Sister M. Barbara Browne, CSC

(January 19, 1919 - March 11, 2013)

Word has been received of the death of Sister M. Barbara (Browne), who died at 6 a.m. on Monday, March 11, 2013, in Saint Mary's Convent, Notre Dame, Indiana.

Sister Barbara was intense about everything she did, and whether it was work or life related, there were no halfway measures for her. This highly intelligent woman was gifted in many areas but never boasted of her accomplishments. She could engage in spirited conversations on a wide range of topics and loved the challenge of an intellectual dual. Because she was such a critical thinker, she carefully explored every aspect of an issue. However, once she had convinced herself of the validity of her stance, she rarely waivered.

Sister Barbara devoted almost her entire ministry life to the field of education, spending 14 years teaching in the elementary schools of the West and 41 years in secondary education. English was her special field and she excelled as a teacher of advanced English classes. Though her students recognized her ability to help them develop their writing skills, they often felt challenged to reach the high standards she set for them. Regardless of the ethnicity or social background of the students she taught in the various high schools where she was missioned, Sister Barbara always managed to produce excellent results. Her students were so well prepared that they ranked among the best as they entered college. Many grateful students continued to keep in touch with Sister Barbara and became her devoted and good friends even in her retirement years.

Not only was she a great teacher of English, Sister Barbara also was a successful writer. Many of her poems were published in various magazines. In 1970 her writing skills were put to practical use for the congregation when she was assigned that year to be the “scribe” as a member of the regional level administration.

An avid sports fan, she cheered wholeheartedly for all of the Notre Dame teams, but the San Francisco baseball team, the Giants, was her favorite team. Sister Barbara was born in Michigan, but at 18 months she moved with her family to “The City,” as all San Franciscans called their home. Everything about “The City” was important to Sister Barbara and she proudly claimed it as her heritage. She entered the congregation from San Francisco’s Mission Dolores, the sixth and only intact mission church in the chain of 21 established by Father Junipero Serra, a great point of pride for this loyal San Franciscan.

Though very active, Sister Barbara suffered health issues that plagued her throughout her life. Her migraine headaches sometimes became so debilitating that she would have to closet herself in her room until the pain subsided; even the field of medicine could not provide relief. Motion sickness also limited her freedom. When I attended summer classes with her at the University of San Francisco, we used the city buses for transportation and many times we would have to get off the bus and walk the rest of the way because she would be ill. She took so much motion sickness medication she eventually became allergic to it. Under these circumstances many might have given up, but not Sister Barbara; she was resolute.

Much of Sister Barbara’s inner strength was derived from her deep devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. In most of her mission assignments she felt greatly privileged to be allowed to fill the role of sacristan, a duty she loved and did with care and diligence. Her daily Holy Hour before the Blessed Sacrament was an integral part of her spiritual life and provided the sustaining power she needed. She is now in the Real Presence and enjoys the Beatific Vision. She rests in peace.


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