|Patricia Anne Steppe, RSCJ taken at Oakwood in front of her room - May, 2011|
It is with great sadness that I have learned of the passing of Sr. Patricia Ann Steppe, RSCJ this past Wednesday, September 4, 2013. Joseph and Elsie Steppe and older sister Rosemary welcomed little Patricia into the world on March 27, 1928. As a young girl she loved to dance but most of all she loved teaching. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from Le Clerc College and a Master's degree in education and elementary school education from St. Louis University. And then in 1960 she decided to enter the Society of the Sacred Heart. Earlier this year Sr. Steppe celebrated her 50th year anniversary of making her First Vows as a Religious of the Sacred Heart.
Sr. Steppe retired to the Oakwood Community in Atherton, California in 2007, about a year or so after I first met her. Prior to her retirement, many children at Sacred Heart schools in St. Charles, Grand Coteau, and Menlo Park were blessed to have know her. However where she made her biggest impact is at the Academy of the Sacred Heart in St. Charles. And, it was at St. Charles in November of 2006 when I first heard of the legendary Sr. Steppe.
I remember the weekend as if it were yesterday! I was in town to attend the AASH Southern Regional Business Meeting being hosted November 17 & 18, 2006 at the Academy of the Sacred Heart, St. Charles, Missouri. I was especially looking forward to "Spend the night at Philippine's House". The overnight accommodations were modestly priced. But for me the real hook was that we were offered a private room and a shared bath on the third floor of the original school building in what was formerly known as the nuns cloister! Yes, I was truly looking forward to this experience of staying on the campus and walking in the very same halls as St. Rose Philippine Duchesne.
So at the close of a wonderful evening, I and a few other alums climbed the "Steppe Stairs" up to the 3rd floor to the former cloister. As I did so, I could not help but notice a picture of an RSCJ named Patricia Steppe and a small plaque below it (see photo) which in part read: "How many children has she touched on their climb to fulfillment"?
Later that evening I was told of how this remarkable woman had saved the school from closing back in 1972. For some reason it never occurred to me that she was still living and working at the school. The next morning I awoke and anxiously dressed so that I could take in the experience of being in this awesome building on a day when students, faculty, staff and special guests would gather in the gym for an all-school liturgy to celebrate the Feast of St. Philippine Duchesne. Archbishop Raymond Burke was the presider at this special mass and unveiling of the recently sculpted bronze statue of Philippine Duchesne. The beautiful statue was on its way to the State Capitol in Jefferson City Missouri to be placed in the Hall of Famous Missourians.
The alums attending the business meeting were gathering prior to mass for continental breakfast and a welcome by the Head of School, Sr. Maureen Glavin, RSCJ. I eagerly headed down the Steppe Stairs and as I opened the door found the hallway a buzz with young girls and boys heading to their classrooms and a darling nun directing them. I paused and looked to the left and right and as I was trying to determine which direction to take this darling nun directing traffic offered to help me. When I explained where I was suppose to be instead of giving me directions she very graciously smiled and told me to follow her. As we walked each and every young student would pause upon seeing me and look directly at me and greet me with a "Good morning". As we hurried down one hallway after another, I introduced myself and then this very kind nun said, "I'm Pat Steppe". I gasped and was almost speechless for a few seconds and then I uttered "the Sister Steppe"?! I was in awe! I told her as we walked what a pleasure it was to meet the woman who was responsible for keeping the school open. As I entered the room and saw a few of the alums who had also spent the night, I stated somewhat still in shock and a wee bit verklempt that I had just met Sister Steppe! Subsequent to our first meeting in St. Charles, I have had the good fortune to see Sr. Steppe at the Oakwood Community located in Atherton, California.
To read more about Sr. Patricia Steppe, RSCJ go to www.rscj.org