by Father Larry Percell
November 3, 1929 – November 22, 2020
Patrice Underwood, IHM, beloved pastoral associate at St. Martin Parish in Sunnyvale for almost four decades, entered into eternal life on November 22, 2020. Patrice had been living for the past seven years in a residence in Los Angeles for retired members of the Immaculate Heart Community. She had been a member of the community, formerly known as the Immaculate Heart Sisters, for 73 years. Arlene, her baptismal name, was the fifth of eight children born to Miles and Elizabeth Underwood. She grew up in East Los Angeles and entered the Immaculate Heart Sisters in 1949. Upon professing her vows, she took the name Sister Patrice.
From the early 1950’s to the late 1960’s Patrice’s ministry was in Catholic education. During those years she served as a classroom teacher and a principal. In 1957 she was assigned to St. Gregory School in San Mateo and remained in Northern California for most of the remainder of her working life. A high point of those years was traveling to Selma Alabama in 1964 with other women religious and priests to join the civil rights march with Rev. Martin Luther King and his wife Coreta Scott King. This experience had a profound affect on Patrice’s understanding of the Church’s place in social justice. Also attending the march were Father John Hester, retired chaplain and Director of Pastoral Care at Stanford Hospital, and the late Msgr. Gene Boyle.
After the Second Vatican Council (1962-64) women religious began to explore forms of ministry in the Church other than education and nursing. Patrice attended the School of Applied Theology then at the University of San Francisco and prepared for pastoral ministry in parish life. In 1972 she was hired by her long-time friend, Father Frank Cottrell, to be the pastoral associate at St. Martin Parish in Sunnyvale where she continued to minister until her retirement in 2013. Her ministry included adult education, liturgy, community support, and whatever else needed to be done. Patrice was likely the first pastoral associate in Santa Clara County, which is now also the Diocese of San Jose.
Two aspects of parish life were of primary importance to Patrice. The first was community formation. She believed that parish life and faith are to be “family style.” She founded adult education groups, Bible study groups, ministry to the sick groups, and faith formation groups so that parishioners would share faith and ministry with fellow believers. Many of the relationships formed by Patrice continue to this day.
The other part of parish life near and dear to Patrice’s heart was ministry to the sick and dying. She accompanied hundreds of people through serious illness and in their final days and hours of life on earth as well as helped prepare their funeral celebrations. Patrice was considered a member of literally hundreds and hundreds of families.
After a long life of love and service to God and her fellow human beings, Patrice could hear in her heart the words from the Gospel, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Come and share in your master’s happiness.” Patrice is survived by her sister, Sister Genevieve Underwood, RSHM, a myriad of nieces and nephews, and hundreds of people who knew her and loved her. May she rest in peace and rise in glory.