we remember . . . Bernardine Pais, SSJ

she was the second oldest Catholic sister in the Erie Diocese

Bernardine Pais, SSJ, 101, died on December 10, 2018.  She was the oldest living member of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Northwestern Pennsylvania and the second oldest Catholic Sister in the Erie Diocese.  She was in her 83rd year of religious life.  She was born on November 16, 1917 in Nanty-Glo, Pennsylvania, the daughter of the late Louis and Augusta Vecellio Pais.  She entered the Sisters of St. Joseph from Our Lady of Perpetual Help parish in Lewis Run, Pennsylvania on September 8, 1936 and professed her final vows on August 15, 1942. 

Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place my trust in you.

Sister Bernardine graduated from St. Bernard High School, Bradford, PA, 1935. She earned a BS degree in elementary education from Villa Maria College, Erie, 1945 and she did additional studies at Dayton University, Dayton, Ohio, and Gannon College, Erie.  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, she spent more than 30 years ministering in education, during which time she also served as principal at Sacred Heart School, Erie and taught at St. Peter School in Erie, St. Mary’s school in Reynoldsville; St. Agatha School in Meadville; St. Bernard school in Bradford; and Holy Rosary school in Johnsonburg.  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 2015. Throughout her life, many students remained in contact with their “small but mighty” teacher.

A life-long Pittsburgh Pirates baseball fan, Sister Bernardine Pais was treated to a baseball-themed celebration in honor of her 100th birthday in 2017. She was also presented with a baseball signed by Pirates right fielder, Gregory Polanco, as she celebrated the 80th anniversary of her religious life in 2016.

In addition to her parents, she was preceded in death by three brothers:  John, Mario and Caesar Pais; and five sisters: Mary Curcio, Lena Johnson, Rose Sloppy, Flora White and Lucille Vinca.  She is survived by nieces and nephews and by the Sisters of St. Joseph.