Feature Story

Sister Patricia 
(Patty) Chappell currently serves
as the Executive Director of Pax Christ based in Washington, DC. It is an organization dedicated to standing for real and lasting peace, a charter closely aligned with the mission of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur.

Her journey to Notre Dame and her current ministry in Washington began in New Haven, Connecticut where Sister Patty was one of seven children. From an early age, Sister Patty remembers family, neighborhood, community service and connection to her parish as touchstones of her life. “We lived in a close knit neighborhood. My six siblings and I kept busy. My Mom and Dad encouraged us to play sports, join clubs and participate in community activities.”

Sister Patty’s family was a member of Saint Martin de Porres an African-American parish in the neighborhood. It was there that she met the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur who staffed the school. “The sisters expected a lot from us but they always did so with encouragement. When I was in seventh grade, Sister Dolores Harrall joined the faculty. When she arrived the students were stunned. Until that time, we never knew that a Catholic sister could be black. It opened up a world of possibility for me.”

Sister Patty attended high school in New Haven in the late 60’s and early 70’s as the tumult around race relations began to escalate in the US.” I remember seeing the National Guard standing outside our neighborhood protecting the streets beyond our borders. My parents taught us to be aware of the racism we were experiencing, to be strong and deal with it without being broken or letting it harden our hearts. These were important lessons for us.”

She went on to attend Saint Joseph College in Connecticut graduating with a degree in social work and then attended Catholic University of America in DC, graduating with an MSW. “Growing up I always had an excellent support system. That included my parents and siblings, neighbors, friends, the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, who were my teachers at Saint Martin’s, the priests of my parish, the Dominicans I had in high school, and the Sisters of Mercy who were my professors in college. It was a blessing to me and it is something I carry with me as I move through life.”

 “In high school and college I continued 
to keep in touch with Sister Dolores who invited me to attend a Black Sisters Conference meeting. I had been thinking about religious life and wondered how it would be to live in a community where I would be in the minority. I was glad that Sister Dolores invited me to that event, which was an affirming time for me. In my heart, I felt that God was calling me to be a Sister t of Notre Dame de Namur. From the age of six, I had met Saint Julie and loved hearing about the goodness of God and reaching out to those most in need.”

After entering, Sister Patty held several ministries in the Archdiocese of Hartford, including the Religious Education Office and in the Office of Black Catholics.

Sister Patty served as President of the National Black Sisters Conference and also was a member of the Connecticut Provincial Leadership Team. Patty has served on several Notre Dame groups including the Women of Color, the Anti-Racism Team and the Congregational Theology group.

“It is a busy life and fulfilling life. I move forward with God’s blessing in my life as a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur — reaching out to others so that they may know God’s goodness and experience peace with justice in their lives.”

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