Sister Patricia Desmond’s family ties to San Francisco run deep. Years before she was born, her ancestors were raising goats in the middle of what is now downtown San Francisco. The eldest of the third generation to live in San Francisco, Sister Desmond was born March 5, 1932. She believes she had every advantage a little girl could ask for. When she was young, her family built a house in an up-and-coming neighborhood. However, before too many more houses could be built, World War II broke out, halting the construction. Because of this, she and her three siblings had an abundance of land around their home to ride their bikes and explore.
Early in her education, a priest came to talk to her class about the propagation of faith. He told the class about the children who were being abandoned in China. At this point, Sister Desmond told herself that she was going to help those children. In order to do so, she knew she would have to become a nun. She considers this to be the start of her vocation.
Sister Desmond was sent to the Sacred Heart School in Atherton, California for seventh and eighth grade. Here, although she was not too fond of the nuns, she would watch them pray and knew that she wanted to be a part of it. When she approached one of them about this feeling, she was told to wait until after high school and then revisit them. Sister Desmond, however, did not stay in the Sacred Heart network for high school. Instead, she attended Notre Dame in Belmont, California.
It was when her mother got sick that Sister Desmond and her father began going to daily mass, praying that she would get healthy again. Unfortunately, she never did and her mother died when Sister Desmond was just seventeen. Before dying, her mother told Sister Desmond that “it would be okay” if she entered a religious community. This provided Sister Desmond with the security that she needed to deal with her father who was not entirely supportive at first.
Her father remarried, giving her two step-siblings and, eventually, two half-siblings. To Sister Desmond, this seemed like the perfect time to join the Society and she made her first vows on March 8, 1954. She would go on to make her final profession on February 8, 1960.
Starting in 1954, Sister Desmond spent the next twenty-two years in the classroom. She taught in Sacred Heart Schools throughout California, namely in San Francisco, Menlo Park, and Seattle. Although she loved each of these, her times at Broadway in San Francisco stand out. First working there in the elementary school from 1960 until 1966, she returned in 1968 to teach in the junior high and eventually became the Dean of Students. Because she started in the elementary school and eventually transitioned into the junior high school, she found herself teaching many of the same kids as they progressed. “We kind of grew up together.”
Moving away from the classroom, Sister Desmond began working as the Associate Director of Vocations for the San Diego Diocese in 1976. In 1978, she returned to schools as a graduate student at the University of San Diego. In addition, she worked in the admissions office and, upon receiving her degree, in the residents’ area.
Over the course of the next twenty-four years, she was a counselor, homeroom moderator, teacher, associate dean of students and archivist at different Sacred Heart schools, including those in California and Newton Country Day School in Boston. She also spent one year in Japan teaching English, and recently served as the Archivist for the Schools of the Sacred Heart in Atherton.
Although, Sister Desmond no longer works in an academic environment, her commitment to education is manifest in her current role as the part-time receptionist at the Oakwood retirement center. “I never stopped educating or helping others find a way to connect their lives to God. It is part and parcel of my life.
"At this stage of my life, I think it is my relationship with the open Heart of Jesus that gives me a sense of peace and joy. I hope this is evident to those with whom I come into contact."