Harriet Padberg, RSCJ

Harriet Padberg, RSCJ, RIP

Birth: November 13, 1922
Profession: July 30, 1951
Death: January 2, 2014

Our beloved sister, Harriet Padberg, RSCJ, died Thursday, January 2, at Oakwood, the Society of the Sacred Heart’s elder care center in Atherton, California. Remembered for her brilliant mind, generous nature and gentle smile, her life will be celebrated in two locations, first with a Funeral Mass at 10:00 am Thursday, January 23, at Oakwood, 140 Valparaiso Avenue. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated in St. Louis in the chapel of Villa Duchesne Academy, 801 South Spoede Road, at 10:00 am on Saturday, January 25. The liturgy will be celebrated by her cousin John Padberg, SJ. Burial will be in Calvary Cemetery in St. Louis.   

Harriet Ann Padberg was born in St. Louis, on November 13, 1922, to Marie Louise Kilgen and Harry J. Padberg, eight years after her older sister Marie Louise and eight years before her sister Margaret Mary (Peggy). She is survived by her beloved younger sister, Peggy McGarry of Houston, nephews William McGarry, Jr. of San Antonio, Texas and Michael McGarry of Pittsburgh; nieces Peggy Trenholm of Houston and Terri Thyssen of Spring, Texas; grand-nephews John William Trenholm and Matthew McGarry, and grand-nieces Christine McGarry and Elizabeth Trenholm. She will be missed by her sisters in the Society of the Sacred Heart, especially her dear friend Eum Kum Soon, RSCJ, thousands of students and colleagues, as well as the staff and residents at Oakwood.

Harriet attended the Academy of the Sacred Heart in St. Louis, known as the City House, followed by Maryville College, also run by the Society of the Sacred Heart. Upon her graduation in 1943, with a Bachelor of Arts in Math and Music, she followed her older sister, Marie Louise, and entered the Society of the Sacred Heart at Kenwood. She made her final profession in 1951.

Sister Padberg served briefly at Sacred Heart schools in Albany, Cincinnati and Grand Coteau before returning to her hometown of St. Louis for the first time, at the Academy of the Sacred Heart, St. Charles, 1948-50. During this time, in 1949, she also completed a Masters in Music and Organ, specializing in historical and critical research, from the College Conservatory of Music of the University of Cincinnati.

Sister Padberg returned to Grand Coteau in 1951, where she continued her rich ministry of teaching math and music on both the secondary and college levels. In 1955, she moved to Maryville College in St. Louis, for one year. She then spent one year at her alma mater, the City House, before returning to Maryville for what would prove to be her primary ministry of more than thirty-five years of teaching and total involvement in college life. She became professor emerita in 1992 and continued to live on the Maryville campus until 2012.

During the 1970s, Sister Padberg earned her Master of Arts and Ph.D. in Math from Saint Louis University. She took also courses in computer-generated music and music therapy. She did a Clinical Internship in Music Therapy, studied Music Therapy in the Education of Handicapped Children and Youth, and became active in the National Association of Music Therapy. She served as director of Music Therapy at Maryville, a program she helped to found. A friend noted that her love of music was second only to her love of God.

Sister Padberg was a pioneer in computer-composed music. She organized computer conferences, trained organists for the Archdiocese of St. Louis, served on the Archdiocesan Commission on Sacred Liturgy and provided musical accompaniment for liturgies and celebrations at both Villa Duchesne Academy and the Academy of the Sacred Heart, St. Charles. She also took an active role in professional associations related to the fields of math and music.

Eum Kum Soon, RSCJ, who lived with Sister Padberg in St. Louis, reminisced, “How kind Sister Harriet was. I was honored to live with her—a saint with a beautiful smile—for twenty-seven years.” Sister Eum continued, “Sr. Harriet helped many international students who came to study at Maryville University. She also helped international married couples by listening to their stories. She loved them very much, and they loved her dearly and trusted her. Even now they call her from time to time, because they miss her.”

In 1992, Sister Padberg began a new music ministry with 120 multiply disabled children at the Emmaus Homes in Marthasville, Missouri, not far from St. Louis. The administrators of the school grew to love and respect Sister Padberg during the years in which she served there, so much so that three times a week, they sent a car for her—a round trip of seventy-five miles. Sister Padberg’s love and patience, along with music therapy, deeply affected the lives of both residents and staff.

Sister Padberg undertook an important project of digitizing all the Society hymns and songs, over the course of about five years, so that the provincial archives now has audio and paper copies of almost all the traditional Sacred Heart hymns, a wonderful resource.

In 2012, Sister Padberg moved to Oakwood, the retirement center for the Religious of the Sacred Heart in Atherton, California. At Oakwood, she won all hearts as she played the piano and led sing-alongs in Barat, Oakwood’s dementia care unit, and attended numerous events on the Oakwood calendar. After a fall, her health began to decline last month.


Submitted by Patricia Rice on

She was a musical wonder who never said no to anyone who asked her to play music. A gentle genius who sparkled in her last concert in Lent 2012 on the huge Great Kilgen Organ that her grandfather and uncles had built at the St.L. Cathedral..
In the mid-1950s at the old City House in the St. Louis Central West End, her alma mater, founded by Philippine, Sister "Happy" Padberg taught algebra and choral singing while getting her Ph D. She made algebra a game and I got to "play" in her class. Like a sports coach, she'd raise her right hand up in the air with a delighted, but never loud, "Right. or, Yes" when the class solved a puzzle. She explained it was practical and I still use algebra tricks she taught our class. Her younger sister Peggy had Mozart 's music playing as Harriet took her last breathe. God blessed us when he created this loving, holy musician and nun..

Submitted by Catherine on

I LOVED Sister Padberg. She was one of the most loving, sweetest women I've ever known. She was my practicum supervisor at Emnaus. She was so patient and loving with all of the residents. She encouraged me and mentored me. She asked me to sing " What A Wonderful World" at a music therapy event in the chapel at Maryville university while beside colleagues. I am grateful to have had this precious lady in my life and to have seen her this last year for a final HUG of thanks during Maryville University's alumni celebration and story of her contribution on all of our behalf.

Submitted by Rebecca Schomburg on

I too was honored to have Sr. Harriet as a practicum supervisor. She gave so much and was loved by all.She pushed me to take risks and find my talents to share with others as a Music Therapist. We have been corresponding the last two years, and although she was removed from her St Louis friends, she was always joyful and encouraging. She is one of my personal Saints.

Submitted by Dennis Kramme on

What a lady! I often referred to Sister Harriet as the "miracle worker". During her time here at Emmaus with us, she touched the lives of many of our residents and staff in ways that we will never fully understand. She had a way of relating through her music and her soul that brought out things in all of us that we didn't know we had. Her spirit and presence was greatly missed when she left to go to California, but her memory will live on here forever.

Submitted by Dana Roberson on

What a wonderful woman. I met her her first year in Houston '58ish. Mom worked for her as the Duchesne bookkeeper. I cherish her loving spirit and know it is with us all now as we reflect on her love and compassion. I am so glad I knew her and am grateful for the influence she had on my life.

Submitted by Louise Boscarin... on

I knew Sister Padberg in the 1980s when I was a student at Maryville College. She was everything a nun should be - kind, practical and upbeat. She truly cared about her students. She will be missed.