Brave. Smart. Honest. Funny. Those are just a few of the words inscribed on a hand-crafted plaque presented to Sister Patrice Colletti, SDS, by a family who came to know her at the Bradley Crossing apartments in Brown Deer, Wis. The children incorporated a bed sheet into Sr. Patrice’s keepsake, symbolizing their delight in having beds to call their own for the first time in more than eight years. The woven bedding fabric on the plaque also reflected Sr. Patrice’s role as a weaver of relationships, among people who came to Bradley Crossing as strangers somewhat fearful of what they mind find.
Sr. Patrice played a vital role in welcoming residents to the new apartment complex designed for persons with physical or developmental disabilities or mental illness. She describes her role as Bradley Crossing’s Inclusion Coordinator: “I helped to weave a social fabric, to create community among people who led very rugged lives due to poverty and disability, and, who had never before felt a sense of belonging to a strong community.”
Problem-solver. Intuitive. Helpful. Kind. A few more words inscribed on that bed sheet. Sr. Patrice says she witnessed people in the Bradley community discovering those very same gifts in one another as they lived, worked, and played together. Sr. Patrice’s 20-plus years working in nonprofit social services have nurtured her knowledge, skills, and empathy to build community in a variety of settings.
Growing up in North Bellmore, N. Y., her parents encouraged their children to engage people with diverse backgrounds in the classroom, at play, and in their after-school activities. After earning multiple teaching licenses from the College of Saint Elizabeth in New Jersey, Sr. Patrice taught special education to students of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Sioux Tribe (Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate) in South Dakota. Now, her two master’s degrees and a graduate certificate in non-profit management give Sr. Patrice credentials as she develops a program that will bring together Salvatorians from the women and men religious and lay branches in collaboration with this same tribe. Sr. Patrice also advocates for others through Virtual Ability, Inc, a virtual community in Second Life®— an online world that enhances the lives of persons with disabilities through electronic communication and a variety of activities via virtual bodies known as avatars.
Sr. Patrice credits the late Sr. Irene DeMarrias, SDS, with inspiring her outreach ministry to people struggling on the margins of society. “Sr. Irene was able to help me find connections and relations among her extensive family circles out on the reservation [of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate]… She witnessed, with her life, how the ‘margins’ of our society are the very places where the reign of God is blooming.”
When Sr. Patrice celebrated 25 years of vowed religious life in 2014, she shared her wisdom about human relationships, gleaned from her mentor, Sr. Irene. “We are connected to everything in the universe, and we grow through these relationships.” Today, Sr. Patrice carries on Sr. Irene’s legacy as she ministers on the margins and shows her love for others by nurturing lasting and meaningful interpersonal bonds. She serves as a valuable thread in God’s social fabric.