Sisters of Charity Federation Archives

Patricia Haley, SCN Oral History


Patricia Haley.jpg


Sister Patricia Haley, SCN
November, 2018
(The remarks of the editor are in italics.
Sister Patricia Haley, “Pat”, holds the distinction of being the first Sister of Charity of
Nazareth who can claim African American descent. She was an honored and cherished
member of the SCN Community as well as a religious woman appreciated in wider
American Church circles.
Especially impressive was her founding membership in the National Black Sisters
Conference. Her story here is adapted from her interview with Sister Therese Arru,
SCN,​ w
​ ith gratitude to Cherrylle Coleman, Archival Center volunteer, for her work
transcribing the interview.
This interview in its full and enjoyable entirety may be read in the Nazareth Archives or
accessed at this link:___________.)
Pat Haley was born in Columbus, Georgia in 1945. Her mother was Blanche Miles
Haley and her birth father was John Manuel. It was Julius Haley, a Louisiana Catholic,
who “was the father I grew up with and the Dad I know.” Pat had three sisters: Joyce,
Sheila and Debra, whom Julius Haley adopted. Julius had one son, Henry, who became
stepbrother to Pat and her sisters. (​Sadly, all three of her sisters died young. Sheila
and Debra died in their fifties. Joyce died at age twenty-nine and left two small children.)
Julius was a chef and taught them all how to cook. One of the places where Julius was
employed was the Morrison Cafeteria chain. When he was transferred to Montgomery,
Alabama the family moved with him. Pat enrolled at St. Jude’s School staffed by the
Vincentian Sisters of Charity (VSC), now members of the SCN Community. Pat had first
met the Vincentians while in the second grade at Mother Mary Mission in Phenix City,
AL. A fellow St. Jude student, Norma, later entered the VSCs and became Sister Julian.
Pat’s mother, Blanche, went to Tuskegee Institute and then graduated from Alabama
A&M (Agricultural and Mechanical University). She had excellent math skills and was a


wise mentor and disciplinarian for her children. Blanche was the only girl among four
brothers. She was proud that her brother George was a trained Tuskegee Airman. Pat
shares, “My mother was a member of Dr. Martin Luther King’s church in Montgomery.
She and my Dad participated in the civil rights marches and bus boycotts.”
Pat’s maternal grandmother was Daisy Miles White and Daisy’s husband, Howard
White. Pat was close to them both, following Howard around “like a shadow.” Her
maternal great grandmother, Mary Boikins – “Big Momma” she was called - had
Cherokee and African American relatives in her ancestry,
(There are memories of childhood, some of spankings, which Pat told with humor and
no hurt feelings. I shall share and use her own words.)
“From time to time we would go to church with our grandparents. What they always
used to say was that Baptists shouted and Methodists just waved their hands. Well, my
grandmother was a shouting Methodist and my mama and Great-gran and were a hand
waving Baptists! I had many fun memories of my Great-gran since she babysat us most
of the time while our mother and grandmother worked…. I remember the spankings I
got. There were three good ones from my Great-gran which I will never forget. One of
them I remember was that a crew of girls and I were supposed to be friends but we
were bullying one another. Great-gran was watching us, called us all in to tell her what
we were doing. She listened and said, ‘I am going to give all of you a spanking – some
because you were doing something to a girl who was supposed to be your friend, and to
you (the girl who was bullied), because all you had to do was come in and tell me.’
When Great-gran gave a spanking she always ended with, ‘In the name of the Father
God (womp!), in the name of the Mother God, Jesus’ mama (womp!), in the name of
Jesus Christ (womp,womp!!) and in the name of the Holy Ghost (womp, womp!!).’ I
would try to talk Big Momma out of it but it didn’t work. I’d say, ‘Jesus Christ was ONE
and the Holy Ghost was ONE’.
Another memory I have is that the same little group of girls decided that we were going
to collect some money and pretend it was for the Church fundraiser that was going on.


We collected a few nickels and dimes. We spread out our little handkerchiefs with the
coins in them but we were just kindergarteners’ so we couldn’t count. When Great-gran
saw us she counted it for us and complimented us on raising money for the Church.
She told the pastor and the next Sunday we had to walk down the Church aisle and put
the money in the collection basket. We weren’t happy about that.
I remember that dues at church were five cents a Sunday. I would stop at a grocery on
the way and buy myself a little Johnny Cake and have a few pennies left for church.
Later a note would come home about my dues and what was still owed; I got a spanking
about that and the usual womps.”
Pat became a Catholic when she was in the eighth grade although she had had
instruction class from the second grade. She was dismissed from instruction class
because of her many questions about beliefs which just didn’t make sense to her. The
pastor finally gave in and Pat was baptized. The pastor commented, “Baptize the child
‘cause she isn’t going to get any better.” She argued for her name of “Patricia”; instead
she was given “Ann.” (​In the SCN Community, when receiving the habit, she would also
request “Patricia”. In addition she added “Ann Barbara” to her request list. She received
the latter but in 1969 changed back to “Patricia”.)
Growing up, Pat wanted to take piano lessons but her mother chose drama and public
speaking which Pat was happy about later in life. Her parents were excellent dancers
and the Haley girls learned from them. From her Great-gran she learned to listen to the
church choir. She and several other little girls thought that they had learned the hymn,
“Nearer, my God to Thee”, except that when the deacon called them up to sing in their
little Sunday dresses what they sang was, “Nero, my God , to Thee.” From her
Great-gran Pat leaned many things and missed her terribly after she died when Pat was
in the tenth grade.
The cooking Pat learned from her father she kept as a skill all her life. She remembered,
“He taught us first how to make cornbread. I thought that you made biscuits the same
way. When I finished making biscuits, they were a gorgeous brown and hard as a brick.
Water wouldn’t even soak through them. He also taught us how to iron and make our


beds. He had definite ideas about how our house should run. All seven of us were made
to feel responsible. He showed us the way by caring for his own clothes, making beds
and tending to the youngest ones. His Navy training truly showed. I loved him dearly
and would grieve his loss even though he lived to the age of ninety-seven.”
“I remember that the first thing in the morning,” Pat shared, “we got up, hit our knees,
said a prayer and made our beds. On Sundays there was a children’s Mass at 9:00
A.M., which we all, including my Mom and Dad, attended. We would then go home,
have breakfast and go to my mother’s church at 11:30”.
In Montgomery, Pat remembers the kind Vincentian Sisters mentioning religious
vocation even though the students were small. When they moved to the Birmingham
area because of her father’s work, Pat first met the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth at
Holy Family High School, Ensley. SCNs also staffed a small hospital in the same
location. After grade school, which the Felician Sisters staffed, Pat attended Holy
Family. She was on a work study program and remembers the name of the Sister staff
there: Mary Timothy Holland, James Teresa Hagan, Ruth Edward Speer, and Charles
Benedict Greenwell. The latter the students teasingly called “Sister Huck” after
Huckleberry Hound whose floppy ears reminded them of Sister’s floppy bows on her
Pat and her friends became candy stripers at Holy Family Hospital and called
themselves “Ben Casey girls” after a popular TV character. They made friends with the
Sisters at the hospital, especially Sister Ann Jude Whitty. Pat’s friends even became
nurses, one of them a head nurse at the University of Alabama Hospital even though as
a candy striper she screamed and ran from the room when she found a patient had
died. Pat’s plans were different. She was in the ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps)
and actually signed up with the Marines, planning to become an attorney in that branch
of Military Service. Her older sister had joined the Air Force and Pat knew that before
she could join the Marines she needed to graduate high school and then get her
parents’ signature.


Pat continued, “My high school years were good. My Mom and Dad often chaperoned
our dances. The Haleys – my Mom and Dad, my brother, and me – were always there,
chaperoning and dancing.”
Pat admired her mother and the wise ways she had for keeping the family’s finances.
She also taught her children that the family shared responsibility for its upkeep. Any
small monies the children would acquire were expected to be put into the family fund.
Pat’s mother said to them, “Everybody is working for the family and everyone has to
share.” Each family member took turns counting out the cash from the parents’
paychecks plus the children’s small contributions. Everyone knew about the family’s
financial status. Further, the member in need received the item necessary. All knew that
need was the priority. Allowances, on the other hand, were to be spent as desired.
During her high school years Pat took part in civil rights activities. She had the
experience of water hoses, torn clothing and dirty cattle trucks. Her very wise mother
impressed on her daughter how serious the civil rights issue was and how important the
She shares, “My mother died of a massive heart attack at age fifty-four. Heart issues
run on the female side of our family. Her aunts, great aunts, grandmother, great
grandmother and sisters all died off either heart attacks or strokes. The financial burden
that came with those illnesses was often devastating.”
When Pat was a junior in high school and a member of the Young Christian Leadership
group, she had the opportunity to go to Kentucky for the “Holy Land” tour. She
remembered, “That’s when I saw the Nazareth Motherhouse. It might have been then
when I started thinking of letting go of the Marines and choosing religious life. Other
communities of Sisters had given us vocation talks but I didn’t care for their European
Sister Mary Lucia Flowers was the SCN who began to talk seriously to Pat about
entering religious life. With Father Gilbert Kroger,​ ​C.P.’s recommendation, Pat took the
life-changing step of applying to the SCN Community. She shared, “Mother Lucille


Russell came down to introduce herself to me and to let me know that I might not be
really received by some of the Sisters. I told her that I knew that. When I told my Gran
and Great-gran, they said to me, ‘Are you going to go to school?’ I said, ‘Yes, ma’am’.
They replied, ‘You can go.’ They were concerned about education and continued
talking, ‘You have been in the Civil Rights Movement and now are going to be with all
white folks.” Again, I said, ‘Yes, ma’am’. Their response was, ‘You can take care of
yourself, so you will be all right.’ They were very supportive and didn’t try to stop me.”
There were forty-five young women who entered the community with Pat in 1963. Now
these Sisters remain - Sisters Betty Blandford, Marie Becker, Rebecca Miles and
Eleanor Martin. They gather several times a year and are joined by former members
who can attend. Sister Kay Glunk, formerly a Vincentian Sister of Charity, is considered
a member of their group.
Pat had good memories of Novice Director Sister Constance Mueller and has many
novitiate stories to tell​. (Her stories are so heartwarming and enjoyable. They may be
accessed in the original interview, pp.11 to 15. We shall content ourselves with just a
few here.)
These are Pat’s words, “When we got to Nazareth as postulants we were assigned
duties. I was assigned to the white men’s dining room. I thought, ‘There’s no way I’m
gonna do that.’ Mother Lucille was coming down the hall, and although I knew I wasn’t
supposed to, I stopped her. I asked for a meeting with her and her Council ‘because I
am assigned a duty I simply will not do.’ The next day Sister Constance said that the
meeting would take place that afternoon. I told the Council, ‘It is not right to be
segregated in a place like this. I just spent my years in high school and earlier fighting
segregation. I know I was coming into a white world, but there is no excuse for this.’
Sister Mary Ransom Burke, bless her heart said, ‘What would you suggest we do?’ I
looked at her and said, ‘It’s just a partition between two dining rooms. If you have a
ladder and screwdriver, I’ll take it down….Mother Lucille said, ‘We will have to have a
conversation with the workers.’ I said ‘You didn’t have a conversation with them before.


It was decided by the Council. I will not work in a segregated dining room, obedience or
no obedience.’
Nothing else was said but in a week the partition was down and I took the duty. Many of
the workers did not like it but it was down. In the hallway there was a white water
fountain and a colored fountain. I said you also need to do something about those two
fountains. So they did. Sister Mary Ransom later said ‘Thank you’ to me and so did
Mother Lucille.”
A really comical story is that Pat’s novitiate class had to wait until an older group had
their share of a pizza treat prepared by Sister Margaret Patrick Gallagher. There was
almost none left for Pat and her class. Much grinning came from them when they
realized that the treat was actually liver pizza.
Another story shows Pat’s confidence joined to her unselfishness. Pat asked Sister
Constance if her novitiate class could swim in the pool in the Nazareth College gym.
After settling on old-fashioned swimsuits from the Fitzpatrick religious garb catalog,
Sister gave permission but looked puzzled when Pat was not swimming. Pat explained,
“Sister Constance, you didn’t say anything but I don’t swim. I wasn’t asking permission
for myself. I just never learned how to swim because back in segregation days there
were no pools for black kids. I never did learn and I wasn’t going down to a river where
my brother went​.”
(In the letters she and her sister Joyce exchanged –Joyce was in boot camp- she
learned that Joyce learned to swim by being tossed into the water, a not always
advisable way to learn swimming. Pat also shared stories about 5:00 A.M. convent
rising, quick wash and dressing and getting to the Chapel. Pat says, “I told her we were
learning how to sleep during meditation.”)
Pat made vows in August 1966 and remained at Nazareth for Juniorate training until
1968. Her first mission away was at St. Ladislas School in Columbus, Ohio. Pat said
this, “When I was assured that there were black children in school, I agreed to go. There
were only ten in the whole school and three of them were in my second grade class. I


stayed only a year but I have good memories of this assignment and remember well the
Sisters with whom I lived: Andrew Maria Gass, Louise Smith, Wilma Ross, Mary Jane
Sappington, Martha Clan, Anselma Trimborn.” A sad memory is that during the time she
was missioned at St. Ladislas, Dr. King was assassinated and yet the pastor didn’t
mention it until Sister Anselma told him.
At the same time Pat was also in a preaching ministry. When she flew to various places
and was given a deck of cards by the airline stewardess, she brought them home to her
“card playing ladies” at St. Ladislas.
Pat went to Louisville in June 1969 where she would teach at various times at these
schools: St. Matthias, St. Brigid and Immaculate Heart of Mary. She studied Urban
Development and Government Administration at the University of Louisville but became
ill and did not complete her Master’s degree​. (Pat had already received a Bachelor of
Science in Education at Nazareth College, Nazareth.​ ) During this time of study she lived
at St. Thomas-St. Vincent Home.
When the Federal Government passed Title IX legislation, the law that opened
education opportunities without discrimination of gender, Pat signed up to go to
Washington, D.C. to learn more about it. She donned a pinstripe suit, had a brand new
brief case and took her place with others learning about the new law. When she
returned, she was able to apply her knowledge of Title IX to benefit students at
Immaculate Heart of Mary School.
Pat recalled a trip to the Bahamas where she and other African American religious were
hosted by Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte. They hoped that the Sisters from the
States could influence the Bahamian Sisters and priests to get interested in politics. She
feels that, at least initially, they were not successful. That led Pat and other Sisters to
form the National Black Sisters Conference. Besides being a founding member, Pat was
also on the first board. (​This summer, 2018, Sister Pat, despite serious health problems,
attended the 50​th​ anniversary of the Conference, held in New Orleans.)


Sister Barbara Thomas, Superior General, gave Pat the approval to answer her call to
teach and speak about black history whenever she could, as well as giving workshops
and participating in revivals.
In the 1960’s and 1970’s there not many SCNs who were willing to live in an all-black
neighborhood. Pat knew that she didn’t want to live in an all-white neighborhood. Pat,
with a group of Sisters, did move to the West End of Louisville. Besides Pat, the group
was comprised of Sisters Kathleen Flaherty, Mary Kathleen Sheehan, Janet Daugherty,
Ann Kateri Kenyon, Sister Peggy Corbett and Barbara Houston, a Sister of Notre Dame
who transferred to the SCN Community, but later withdrew. At the invitation of Fathers
Tony Heitzman and Charles Mackin, they moved into the former Sacred Heart Church
rectory, located at 18​th​ Street and Broadway. While Sister Pat was away in Indianapolis
marching with a civil rights group, the other Sisters, at the urging of the Tenants Union,
tore down a dilapidated, abandoned house in the area. They were arrested for throwing
debris into the street and blocking traffic on Dixie Highway. When their mug shots were
taken, the Sisters refused to be sad and even asked the police officer, “Could I have
another picture for my parents?” The officer said he never wanted to see them again for
A trial date was set for March 10, 1972 and, to the displeasure of the judge, the Sisters
asked for individual trials. Two busloads of persons came from the Plymouth Settlement
House as well a busload of Sisters, including Mother Lucille, from Nazareth. Sister Pat
brought children in, carrying balloons and singing, “We shall overcome.” Mother Lucille
was the first character witness and the Sisters showed their support by saying “Amen”
whenever there was a “So help me God.” Some were saying the rosary​. (In Pat’s words,
“It was a show.” For those of us there, it was indeed a memorable happening, humorous
but serious in its consequence.) ​The prosecution sent the jury out and one juror just left
the scene because he knew what the outcome was bound to be. When the judge said
“case dismissed’ for Kathleen Flaherty, they decided to settle out of court rather than
parade the other Sisters through the charade.


Pat moved into a home for abused women and children on Brook Street, one of several
for women in need which Father John Morgan had established. She shared, “While I
was there I was traveling, doing workshops and revivals. I was graced to get to the
Islands. I got to Barbados, St. Lucia, St. Thomas, St. Vincent, the Bahamas, and others.
I did workshops on each one of those….I would start a song and the people would pick
it up singing in their own way, different from the States. I thoroughly enjoyed that and
the food too.”
Pat was one of the first teachers in the Black Catholic Studies program at Xavier
University in New Orleans, Louisiana and taught there for twenty-eight summers. In
1982, she went to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where she worked with the police
department. She described her role in this way, “They had a family service unit with real
social workers. They had truant kids and those who were not social workers were
assigned to deal with those kids. I worked there for eight years until they closed the unit.
From there I went to Our Lady of Souls Parish where the pastor wanted me to be a
choir director. I told him I was not prepared for that but he said I knew how to wave my
hands up and down.” Her role in the parish was Director of the Spiritual Vocation Center
and, after four years, she worked in the Office of Black Catholics, still in Philadelphia.
In 2000, Pat went to Tampa, Florida in the Diocese of St. Petersburg, where she again
was at the Office of Black Catholics and in parish social ministry. She remained in
Florida eleven years, living with a family where the wife was from India and husband
from Trinidad.
In 2011, Pat came to the Motherhouse at Nazareth. Her health was a great challenge
for her but, whenever she was able, she sang at Mass, many times composing the
songs herself according to the liturgy of the day.
(​As I complete this narrative of a quite unusual life, the news of Sister Pat’s death has
been sent to us. She was a gift to the SCN Community and to God’s people, especially
championing the rights of our brothers and sisters in the black community. We have to
admire Pat’s courage in entering a then all-white community and then bravely calling
our Community to remember that racism has no place among us. We know that we


have promised to follow the Gospel mandate that “We are all one.” We can thank God
for the example of her life and courage.)
Therese Arru, SCN, Interviewer
Maria V. Brocato, SCN, Editor


Dublin Core


Patricia Haley, SCN Oral History


Haley, Patricia, SCN; Sisters of Charity of Nazareth


SCN Archival Center


SCN Archival Center




Maria Vincent Brocato, SCN, Editor


Permission for any type of publication of archival materials, including text, photographs, video, or audio must be secured from the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth Archival Center before publication. Contact archives staff for appropriate forms and contact information.






Oral History



Oral History Item Type Metadata


Therese Arru, SCN


Patricia Haley, SCN


Nazareth, KY, USA


SCN Archival Center , “Patricia Haley, SCN Oral History,” Sisters of Charity Federation Archives, accessed June 25, 2024,


Allowed tags: <p>, <a>, <em>, <strong>, <ul>, <ol>, <li>

Document Viewer