Remembering Sister Barbara (Ernest Marie) Matasci (1935 – 2023)

Barbara Matasci was a student at Notre Dame High School, San Jose, when Sister Roberta Julie asked her, "Have you ever thought of being a Sister of Notre Dame?" After an adamant "NO" she began to think about it. She had always wanted to be a teacher and she loved these great women who taught her. "Well," she thought, "I can do both. I can be a Sister and a teacher."

In 2022, Sister Barbara celebrated her 70th year as a Sister and a teacher. Her first years in the classroom sent her all along the West Coast – Los Angeles, the San Jose area, and Seattle. Then in 1964, she was named superior, principal and sixth-grade teacher at the new Madonna Del Sasso School in Salinas, Calif.  With the exception of six years as principal of Most Holy Trinity School in San Jose, she served most of her remaining career in Salinas, as principal of Madonna Del Sasso, Assistant Superintendent of Schools for the Diocese of Monterey, and, then, Alumnae and Community Relations Director of Notre Dame High School, Salinas. With her many, many friends in Salinas, Sister Barbara was just the right person to serve in this ministry.

Sister Barbara (at right) constructs a snow woman with other Sisters.

Barbara grew up in San Jose, California, in a farming family at what is now the intersection of Almaden Espressway and Blossom Hill Road. She saw that her parents did for her what St. Julie told her Sisters to do for their students: "Teach them what they need to know for life. It was a very wholesome life on the ranch," she remembered. "We were given responsibilities—feeding the chickens, gathering the eggs, milking the cows, picking the prunes. We were loved and respected. We learned to give and be present to people."

"I was amazed to be assigned to Madonna Del Sasso School. It was as if God was speaking in a very special way. My mother had worshipped at Madonna del Sasso Church in Switzerland!" She remembered Msgr. Neary, then pastor, with great respect and love. As teacher and principal she could mentor new teachers and be part of their story. "We were a community," she said. "We believed, trusted God, loved each other. We truly knew how to celebrate. It was easy to be involved as much as we wanted and were respected and appreciated." These blessings were topped off when, celebrating the parish's 25th anniversary, Father Michael Cross had the idea of a parish pilgrimage. She hadn't even thought of going and, when he started talking about relieving her of her duties, she thought she was being fired.  But no, she was being given this pilgrimage to her mother's home church in Switzerland!

Sister Barbara Matasci with students at Notre Dame HIgh School, Salinas.

For anyone who knew her, it was obvious that Sister Barbara identified deeply with the Notre Dame Hallmark calling her to community and friendship among those with whom we work and with those we serve. Former Principal Andy Bedell said, "Sister Barbara is priceless, incredible, caring. She's here whenever I get here in the morning, before going off to Mass and then coming back to work with alumnae. Everybody knows Sister Barbara. When they can't reach the school, they call her. She is the face of Notre Dame for Salinas and our school community–tireless, faith-filled and dedicated."

Reflecting on her many years, at the time of her 70th Jubilee, she said, "I feel I have been greatly blessed by the journey and I am extremely grateful."

Sister Barbara went home to her good God on May 3rd, 2023. Her funeral Mass will be held on Saturday, June 3rd at 11:00 AM PT, at Madonna del Sasso Church, 320 East Laurel Drive, Salinas, Calif.

Watch Sister Barbara, taken at the time of her 70th Jubilee, as she reflects on her life as a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur.

Sister Barbara's Ministries

1955-58Teacher, Grade 3, St. Columbkille School, Los Angeles, Calif.
1958-60Teacher, Grade 4, Mission Dolores School, San Francisco, Calif.
1960-62Teacher, Grade 5, St. Mary School, San Jose, Calif.
1962-63Teacher, Grade 7, Sacred Heart Elementary School, Saratoga, Calif.
1963-64Teacher, Grade 8, St. Mark Elementary School, Shoreline, Wash.
1964-70Superior, Principal and Teacher, Grades 6&8, Madonna del Sasso School, Salinas, Calif.
1970-76Principal and Teacher, Grades 2&5, Most Holy Trinity School, San Jose, Calif.
1976-89Principal, Madonna del Sasso School, Salinas, Calif.
1989-96Assistant Superintendent of Schools, Monterey Diocese, Monterey, Calif.
1997-98Alumnae Director, Notre Dame High School, Salinas, Calif.
1998- PresentAlumnae Director and Faculty Member, Community Relations DirectorNotre Dame High School, Salinas, Calif.