Remembering Sister Catherine Panetta (1926 – 2023)

In 1926, Mary Panetta was welcomed to her family home in Dorchester, Massachusetts, as the first girl after five boys. A year later, her sister Catherine was born and became the last of the seven children and a special friend to her. 

She joined the religious community after graduating in 1943 from the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur High School, St. Gregory's in Dorchester, and took her sister’s name, Catherine, as her religious name. Sister Kate Panetta, SNDdeN was formally known as Sister Catherine (Kate) Alice. She described her vocation as a call to serve God's people.

Sister Kate's first mission was at St. Michael's School in Hudson, Massachusetts, where she taught 75 children in the first grade. With the help of other Sisters, she succeeded! Despite this overwhelming start, she enjoyed a 25-year career as an educator, serving as a primary school teacher in many schools throughout Massachusetts. 

After receiving her master’s degree in religious education, she became the Director of Religious Education at St. Michael's Parish in Exeter, New Hampshire. After five years of service there, she accepted a position in South Boston as Religious Education Coordinator at Sts. Peter and Paul Parish and St. Vincent's Parish in South Boston where she ministered for 22 years.

 Of all her missions, her time in South Boston stands out with particular fondness. Sister Kate was able to develop her many pastoral skills because of the relationships she made there. After living for several decades in St. Augustine's Convent in South Boston, she moved into the West Broadway Housing Project with a small community of Sisters. There, Sister Kate got to know the children and their families differently. She listened to the mothers' stories and understood the people's needs. She arranged family events such as apple-picking trips, beach parties, and special celebrations, including festive St. Patrick's Day parties.

Her ministry made her a beloved part of the parish community. One of the priests called her the "Mother Teresa of South Boston" for her kindness and big smile. "It was the best mission anyone could have," Sister Kate reflected.

Looking back at these past 80 years of service, Sister Kate remarked that she had a good life with many friends. She was thankful, too, for the support of her large extended family, who visited her regularly at Notre Dame Long Term Care Center. "I have been very fortunate. God has been very good to me."

Sister Kate went home to her good God on November 23, 2023, at the age of 97.

Enjoy this video, taken at the time of Sister Kate's 80th Jubilee.