Sister Bernardine Pais, SSJ, is always one of the first people at daily liturgy and can be found in the afternoon praying her rosary. She was born on November 16, 1917 in Nanty-Glo, Pennsylvania. She entered the Sisters of St. Joseph from Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Lewis Run, Pennsylvania on September 8, 1936 and professed her final vows on August 15, 1942.
She graduated from St. Bernard High School, Bradford, PA, 1935. Sister Bernardine earned a BS degree in elementary education from Villa Maria College, Erie, 1945. In addition, she studied at Dayton University, Dayton, Ohio, 1964, and Gannon College, Erie, 1965. Soon after entering the convent, she was assigned to St. John the Baptist School in Erie where she remained an eighth grade teacher for 20 years. Overall, sister spent more than 30 years ministering in education, during which time she also served as principal at Sacred Heart School, Erie. To this day, many of her students are in contact with their “small but mighty” teacher.
After her teaching career, sister ministered at Saint Mary’s Home of Erie as resident floor supervisor for more than 40 years where she cared for the residents’ personal, social, and religious needs. She retired from Saint Mary’s in the spring of 2015.
She says her grade-school teacher, Ann Carlin, was one of the biggest influences in her life. “We visited on my vacations; in her final days, we met again when she was a resident at Saint Mary’s Home,” she says. As well, Sister Rosalita Boyle was a very strong influence in Sister Bernardine’s life at Saint Mary’s Home.
Today, she lives at the Sisters of St. Joseph Community Living Center where she offers her services wherever possible; her gift for decorating lives on in the centerpieces in the Community Living Center dining room. You can always find her in front of a television if there is a Pittsburgh Pirates game on or if Duke or Notre Dame are playing.
Sister Bernardine thinks of Psalm 27 as her mantra: “One thing I ask of the Lord, this I seek, to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.”