Sister Bernadette Marie Teasdale, 86, a Sister of Charity of Leavenworth (SCL), died on Nov. 5, 2020, at St. Luke’s North Hospital, Kansas City, Missouri. Sister celebrated her 60th anniversary as an SCL in 2015. She entered the religious community soon after graduating from college and served as a teacher, college instructor, administrator, and spiritual formation minister. She was known for her vivacious spirit, and skills as a leader and mentor. A colleague once called her “the warmest, most supportive person you could ever find.” She had a passion for Ireland, and worked on her brother Joseph’s campaign for Missouri governor, which he won in 1976, serving one term. She embodied the SCL characteristic virtues of charity and service.
Mary Martha Teasdale was born on April 9, 1934, in Kansas City, Missouri, the oldest of four children of William B. and Adah M. (Downey) Teasdale. She had a strong Irish and English Catholic heritage. Her father, a notable attorney, was past president of the St. Vincent de Paul Society at their local parish. She attended Saint Elizabeth’s Grade School and Bishop Hogan High School in Kansas City, Missouri, before graduating with an economics degree at Fontbonne College (now University) in St. Louis, Missouri. Soon after, Mary entered the SCL Community on Aug. 19, 1955. She professed vows as Sister Bernadette Marie on Aug. 22, 1957. In early 1966, she received a Master’s degree in guidance and counseling from Catholic University in Washington, D.C.
Sister Bernadette Marie taught high school students in Montana and Nebraska, before transitioning to Saint Mary College (now the University of Saint Mary) in 1966, where she was asked to set up the counseling and placement office, and also serve as an education instructor. Four years later, she moved to the development office, and later served as director of public relations. Sensing a call to adult faith formation, pursued a master’s degree in theological studies from Weston School of Theology in Cambridge, Mass. After graduating, she served in various roles for the Denver Archdiocese, notably as the associate director of RENEW, which focused on adult spiritual formation and lay leadership development.
In 1986, Sister Bernadette Marie was asked by the archdiocese to serve as the coordinator of Contemplative Outreach, where she developed a 25-year collaboration with Father Thomas Keating, a Trappist monk who had suggested her for the position. Keating was one of the chief architects of Centering Prayer, a contemplative prayer method that drew on ancient Christian traditions. Their talents dovetailed, his as a leading thinking and writer, and hers as an organizer, curriculum developer, teacher, and promoter. Their work with centering prayer grew quickly and was influential among many Catholic parishes throughout the country. She felt all her prior skills coalesced into this role, and it became the most meaningful work of her life.
In 2011, she announced her retirement and took time to be with family, while pursuing additional studies in spiritual direction and continuing to mentor adults in faith formation.
Preceding Sister Bernadette Marie in death were her parents; a brother, former Missouri governor Joseph Teasdale; and a sister, Maureen Galey. Survivors include her sister, Ginny Keenan (Bill), and several nieces, nephews, and cousins, and the SCL Community.
A vigil will be held at 7 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020 in Ross Chapel, SCL Motherhouse, Leavenworth. Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated in Ross Chapel at 10:30 a.m. on Monday, Nov. 23, 2020. Interment will follow in Mount Olivet Cemetery, Motherhouse grounds. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, attendance is restricted to only invited guests. Memorial contributions can be made to the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth, 4200 S. 4th Street, Leavenworth, KS 66048. Arrangements made by Belden-Larkin Funeral Home, Leavenworth.
Published on November 20, 2020