Sister Bernardine Hill, MSC
Sister Mary Bernardine Hill, MSC
1924 - 2014
In Plaquemine, Louisiana, on a cold January 27 in the year 1924, Louis Hill and his wife, Lillian Roth, welcomed into the world a daughter, Anna Mae. Little did they know that this first child of theirs would become an educator whose devotion to learning would touch the lives of countless people throughout the state of Louisiana and beyond its borders.
When she finished high school at St. Basil’s Academy, Anna Mae entered the novitiate of the Marianites of Holy Cross on August 31. 1941. The following year when she received the Marianite habit, Anna Mae became Sr. Mary Bernardine, a name she never relinquished. Sister pronounced temporary vows on August 11, 1943, and made perpetual profession on August 11, 1946.
As most Marianites, Sister began teaching in elementary schools. Between 1943 and 1949, she was assigned to Holy Name of Mary and St. Rita’s in New Orleans, and to Sacred Heart in Ville Platte.
From 1949 to 1956, Bernardine taught secondary school at St. John in Franklin, and from 1956 to 1959 at Sacred Heart, Morgan City. During those years, Sister was earning a Master’s Degree in Education from Notre Dame University from which she graduated in 1956. Sister then served for two years as Education Supervisor for the Archdiocese of New Orleans.
In 1960, Bernardine moved to the Marianite convent in Port Allen and commuted to Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge as a doctoral student. In 1964, she received her Doctor of Education degree and began her career at Our Lady of Holy Cross College where she taught and served as Supervisor of Student Teaching. An additional assignment was added to her teaching schedule, that of assisting in the formation the current group of twenty-one MSC postulants.
1974 was one of the happiest of Bernardine’s life. She spent it at the Marianite motherhouse in Le Mans, France, and it was an experience she loved to talk about.
When she came back to the States, the administration sent her to Holy Angels Academy where she remained for eight years, three of which she served as principal of the school.
Going back to Our Lady of Holy Cross College, Sister spent from 1983 to 2002 educating future teachers. On September 11, 2002, Father Thomas Chambers, then President of the College, honored Sr. Bernardine and named her Professor of Education Emeritus, recognizing her many years of service and ministry to the College.
Once she retired, Bernardine spent a number of years in roles of presence and community service, including time at Holy Family School in Port Allen. Passing her final years as a resident of Prompt Succor Nursing Home, she participated in daily activities until her health took a downward spiral that led to her demise. On September 8, 2014, Sr. Bernardine went home to her God while her sisters were praying for her.
Following her death and at the wake service, former students and colleagues reflected on Bernardine’s role in their lives:
Judy Miranti could not imagine “the College” without her. Dr. Craig Bauer wrote from OLHCC, “So many do not realize just how important she was to who we are today. She was the type of person whose goodness and presence will remain forever with those who knew her.”
Cheryl Willis e-mailed from Washington, “I can feel Bernardine in my bones. Not only did she teach us about education and the community, but she helped us to laugh at ourselves while we were coming into our own as young women.”
Her students from Franklin told about her always being ready to “go” and to participate in all their activities. Others from Holy Angels and from Morgan City recalled that she was strict as a principal but that, like Fr. Moreau, she educated both their minds and their hearts.
A wake service and funeral Mass were celebrated on Friday, September 12, 2014 in the nursing home chapel at 10:30 a.m. Sister’s body was laid to rest in St. Landry Cemetery in Opelousas.
Sister Bernardine, may you rest in peace!