Chatting with Sister Patricia Rapozo, OSF is a firsthand encounter with joy of the Lord. Her deep, genuine love for people and optimism and hope for the future shine through brightly through her words and expressions. There is no preachiness or over-wrought spirituality about her. Sister Pat’s relationship with Jesus is real, inspiring and inviting.
“If you’re happy inside, and are happy doing what you’re doing, and you have the Lord on your side, what more do you need?” Sister Pat said.
Her joy and love of life stems from clarity about her own life’s calling, which she discovered at an early age in Hilo on Hawaii Island. She grew up in a Catholic family and went to Catholic schools all her life.
She worked on the family farm, and for five summers, also worked on the plantations to pay for her tuition at St. Joseph’s High School. Back then, the annual tuition was $50 a year! But Sister Pat is quick to add that she also had to pay for her uniforms and, because she sewed a lot, this also helped with costs.
“School was delightful because the farm was hard work,” Sister Pat said.
But school was much more than a way to escape the rigors of farm life. It was an opportunity to surround herself with the Sisters of St. Francis, whom Sister Pat thought were wonderful role models in her life.
By the time she graduated high school, she had already determined what she wanted to do: to enter the community as a Sister.
My father said, “You what?!”
Her father eventually gave his blessings for her to go, but her mother had doubts about Sister Pat carrying through with her decision. “My mother said, ‘Pat, you’re going to last maybe two months. That’s not your lifestyle. You with prayer and all of that, forget it. You’re a farm girl.’ But I told her, Ma, I want something different.”
“I had lived here long enough. I know what married life is like. I feel it’s not my calling,” she explained to her parents. “I lived among married couples, my aunts and uncles. I didn’t see the happiness. I didn’t want that. And to live with one man all your life…that takes a special vocation!”
Besides, Sister Pat had aspirations to be a teacher and leave the farm life behind. “I wanted to teach and take care of little children, but the year I entered, the orphanage closed. So I said, “Lord, now what am I going to do?”
She entered the convent anyway, but not before honoring her father’s one request. “He told me, ‘You have to sell a cow.’” So she did. That was in 1958, and it covered her dowry and other costs to travel to Syracuse.
Sister Pat never had any regrets. “Entering the community and becoming a Sister was the best decision I made. I still could teach, have my parents, and my religion, and my Jesus and angels, and that was enough for me. There was a peaceful encounter within myself that this is it.”
When Saint Marianne Cope was canonized, she said, “Yes! We have a Saint in our community. She’s a Franciscan and I’m a Franciscan. It made me feel proud. Very proud.”
Sister Pat taught for nearly 50 years, 30 of those years educating first graders. She then moved on to teaching third graders, whom she also enjoyed. Along the way, Sister Pat also earned a master’s degree from the University of San Francisco.
“I loved the innocence of their questions,” she said. In almost every class she was able to answer children’s questions about what happens when people die. Her answer that Jesus takes over always satisfied the children with inquiring minds.
“I loved being in the different states, experiencing different lifestyles, and wearing different clothes,” the ever-adventurous Sister Pat said of her time in New Jersey and New York.
Even when she didn’t teach in school, she taught in church. She was responsible for religious education classes, teaching CCD (Confraternity of Christian Doctrine) classes to students of all ages, from kindergarten to 12th grade.
Besides teaching, Sister Pat has also enjoyed making crafts all her life, sewing and crocheting gifts for others. While she was a teacher, she would make hand-painted wooden ornaments for each of her students, matching the ornament to the personality of each child.
Today, you can find Sister Pat every week in the Paiko Building lobby of the St. Francis Healthcare System Liliha campus selling her crafts, something she has enjoyed for the past five years.
Sister Pat shared her secret to a joyful life for those who work at St. Francis Healthcare System:
“Presence is the most important thing…To love all those I work with, to share what God given talents He’s given, and to serve others in whatever capacity is needed. That’s so important to me.”