In Remembrance of Patricia “Pat” McGrath

Thursday, February 29, 2024

Patricia Anne McGrath of Philadelphia, PA died on Sunday, February 25, 2024. She was 89. Born March 11, 1934, Patricia was the eldest daughter of Bernard Francis and Margaret Mary (née Barrett) McGrath’s three daughters, with Magaret Conlin (deceased) the youngest. Patricia is survived by her sister Eleanor Potter, who often gave Patricia a hard time, but loved her dearly. She is also survived by her brother-in-law Allen Potter, who regarded Patricia a “best friend”; by her brother-in-law James Conlin; by her three nephews — Maximillian and Michael Potter and James Conlin, Jr. — whom she loved like sons; and by three great-grandnephews and a great-grandniece — True and Jack Potter; Ethan and Regan Potter — who cherished her like a great grandmother.

Patricia was fantastically independent and was fiercely fastidious in planning all things, including her own funeral. Back in 2011, when she made her funeral arrangements and, of course, prepaid, in her notes of questions for the funeral home, one of her questions was: “Where do you stash the cash?” As in, she wrote: “What happens if you go out of business?” Her notes make clear she was determined to write her own obituary. Though she was unable to cross that off her to-do list. She always had a to-do list. Then again, Patricia being Patricia, she probably did write her own obit and in coming days we may find that on her computer, and if so it will be way better than this one, as she also had a great sense of humor. Patricia made clear that when she died, she wanted it to be presented that she “bit the dust.”

The resume version of her biography goes like this: St. Joachim grade school then Little Flower High School. In July 1952, she entered the Sisters of Bon Secours and took her vows in 1960. The Sisters of Bon Secours were founded in 1824, with a mission of “caring for the poor, sick and dying” and would oversee and staff hospitals. As Sister Bernard Anthony, Patricia served as a nurse-educator. She graduated from Bon Secours Hospital School of Nursing in 1956 and later Villanova University with her BSN, and earned her MSN from the University of Maryland. At her request, in 1971, Patricia was “Released from Vows” and left the Sisters of Bon Secours.

Only she never really left the Community. She stayed in close contact and engaged as an Associate of the Sisters of Bon Secours. One of her nephews would joke with her that she “divorced Jesus,” which she thought was funny, or, because she loved her nephews, pretended she thought it was funny. Patricia worked at several medical facilities and hospitals, including Little Flower High School, St. Francis, Edmonds, which provided care for physically challenged children; and Temple Community Health, Friends Hospital, and the University of Pennsylvania. She was full-time faculty for many years at Holy Family College. There is much more that would make this summary a book, and certainly, Patricia would find an error or egregious omission in the above, which she would lovingly but assertively insist be immediately deleted or corrected.

Yet, the most remarkable things about Patricia McGrath are not the things you would find on a resume. Though she left the Bon Secours, she continued to personify that founding pledge to “commit to serving people who are poor, sick, and dying in their homes,” both as an Associate and as an everyday secular saint. Patricia did not shout about her faith, rather she walked the walk of the Gospels every day, informed by Liberation Theology.

“Aunt Pat” to her family and to much of her adopted family of dear friends, she embodied the most loving and most selfless kind of love. She relentlessly, quietly supported and celebrated her family. She was always There, always. She inspired and encouraged her nephews and great grandnephews and great grandniece, and those whom she adopted as family, to pursue education, to have fun, to find their “Voice,” to explore and to pursue a life beyond whatever they thought was possible; a life that would bring them joy and contribute to making the world a more just, fair and loving place. She did this every day—every day of her life—for family and for strangers who inevitably would become her friends and extended family. When asked what guiding principle most informed her life, “Aunt Pat” said: “Be kind. Love. … Oh, we just need to love one another.”

Relatives and friends are invited to Patricia’s viewing 9:15 to 10:15 a.m., with a 10:30 a.m. mass to follow on Saturday March 2, 2024, at Saint Matthew’s Church, 3000 Cottman Avenue Philadelphia, PA. 19149.

In lieu of flowers, if you would like, consistent with Patricia’s wishes, please do consider making a donation to Marian Hall, which is the infirmary for the Sisters of Bon Secours. Donations can be made on line here. Or via mail to;
Sisters of Bon Secours
C/o development
1525 Marriottsville Rd
Marriottsville, MD 21104