Roberta Marie Brown, CSJ

We remember her in the rustling of the leaves and in the beauty of autumn.

November 8, 1930 – October 16, 2019

Sister Roberta Marie (Barbara) Brown was born to Robert and Helen Brown and raised with her three brothers in the West Roxbury section of Boston.  A graduate of St. Thomas High School in Jamaica Plain, the “cradle’ of the Boston Congregation, Roberta entered the Sisters of St. Joseph on September 8, 1949.  Her life among us was marked by many accomplishments, by signature positions, but most of all, by her pastoral manner.  In all ways Roberta reflected the God of Great Love, whom she followed faithfully.

The Suscipe prayer, printed on the back of the program, was borne out in recent years when Roberta’s liberty and memory were given back to God.  Despite limitations, she continued to witness to a loving God by her singing and by declaring “I love you.” to all those who visited.  Now Roberta’s voice is united with the heavenly choir and she knows firsthand the joy of union with the God of Great Love.  Let us remember that “we can be. Be and be better” for Sister Roberta existed!

Given by: Judith Costello, CSJ
October 22, 2019


We are all here today because we loved Roberta.  I am honored to share these reflections.

‘I have called you by your name, and you are mine” Isaiah 43:1

Sister Roberta Marie, Roberta, ,  Barb, Aunt Barbara, Brownie, Bobby Mae..  Some of the names to which Roberta answered. 

No matter what you called her, she always responded with kindness, openness and a sincere desire to be of assistance.  She possessed a loving heart, a generous spirit, and a deep spirituality she nourished daily.  She was truly a woman of prayer.

One thing we all know, no matter what name we called her, was the fact, the absolute fact, that Roberta loved being a Sister of St. Joseph.  Her call to religious life was a call she cherished and one she remained faithful to all the days of her life.

Roberta’s relationships, to God, to family, to friends and to the Congregation, were ones she    nurtured with absolute faithfulness, tenderness and care.  A day never went by, no matter how busy or challenging, that she didn’t make a holy hour in the chapel. Here she touched into a wisdom and understanding that grounded her decision-making and enlarged her vision.

Roberta entered religious life to do whatever God/Congregation asked, and when it was time for her to discern next steps, she entered into the process with complete trust in God. 

For her ‘relationship was always central to who she was.  She took extremely seriously God’s call to “love one another.”

Her family of origin was the pride of her life, her friends (esp. Helen Mary) the joy of her life, and the Congregation her life’s blood.  Whatever she did, wherever she ministered, she did so always concerned for the individuals involved. 

Whether as teacher, counselor, spiritual director, President of the Congregation, she gave it her all. And no matter how overwhelming it became at times, and overwhelming it could be, Roberta managed to keep her wonderful sense of humor.  I met Roberta as a senior in high school when she was teaching at Mount Saint Joseph Academy.  She was my homeroom teacher and English teacher and later (unknown to me at the time) she was soon to become my sponsor to the Congregation.   This was the year of the Beatles and we were the only homeroom with posters of John, Paul, George and Ringo.  We were the cool kids; we had the cool nun; we even had a record player in the back of the room, playing Beatles music before class.  It was all happening in Senior C!  Life was so simple then!

Roberta loved music and, as most of you know, she loved to dance!  Can you picture her in full habit and later as President of the Congregation, swinging and swaying to one tune after another?  She certainly knew how   to enjoy herself and she certainly could dance!

The song Beaches by Bette Midler was one of her many favorites.  She spoke of all the wonderful heroes she had in life–her parents and brothers, nieces and nephews. community members, all those who supported her.   You were truly the wind beneath her wings. 

Together we say, thank you Roberta for being such a significant part of our lives!  We also say, thank you to Helen Mary, for your faithfulness and love and especially for companioning Roberta during her 10 years at Bethany.  Your friendship was total gift, total blessing to her.  And to the residents and staff of Bethany, especially those on the second floor, thank you for your tender, loving care and for the music you gave to her life.

When you listen to today’s readings, all chosen by Roberta, think about how you knew her to be faithful; how you knew her to trust in God; how you knew you were in the presence of someone who truly believed, who truly loved, and who truly knew her God personally.

Roberta is in her glory.  She is finally with the God she so loved.  And the God who so loved her has welcomed her home.  Roberta, the God who called you by name and promised   you life everlasting; Your God, your friend, says, “arise my beloved, my beautiful one and come.  I have called you by your name, you are mine.”

Reflections given by Mary L. Murphy, CSJ
October 22, 2019


Family Reflections

Our Aunt was the only daughter in a family of four children.  A girl who has only brothers learns early in life how to get along and keep up. From a young age she learned how to be creative, tough, and charming, sometimes all at once.  These skills lasted her a lifetime. 

To her mother, Aunt Gert and to her brothers – she was Barb, the girl who ran, played games, and kept up with them the best she could, knowing if she fell behind she would be left out of the game, and she always wanted to play! 

To our grandfather, our Aunt was The Queen. He adored her.  The love and admiration from her father and her mother, and the competitiveness gained from her brothers, made our Aunt special.  These experiences gave her a unique set of skills, and an attitude that she could do just about anything she wanted to – which she did. An attitude and way of life passed down faithfully to all Brown women – I might add.

Their catholic faith was the foundation of their family.  The church was part of their everyday lives and inspired their choices – if not in vocation, certainly in lifestyle. It is not surprising, and was a source of pride to their parents, that she and Arthur chose to live their lives in service to their faith. She lived a life full of love, love of family, love of the church, and love of her fellow sisters. And throughout her life that love was returned to her in spades, it was impossible not to love her back.

Our Aunt chose a very traditional path. One that many thought may limit what she would or could do.  But they should have known better. She saw something different and could not be swayed (rarely in life could Barbara Brown be swayed). She viewed her vocation, her life as a Sister of St. Joseph as an opportunity to serve, to study and to learn, to teach, and to have an impact on many. Most importantly, she saw it as an opportunity to lead – and she did. She led in service, in love, and in faith.   

For us, she was always great fun. She was truly our playmate in every sense of the word. When we were kids she would traipse around the yard with us looking for Easter candy, play cards, and join in competitive, and might I say combative, games of croquet down the cape – with my Grandfather serving as “judge and jury.” We never stood a chance. She joined in any game she could, and was always willing to play by “our rules,” which were created on whims and changed frequently to advantage only the person making the change.

She didn’t care – she played, and she followed the rules as loosely as we did, and loved every minute. Nobody ever had an honest victory back then.  When there are 7 nieces and nephews born within 8 years of each other, all bets are off – but that’s what made it so fun – and she always gave as good as she got!

It wasn’t until years later during a heated game of Trivial Pursuit, when Aunt Barbara was partnered with Nancy, relatively new to the family, that she was turned in for playing “creatively”.  I can’t recall what she did – probably an admirable move if any one of us witnessed it – but Nancy – again, relatively new to the family – thought she must have done it in error.  Oh Nancy – turning in Aunt Barbara. 

Of course, Aunt Barbara denied it, – as we would expect – she was trained well.  Poor Nancy – she was the one that never lived that down.  

As a family, and as her nieces and nephews, we were very fortunate to have the love and influence of our Aunt as we were growing up – she was interested in us – genuinely.  She always asked us questions about school, friends and whatever we were doing.  She gave opinions, and certainly gave voice when it came to education – from where to go to school – note Regis and BC, to what to study. She asked to see our school work, and was always willing to help with those important essays for high school, college, and beyond.   She was always helping us to look forward. She was sharp and clever and always up for a conversation. And she continued that tradition while she could with our children, her sixteen grand nephews and nieces.

Aunt Barbara followed a path she created, shaped by her faith. She pursued opportunities with enthusiasm, and with support provided whole heartedly by her family, and of course by you, her other family, the Sisters of St. Joseph.

Which brings us to one of our favorite Sisters of Saint Joseph – Sister Helen Mary.   We thank you, Sister Helen Mary for your friendship with Aunt Barbara.  We thank you for your love and kindness, your sense of humor, and your willingness to be a part of our family.  Our Aunt was so lucky to have you, as are we…we love you.

As the next generation of Brown children go off into the world, many of whom are young women, they’re able to look toward Aunt Barbara as a role model – they can make their own choices, based on what they want, not based on others’ expectations. We think Aunt Barbara would be very proud of them, as she always was of us, whatever we did. 

We will miss her – but we know she’s with her parents and Aunt Gert, and back at Fallon Field (or heaven’s version of it anyway) playing with her brothers and friends from Belgrade Avenue.    

Our sincere thanks to the staff of Bethany, who took loving care of our Aunt. We appreciate it more than you know.  

Thank you for coming today and honoring our Aunt. We appreciate all of you, and the love and friendship that you have shared with her over the last 70 years.    

Given by Barbara (Brown) Foley

October 22, 2019