|Birth: ||Aug. 5, 1897|
|Death: ||Jan. 4, 1994|
THE LEGACY OF SISTER MARY REGIS FROM AN EARLY VOW TO TEACH BLACK CHILDREN, SHE INFLUENCED THOUSANDS IN HER 96 YEARS.
Virginian-Pilot, The (Norfolk, VA) - Wednesday, January 5, 1994
Author: KERRY DOUGHERTY, STAFF WRITER
When Sister Mary Regis Fitzpatrick joined the Franciscan Sisters of Baltimore in 1923, she was 26 years old and determined to help educate black children.
When she died Tuesday at age 96 in DePaul Medical Center, she was the oldest member of the religious order and had taught thousands of children in Norfolk, Richmond, Wilmington, N.C., New York and Baltimore.
Sister Mary Regis was one of 12 children born to a prominent Norfolk family at the turn of the century. She was the aunt of City Treasurer Joseph T. Fitzpatrick.
In their early years, the Franciscan sisters taught only African-American orphans. Later they broadened their mission to operate parochial schools for children of all races.
Sister Mary Regis served as principal of St. Joseph's Elementary School in Norfolk from 1956 to 1961. St. Joseph's, an all-black school, was located where Scope now stands. In 1961, she was transferred to Christ the King School, where she served as principal until 1964.
"Mother Regis was a wonderful woman," said Herb Collins, the owner of a Norfolk grocery store.
Collins, like hundreds of other black Norfolk children, attended St. Joseph's in the 1950s, when schools were segregated. The Catholic schools were among the first to integrate in Virginia.
"She got us ready for integration, both academically and socially," Collins recalled. "She prepared us for the culture shock of going to an integrated school, as many of us did when we went to Norfolk Catholic.
"I have nothing but nice memories of her."
Annabell Scarbrough, whose children attended St. Joseph's during Sister Mary Regis' tenure, said she kept in touch with the educator long after her retirement to the order's headquarters in Baltimore.
"I remember Mother Regis as a concerned, loving, motherly principal," she said. "She loved those children with all her heart, she just couldn't do enough for them.
"Years later you'd receive a note or letter from her, just asking how her students were doing."
Joseph Fitzpatrick recalled that his aunt was credited with forcing the monsignor at Christ the King to build the teachers a convent.
"When school closed in June and the monsignor was bidding the nuns goodbye for the summer, Sister Mary Regis reminded him that he had promised the sisters a convent and had not delivered. She said that if there wasn't a convent for the sisters when they returned to teach in August, she would instruct her teachers not to open the school."
In August, Sister Mary Regis and the other nuns returned to Norfolk to find two houses across the street from the school converted into a convent.
"She put her gentle foot down and got what she wanted. That was just like her," Joseph Fitzpatrick said Tuesday.
Sister Mary Regis became ill with pneumonia while in Norfolk visiting her younger sister during the Christmas holiday. She was hospitalized the day after Christmas and died nine days later.
"She was alert and loved life up until the end," said Sister Ritamary Tan, the Franciscan superior who was visiting Sister Mary Regis when she died. "She read the newspapers every day and always had an opinion on current events.
"She was revered by all of the younger sisters."
Joseph John Fitzpatrick (1864 - 1935)
Sarah Frances Johnston Fitzpatrick (1868 - 1946)
Mother House Cemetery
Created by: MLF
Record added: Aug 16, 2011
Find A Grave Memorial# 75034696
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