|Birth: ||1927, USA|
|Death: ||Sep. 27, 2012|
BETHLEHEM — Reverend Mother Placid (Patricia Ann) Dempsey, 85, consecrated nun of the Abbey of Regina Laudis, died Thursday, September 27, at the Abbey after a long illness. Described as a tiny giant, Mother Placid — artist, poet, and guest mistress for over 50 years — touched the lives of thousands of people.
Patricia Ann Dempsey was the youngest of four children of William Ambrose Dempsey, New York City trial lawyer, and Kathleen Costello Dempsey, teacher and housewife. The Dempseys migrated to America at the time of the great famine in Ireland and settled in Pennsylvania where Mother Placid's grandmother ran a saloon in the mountain mining town of White Haven.
The Costellos were metal craftsmen for centuries in Ireland. Her maternal grandfather was instrumental in bringing the Knights of Columbus to Brooklyn.
Mother Placid grew up in Brooklyn, and described the atmosphere of her home as warm and intellectually stimulating with discussions of cultural matters, philosophical questions, and legal matters.
After graduating from St. Angela Hall Academy High School, she received her bachelor's degree in art from Marymount College in Tarrytown, N.Y., in 1949.
In both high school and college she was awarded honors for her art. She was active in all aspects of drama, especially scenery design and construction. She also participated in many cultural and charitable activities, including social activities for the blind, infirm and pre-school children.
While at Marymount, she attended a talk given by Mother Mary Aline, co-foundress of the newly-established Benedictine Monastery Regina Laudis. Her curiosity aroused, she came to Bethlehem with a friend in 1947, arriving in the midst of a blizzard. She described what she found: "It was so cultured, so simple… There was a freshness here, a mystery — like going into some huge stillness, going into God."
Patricia Dempsey entered the monastery as a Postulant on August 18, 1949, one of the first American postulants and the only one of that group to persevere in the monastery. As a novice she received the name Sister Placid, after the faithful disciple of St. Benedict. She was perpetually professed and consecrated on the Feast of the Ascension, June 3, 1954.
Besides her work as artist, teacher and guest mistress, Mother Placid was a Council member and Postulant Mistress for a number of years, as well as Mistress of Ceremonies. She helped write and present in Rome the Abbey's first Constitutions.
Her extensive work as monastic artist included painting, graphics, vestment design, enamel, wood, stone and concrete sculpture and book illustrations, notably the covers of several of the "Classics of Western Spirituality" series. Her work has been exhibited in galleries in this country and Europe, especially in New York City and Paris. Her well-known "Stations of the Cross," hand-carved out of a neighbor's cherry tree, grace the walls of the lower monastery chapel at the Abbey and continue to be a source of prayer and inspiration for visitors.
Mother Placid designed scenery for several Abbey plays as well as buildings used for the Abbey fair. She was instrumental in the development of monastic crafts and supervised the renovation of the Monastic Art Shop to include an art gallery and display space.
In the Abbey, Mother Placid taught classes in monastic history and spirituality, philosophy and the Rule of St. Benedict. She was much influenced in her early life by the writings of Jacques and Raissa Maritain, whom she later met when they visited Regina Laudis in 1949.
She maintained scholarly and spiritual friendships with psychiatrist and author Dr. Karl A. Menninger, and with Caryll Houselander, the English Catholic author. Among her most cherished relationships was the one with renowned children's book illustrator Tomie dePaola, who first came to Regina Laudis as an art student. They became colleagues and fast friends, each enriching the other's work and life.
Always faithful to the vision of Lady Abbess Benedict, foundress of the Abbey, Mother Placid's unique and transformative contribution to Regina Laudis was her ability to translate monastic values into contemporary language. She was instrumental in receiving the many young people who were drawn to the monastery in the 1960s and 70s, and helping them to see their own lives and process of seeking as valuable and "of God."
Her deep sense of culture and breadth of education, and her frank love of people were supreme assets in this work. Moreover, she brought a depth of wisdom and understanding, in her inimitably playful way, to the work of forming communities of laypersons desiring to give themselves to Christ, through their professions.
She once described monastic life in this way: "Religious life is generally misunderstood, mostly by people who never get to know what it's about. Entering is like the first day of creation for you. You come to find out what God has put you here for. You walk in, and this place will set off all the light and dark places in you. It's a pressure cooker. You will walk into all the trials you need to clean up your act and learn to love."
Besides her monastic community, Mother Placid is survived by her numerous nieces and nephews, including Mother Praxedes Baxter, OSB, also of Regina Laudis, and by great-nieces and nephews.
A Requiem Mass took place September 29 at the Church of Jesu Fili Mariae at the Abbey of Regina Laudis, followed by burial in the Abbey cemetery.
Memorial contributions may be made to the New Horizons Renovation Project, in care of The Abbey of Regina Laudis, 273 Flanders Rd., Bethlehem 06751 or at abbeyofreginalaudis.org.
Abbey of Regina Laudis Cemetery
Created by: Michael Ryley Bradbury
Record added: Sep 28, 2012
Find A Grave Memorial# 97924479
Rest In Peace, Mother Placid!|
Added: Jun. 12, 2013