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Sis Pat – A true visionary

Sis Pat – A true visionary

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by R. Andrew Cummings

WHO AND WHERE are the unsung unheralded, and unnamed achievers in our society?

They exist everywhere, going about their daily routines without self-display, yet holding the tendrils of life together in our community. In a culture where politics tends to overshadow everything else, is it not time to shift the focus to the unknown and uncelebrated heroes? {{more}}

Indeed, they abound and are to be found in cultural activity, business, the media, sport, culture, the church, in the professions, farming and so on. High on my list is a lady who is like a lamp, flaming and shining through the mist, drawing our attention to the enlightened pathway which she has blazed.

There is a tendency to overstate and overrate. Not so with the flame of this article, as there is good reason for building up one who builds up people.

I scarcely know Sister Pat of Marriaqua. The shouts of acclamation are silenced, choked for an outlet to the ears and mind of the public. Celebrating her virtues and strengths ought not to be left to the hazards of my feeble thoughts and miserly expressions.

But hearing the sounds of praise and adulation from so many persons, especially Dollis (Bassy’s wife) and from Anne-Marie Lee Wilkins – the former Nun now turned nurse manager at the prestigious John Hopkins in Baltimore, Maryland, I felt compelled to write this piece. The teaching Nun, who belongs to the Sisters of St. Joseph of Cluny, hails from our sister isle of Dominica.

Instead of echoing Madonna’s popular lyrics: “I live in a material world and I am a material girl”‚ Sister Pat forsook great wealth (being from the landed gentry) social position and even political influence for a life of tireless and selfless service to her fellow man and, in particular, the youth. There is no denying that she has opened the eyes of our minds and hearts to the imperative of service with honour, compassion and vision.

For me, this is a robust and rousing challenge to my conscience and no doubt to yours.


As Principal of the St. Joseph’s Convent, Marriaqua, since in or about 1980, Sister Pat connects everyday with hundreds of young people from all backgrounds.

Apart from teaching Chemistry and Religious Education, she is wholly engaged in the multiple administrative tasks of running the school. To boot, she is actively involved in the youth ministry of her church counselling, guiding, directing and inspiring.

With revolutionary vision sometimes inviting outrage, Sister Pat provides succour for the young ravaged by unmet needs, those who experience the unwelcome companion of physical and emotional heartache; those who are dehydrated from spiritual thirst and those who suffer rejection for one reason or another. At the same time, she is forever motivating and stimulating her charges to attain highest heights in every department of life. Like a poem she repeats to them “where there is a will there is an “A’.”


Teenage mothers, unable to pursue their education elsewhere, the cast aside as well as many labeled dunce are given a sanctuary by Sister Pat to live life again. The numbers who have benefited are legion. Because Ann-Marie Lee-Wilkins of Cane Garden is my good and dear friend, I have her permission to tell her story.

Having been forced to leave school for want of educational achievement and with nowhere to turn, Ann-Marie found refuge at Sister Pat. She never looked back. Like a sheltering umbrella, Sister Pat instilled confidence, self-worth and ambition. A grateful Ann-Marie responded. Now an academic success, Ann-Marie entered nursing and upon graduating, joined the convent in St. Lucia, which provides nursing care. From there, Ann-Marie went to the University of Maryland graduating with distinction and praise. Now, she is a Nurse Manager in charge of a team of nurses at the prestigious and world famous John Hopkins University. No doubt there are several other Ann-Maries.

With concept matching conviction and precept and example combined in tight harmony Sister Pat is a spirit in action, challenged by a new vision.

Unsparing of time and energy this guitar playing Nun has built an entire new block including an impressive hall capable of holding 500-plus and a ground floor comprised of fully equipped and functioning computer lab, library and audio-visual room. Her school is known for the Agricultural Science programme, which offers a practical component in poultry and vegetable farming. A true West Indian at heart she made sure to have a pan room constructed and would sometimes give a little twitch and step to the sweet steel band music.

There are also plans afoot for a second Science lab and a girls’ home for the shut out and unwanted teenagers. The sole director of her conduct is to serve, not from a calculation of personal profit and advantage but from an inner directed and guided life – “A pencil in the hand of God”. Her enduring legacy is the creation of a value system, which enriches the spirit; emboldens the heart and nourishes the mind – all sharpening a sense of common mission, which is the goal of “ennobling our Caribbean civilisation”. Her life is an education to all of us. We thank you Sister Pat.


During the last few years before the end she showed the highest form of christian fortitude and courage – the courage to brave pain, to live with it, never to let others know and yet find joy in life.

And suddenly last Friday evening, May 20, 2005, her fruitful life came an abrupt end in a tragic and fatal road accident in Barbados. It is an end that has reduced us all to sighs, groans and tears while asking why? The answer is beyond our finite understanding despite our sometimes boastful all knowing mindsets.


Writer’s note:

Apart from the last two paragraphs the rest of this article first appeared in the Searchlight on Friday November 28, 2003. It is reproduced as a timely reminder of Sister Pat. Our hearts and minds go out to her sorrowing relatives and friends everywhere.