Sister Patrice Neuberger, a neighbor to all

  • Article by: PAMELA MILLER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 16, 2011 - 10:27 PM

The Roman Catholic nun lived out her faith as a teacher and a friend to many in north Minneapolis.

Sister Patrice Neuberger, who lived out her faith's command to love one's neighbor as oneself in her roles as teacher, pastoral associate and neighbor, died Thursday in St. Paul.

Neuberger, 85, died of leukemia diagnosed just three weeks ago. In her final few days, as she was cared for at Bethany House in St. Paul by her fellow Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, she attracted a stream of visitors, most from north Minneapolis, where she had lived for more than 40 years with other members of her congregation, said Sister Mary Kraft, archivist for the Sisters of St. Joseph.

"Patrice was a beautiful person, a radiant human being," Kraft said. "She had a magnetic personality and loved everybody; it didn't matter if you were a fellow sister or a person standing in a bread line."

Neuberger was born in north Minneapolis. In 1944, she graduated from the College of St. Catherine in St. Paul and joined the Sisters of St. Joseph. Over the next three decades, she taught at Catholic elementary schools in Minneapolis and St. Paul and for eight years was co-principal, with longtime friend Sister Mary Hasbrouck, at Ascension Grade School in Minneapolis.

From the late 1970s into the early 1990s, she served as a pastoral associate at Ascension Catholic Church in Minneapolis, her native parish, and Immaculate Conception in Columbia Heights. In that role, she cared for the sick and dying, counseled the bereaved and divorced, and worked with support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Kraft said.

After officially retiring in 1999, Neuberger continued to do volunteer work, including teaching English to immigrants. She was also involved in broader social issues, helping a young woman snared in sex trafficking and protesting U.S. involvement in overseas conflicts. In 2009, she retired "for real," Kraft said.

Neuberger's most enduring legacy may be her cheerful service to her neighbors in north Minneapolis, where she had lived since 1969. Along with her fellow sisters, she hosted social gatherings for neighbors young and old, welcomed immigrants and other newcomers, encouraged a teen musical group and planned the spring cleanup, Kraft said.

Ana Placencia, 61, moved next door in 1979. "Patrice brought me a cake, which wasn't something I was used to," Placencia said. Soon they were fast friends, and "when I built a fence around my place, I made sure it had a walkway to her place," Placencia said.

The kindnesses kept coming, including frequent dinner invitations to her and family members visiting from Texas, Mexico and Puerto Rico, plus celebrations on birthdays, Halloween and St. Patrick's Day. Neuberger often drove an elderly neighbor to grocery stores and doctors' appointments and was popular among kids for her kind words and treats, Placencia said.

Neuberger rarely spoke directly of her faith, Placencia said, rather "living it in so many positive ways."

In addition to her neighbors, fellow sisters and extended family, she is survived by her brother, John Neuberger of Wayzata.

Services will be held at 7 p.m. Monday at St. Joseph's Provincial House, 1880 Randolph Av., St. Paul. Visitation will begin there at 5 p.m. Monday.

Pamela Miller • 612-673-4290

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