Sister Patricia (Mary Bernardine) Hutchison

Sister Patricia Hutchison grew up in Santa Barbara, California, where her father had become a citizen as soon as he could, but her mother did not apply for many years. She says, “I spent time as a child worrying about her being deported – to Scotland!

Pat first met Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur at age eight, when she was sent to Dolores School in Santa Barbara.  When the family moved, she also attended Our Lady of Guadalupe School there. From third grade on she loved the Sisters and wanted to be like them.

Pat considered the idea of becoming a Sister through most of her years at Santa Barbara Catholic High School until the call couldn’t be resisted any longer. “It was the spirit of the Sisters that drew me in, she says; they were simple, caring and approachable.”

As Sister Mary Bernardine she loved teaching, and enjoyed her students in elementary school, high school and college. Her classroom experiences included teaching fifth and seventh grades at St. Columbkille School in Los Angeles, being principal and eighth grade teacher at Our Lady of Guadalupe School in Santa Barbara, teaching history, religion and English at St. Francis High School in Sacramento and Blanchet High School in Seattle, Washington.  In 1977, she began teaching history at Notre Dame de Namur University.

HutchisonPatSister Pat studied at Stanford University for her doctorate, a transformative experience, she says, that helped her see our world in completely new ways.  She loved her 26 years as a history professor and administrator at Notre Dame de Namur University, and she made significant contributions to it. She chaired the Behavioral and Social Sciences Division, and was involved in many administrative committees. She looks back fondly at developing the team-taught First-Year Experience, a multi-cultural curriculum and service learning program for freshmen. “Students have taught me so much,” she says, “and have so enriched my own life. I have loved being able to interact with them.” Sister Pat was also a major contributor to the writing of the Hallmarks of a Notre Dame Learning Community.

One of the most meaningful honors she has received was the George M. Keller Teaching Excellence Award.  The vote from students and their expressions of appreciation for her teaching meant the world to her. Mike Callagy, now an Assistant County Manager for San Mateo County, was at an NDNU event at which Sister Pat was honored as a Trustee Emerita. He said that her Western Civ class was the best class he had at the college: "Sister Pat made history fun. She always had a spirit that made you feel great in class and encouraged you all the time."

Sr. Pat with two of her ESL students
Sr. Pat with two of her ESL students

Still an excellent teacher, but now at the Catholic Worker English Language School in Redwood City, Sister Pat has taught children, high school girls, and adults there. For many years she has been teaching English classes in the evening to Spanish-speaking women. Sister Mary Jane Floyd, PBVM, director of the school, says that these women are motivated and excited about learning English in their adopted country. “Sister not only brings years of teaching experience to our women, but more importantly, she gives them much-needed encouragement. Everyone is blessed by her presence.” For her part, Sister Pat marvels that she, a child of immigrants, fearful of her mother being deported, is now teaching immigrants herself.

Sister Pat often reflects on the great changes she has been part of over the past sixty-plus years since she entered the SNDdeN congregation, and the profound influences of Vatican II. When celebrating 60 years as a Sister she said:“As Sisters, we have all been through numerous transformative processes. At this time of Jubilee, I am grateful to be part of a caring community that can offer the gifts of compassion, loving kindness and gentleness to the world in these often difficult times, and I give thanks for the experience of life in all its dimensions: for challenges to grow and change, for experiences of wonder and joy."