Sister Bernice (Catherine Raymond) King

"It was not you who chose me, it was I who chose you to go forth and bear fruit.”

-John 15:16

I come from a large family and was number seven of eight children—four sisters much older than I, and three brothers. I was a happy little child and enjoyed playing with my neighborhood friends. When I was four years old, appendicitis struck me and the doctor in the hospital told my parents that I would not live. My oldest sister, who was also my Godmother, contacted our parish priest and asked him to visit and pray over me. Soon afterwards, I began to get better and was able to go home. As I got older, I thought that God wanted something special of me.

I was very close to my mother and went to her for everything. My father was busy working to provide for our large family, although I remember several occasions when he would walk with me to meet the bus for school.

We had a player piano and I loved to sing all the old songs. As a child I loved to read nursery rhymes and fairy tales. I also loved to gather my childhood friends to put on entertainment with singing and dancing. We would decorate our garage and wear crepe paper costumes. We thought we were the "Cat's Meow."

I asked my mother if I could take singing lessons but, somehow, we agreed that I would have tap dancing lessons. So I took tap and acrobatic dancing for five years. I lived near a pond and I enjoyed winter ice skating. I loved bicycle riding with a friend and stopping off for ice cream.

I enjoyed walking through the fields and looking at the flowers and even catching butterflies. Almost every day I would visit an elderly neighbor who was caring for her garden. She told me the names of the flowers and oh, how I loved nature!

We were a religious family and I liked to go to Sunday School, but there was no room for me in the Catholic school near me. My sisters taught Sunday School and I was happy to join the Legion of Mary. I have a special devotion to Our Lord in his Passion on the Cross. I kept asking the Lord if I was being called to religious life and I even wrote a poem about it when I was in 7th grade.

I was finally able to get into a Catholic High School, and the religion classes were very special to me. I received the Religion Award upon graduation. One particular Sister who taught me in high school was very special to me. I thought she was very holy and I wanted to be like her. So every afternoon after class I went to her room to ask questions about entering with the Sisters of Notre Dame. After many questions and time spent in prayer at Mass and in private, I entered with the Sisters of Notre Dame right after finishing high school in 1952.

Several years later, one of my sisters entered with the Grey Nuns of Montreal in Lexington, Massachusetts. We were great pals, going on vacations and enjoying life together.

My very first mission was a first-grade class of 70 children. I could hardly remember their names and here I was with no one to help me teach the children to read! Thank God, they were well behaved.

The ministry that meant the most to me was ministering to the sick and elderly in Pastoral Care in two different infirmaries. I believe that God has given me the special gift of relating to the elders and the sick ones. I love to reach out to them even now.

God has given me many gifts. When younger, I would write some poetry, but during the Pandemic I began to write more poems to share with family and friends and with the residents and staff here at Notre Dame du Lac in Worcester, Massachusetts. When I get an inspiration, I have to write. I write about everything and have filled nine scrap books. Each scrap book contains 20 poems. Whenever I complete the writing of a poem, I feel a surge of joy. I stick at it until I am satisfied.

I also enjoy writing song lyrics to go for a particular time or season. I wrote the words for our Gathering Hymn and for the Recessional Hymn for our Jubilee Mass in Worcester. I also lead the singing at our Sunday Mass. On some weekdays I serve Holy Communion.

I love rides in the country and reading spiritual books. I have a singing group here at du Lac and we enjoy singing the old songs.

I also feel hope and joy when meeting so many beautiful people here at du Lac−the residents and staff. I feel great joy when my niece and nephews and friends send e-mails and call me on the phone. Wonderful connections! I am the last one in my family living on earth and it is wonderful that others are thinking of me.

At this time of Jubilee, I am especially grateful for all the ways the Lord has led me to minister to God's people. I am grateful that God has given me all these years, when at four years old I was on the brink of death. I am grateful for family and friends who are celebrating with me. At times I am overwhelmed at their kindness, their thoughtfulness and caring.

I will close with one of my poems:

Here At Notre Dame du Lac

What am I doing at Notre Dame du Lac?
I know the Lord has led me here, so this is where I park.
Oh yes, among the Sisters I'd miss so many years,
'T was only at the meetings we'd share our love and tears.
But now we live together and still minister with love.
We share God's Goodness everywhere, with smiles and gentle shove.
We pray God's blessing on our Land – to touch those gone astray.
We long for truth and harmony – democracy our way.
We bring our gifts to others, at home and yes, abroad,
Exchanging news of Notre Dame – our Internet, applaud!
The Sisters touch the hearts of all – the Staff has smiles each day,
For here at Notre Dame du Lac we share God's loving way.

-Bernice King, SNDdeN du Lac

Sister Bernice's Ministries

Classroom Teacher, First Grade, St. Gregory School, Dorchester, Mass.
Classroom Teacher, Assumption School, Westport, Conn.
Classroom Teacher, St. Rita School, Hamden, Conn.
Classroom Teacher, St. Aloysius School, New Canaan, Conn.
Classroom Teacher, St. Mary School, Branford, Conn.
Classroom Teacher, St. Aedan School, New Haven, Conn.
Classroom Teacher, St. Gabriel School, Milford, Conn.
Music and Art Teacher, Sacred Heart School, Springfield, Mass.
Activities Director & Pastoral Care, Mont Marie Health Care Center, Holyoke, Mass.
Pastoral Care, Maristhill Nursing & Rehabilitation Center, Waltham, Mass.
Volunteer, Director of Food for the Poor, Waltham, Mass.
Volunteer, “Relaxing Energy” session leader, St. Mary’s, Waltham, Mass.
Volunteer, Director of Exercise, St. Mary Apartments, Waltham, Mass.
Volunteer, Singing Groups – Notre Dame du Lac Chorus, Worcester, Mass.

Click here to watch a video of Sr. Bernice speaking about how she copes with the Covid-19 pandemic and does what she can to help others.