinas College Board of Trustees in 1980 and also served as a trustee for the St. Joseph Health Care System and St. Mary’s Hospital and was a member of the Diocesan Hospital Board and the Economic Club of Grand Rapids.

She received the Elizabeth Seton Award for bringing good stewardship and vision to the Grand Rapids Secondary Schools in 1994, “with a reverence for truth, good work, a dedicated and informed spirit, and a sense of the possible.” That same year she was listed on the roster of Women of Achievement by the Grand Rapids YWCA. In 2015, she was an Honoree at the Catholic Foundation of West Michigan 20th Anniversary Celebration.

After her retirement as Chancellor, Sister Patrice had a sabbatical year during which she earned certificates in Canon Law and Theological Studies. Then she was appointed administrator of the Marywood campus complex, a challenging task as the campus transitioned through many changes.

Her classmates and companions describe her as bright, intelligent, a good student with a disposition that was unfailingly cheerful and kind. She never lost her ‘cool’, said one, and emitted a sweetness that was very real to her personhood. She was able to work with everyone from bishops to the person in the pew with a calm demeanor that invited cooperation and collaboration. Often, she was the only woman in the room as administrator and board member; about this she said she saw her role as a partner and never as a subordinate. If there was work to be done, and she could do it, she reminisced, “I just did it.” This attitude won her respect from all who knew and admired her.

Lest one think she was all work and no play, she wanted us to remember that she loved to swim, hike, cross-country ski, practice yoga and have a “fun time.” One of her favorite sayings was: “Take time to laugh, it is the music of the soul.” From first to last, she lived a life of gratitude and joyful service, thankful for what was, and fully consenting to what is to come. May the angels lead her now into Paradise, where family, friends, and God, whom she served all of her life, await her coming with joy.

Sr. Patrice is survived by her sisters Dorothy Royce and Margaret Konwinski, Grand Rapids and her brothers James Konwinski, Ted (Carol) Konwinski, Ben (Colleen) Konwinski, Grand Rapids and John (Denise) Konwinski, Ocala, FL, brother-in-law Jim Readwin; many friends and members of her Dominican Community.

I pause often to recognize the graces I have received in my life and ministries. Then with a smile and prayer I give thanks to God!