Elisabeth Brinkmann, RSCJ

Elisabeth Brinkmann, RSCJ

Birth: June 12, 1960
Profession: January 20, 2013
Death: April 29. 2014

Religious of the Sacred Heart Elisabeth Brinkmann, an educator at the Convent of the Sacred Heart in New York, died Tuesday, April 29, 2014. She was 53. Remembered for her vast intellect, dry sense of humor and intense nature, her life will be celebrated in a Mass of Christian Burial at 10:00 a.m. Friday, May 9th, in the chapel of the Convent of the Sacred Heart, 91st Street, New York. Burial will be at 11:00 a.m. in the Society of the Sacred Heart cemetery at Kenwood in Albany the following day, May 10.

Elisabeth Brinkmann was born June 12, 1960 in Geneva, Switzerland, to Leo and Ursula Brinkmann. She and her sister and brothers were raised in Germany, England, Florida and Texas. She became a naturalized United States citizen on November 18, 1985. She entered the Society of the Sacred Heart in 2000 and made her first vows at Woodlands Academy of the Sacred Heart in Lake Forest, Illinois. She made her final profession in the Society in Rome last year, January 21, 2013. She is survived by her mother, Ursula Brinkmann of Austin, Texas, her sister, Anne Birch, and two brothers, Peter Brinkmann and Johannes Brinkmann. Her father predeceased her.

Sister Brinkmann had a brilliant mind. Her first degree was in electrical engineering from Rice University in Houston, Texas. She worked for several years as an electrical engineer before becoming a parish youth minister at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Concord, California in 1988. She returned to school for her Master’s Degree in Systematic Theology from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, as well as clinical pastoral education certification, while serving as a resident hospital chaplain and ethicist at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco.

She began her doctorate in theology at Boston College in 1994 and earned her Ph.D. in Roman Catholic Theological Ethics in 1999. Her area of expertise was medical ethics. She served as a teaching fellow at Boston College for two additional years before becoming a postdoctoral teaching fellow at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. While in the novitiate in Chicago, 2001-03, she also taught Ethics part-time at the Catholic Theological Union.

From 2003 to 2011, Sister Brinkmann’s primary ministry was teaching religious studies at the College of New Rochelle, New Rochelle, New York. Many of the students at the College of New Rochelle were the first in their families to go to college, and she loved the challenge and opportunity to help them grow. She loved making a difference in the lives of students who might otherwise be left on the margins. An educator “to the tips of her toes,” she was happiest when she was teaching. She made ethics and theology come alive for her students.

In 2011, she returned to teaching ethics at the Catholic Theological Union (Chicago) both in the classroom and through online classes.

Sister Brinkmann was passionate about Sacred Heart education and committed to formation to mission. She had been working in mission programs for parents and alumnae at the Convent of the Sacred Heart in New York City since February 2013 and was planning to begin a full-time ministry there at the time of her death.

Memorial contributions may be made to Sprout Creek Farm, 34 Lauer Road, Poughkeepsie, NY 12603 or the Convent of the Sacred Heart, 1 East 91st Street, New York, NY 10128-0630.

Do not let your hearts be troubled.
You trust in God, trust in me.
In my Father’s house there are many place to live in;
Otherwise I would have told you.
I am going now to prepare a place for you,
And after I have gone and prepared a place,
I shall return to take you to myself,
So that you may be with me where I am.


Submitted by David DeCosse on

I am so sad to hear this news. Elisabeth was such a dear friend. We were in graduate school together at Boston College. I cannot begin to say how generous she was to me during one of the toughest times of my life in those years. And I am so grateful to have stayed in touch with her and especially to have re-connected with her in the last months. What an absolutely beautiful human being...

Submitted by Martha Counihan, osu on

All at The College of New Rochelle are saddened by Elisabeth's sudden death. She was a fine teacher of theology here and a generous member of the chapel musicians. Be assured of my thoughts and prayers.

Submitted by Stephanie Moore on

Prayers and thoughts are with the Religious community and Elisabeth's family at this tremendous loss. Elisabeth was a kind and thoughtful person with a special spirit.

Submitted by Dawn M. Nothweh... on

I am greatly saddened by this loss of a wonderful friend and colleague. I admired Elisabeth's gentleness and courage in dealing with her many gifts as well as limitations. She was a fine teacher and her students had nothing but the highest praise for her work with them in classes, but beyond the classroom in the highs and lows of daily life.
My deepest sympathy to the Brinkmann family and the RSCJ Community.
Peace to Your Hearts -

Submitted by Jim Bailey on

I'm very sorry to hear this news. I too met Elisabeth at Boston College. She was gracious, funny, and smart. But most of all kind and generous. This is a huge loss.

Submitted by Dorothy Escribano on

I am so saddened by the loss of Elisabeth. She was a wonderful and generous colleague at CNR. She is greatly missed.

Submitted by Bridget Burke R... on

My heart is heavy since I heard the news about my dear friend, Elisabeth. I never would have made it through our graduate program at Boston College without "Miss Lizzie." What a smart, beautiful, and compassionate woman. I am blessed to have known her; her friendship was a great gift in my life. I will be praying for the Brinkmann family, especially Ursula, and for Elisabeth's RSCJ sisters.

Submitted by Dianne Bergant on

My deepest condolences to Elizabeth's religious community and family. We stand speechless before death, especially one that is so sudden and untimely. This charming picture has captured her open and friendly smile which endeared her to many.

Submitted by Karen Peterson-Iyer on

I am so floored by this terrible news. Elisabeth was a beautiful, generous, gracious woman. I am so grateful and honored to have known her and been cared for her on so many occasions. From the GTU to our time together in the BC/Yale/Harvard grad school ethics groups, I have known her to be incredibly strong and courageous while also full of love and care for everyone around her. What a gift, and what a tremendous loss. Lizzie, I will miss you so much.

Submitted by Errol Tyrone Olson on

We at Friendship Force, Austin offer deepest Sympathy to the Family of Elisabeth Brinkman.

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend's
Or of thine own were:
Any man's death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.
John Donne

Submitted by Stacy Davis on

I was shocked and saddened to hear of Elisabeth's death. I was fortunate enough to meet her at the New Voices Seminar and found her to be a lovely scholar and woman. My prayers are with all of her family, her RSCJ sisters, and her friends and colleagues.

Submitted by Susie Paulik Babka on

I knew Elisabeth through the New Voices Seminar and was always grateful for her gentleness, kindness, and sincerity, as well as her profound compassion for her students. She was a truly lovely and loving person. I will keep her family in my prayers as they struggle to make sense of such a tragic loss. She will be deeply missed.

Submitted by Marianne Farina, CSC on

What a great sadness to hear this news. My condolences to her community and family. I studied with Elizabeth at Boston College. She was a wonderful friend and guide as I navigated through the program. Elizabeth modeled a deep commitment to theological study, teaching, and pastoral ministry. She inspired many--and they will carry her gifts forward!

Submitted by Lisa Sowle Cahill on

I taught Elisabeth at BC and directed her dissertation. She also served as my TA. Like so many, I was shocked to learn of her youthful death. But reading the posts above, I am also grateful for the community of students, faculty and fellow theologians of which she was such a special part. The remembrances of Elisabeth's friends in some way re-create and expand that community for all of us, keeping her memory vibrant and close.

Submitted by Ginny Ryan on

Elisabeth was such a kind, compassionate and courageous woman. Her love for her family and RSCJ community was a central part of her life and my prayers are with all of you who are experiencing such a sudden and deep grief. Elisabeth was a wonderful friend and I will miss her so dearly. I know that she has left a legacy of love for all of us who knew her.

Submitted by Daniel Scheid on

I met Elisabeth when she first came to CTU and she helped me discern my desire to get a PhD at Boston College. I'll be forever grateful for her kindness, warmth, and charitable patience. My deep condolences to her family and her RSCJ sisters.

Submitted by M Jasin on

Elisabeth was a gentle presence in the St. Ignatius Eucharistic Minister group at St. Ignatius. She will be missed.

Submitted by Jill Danis on

I am so saddened. I just swam with Elisabeth on Monday, the day before her passing. She was a lovely presence in our lane-a considerate and fine swimmer. Her passing just confirms once again how fragile and vulnerable life is.
My prayers to her family on such a profound loss. She will be missed in our pool.

Submitted by Jeannine Hill F... on

I am among those who count myself graced to have known Elisabeth, through New Voices and other places where her presence brought clear insight and compassionate warmth to so many conversations. With her family and Sisters in my prayers.

Submitted by Michael Moreland on

I was deeply saddened to hear this news. Elisabeth and I started at Boston College at the same time--she was a good friend and delightful partner in conversation, with a quick sense of humor and the ability to disagree without rancor. I am reminded of the wonderful community we had as graduate students at BC, Elisabeth's prominent place in it, and the great loss of such a compassionate soul. My prayers are with her family and religious community.

Submitted by Cara Anthony on

I am shocked and saddened at this news. Elisabeth and I shared time in two graduate programs - Masters' degrees at the GTU and doctorates at Boston College. I remember riding a bus with her in Boston and commiserating that there was no place in town like the Berkeley Bowl. Elisabeth's mind and spirit were both crystal clear, with a core of tranquility that allowed her to say challenging things with precision and grace. She will be missed. My prayers are with her community and family.

Submitted by Christa and Dav... on

Our deepest sympathy to the Brinkmann family and Elisabeth's community. We first met Elisabeth about 29 years ago we she was in her "engineering" phase of work at the Dupont plant in Parkersburg WV. We worshiped together at St Margaret Mary's Church in Parkersburg and from there we shared conversation and holidays with her. We "walked" with her as she explored new avenues beyond her career as an engineer. She was a beautiful woman inside and out. As someone said, "Tears are our feelings turned liquid." At this time we have an abundance of tears. We join with her family and religious community in celebrating her life!
Christa & David Rivers
Willmar MN

Submitted by Julie Ann Buenting on

My deepest condolences go out to the RSCJ community throughout the province, and to her dear mother and brothers. I had the joy of being in the noviceship with Elisabeth and remember that time together fondly. I remain awed by her intellect and diverse talents and grieve her parting from us so soon. May she rest in peace and rise in glory, and may we hold fast to the sure hope of God's mystical banquet- at which we will shall be together again in Christ's eternal love.
The Rev. Julie Ann Buenting+
Chicago IL

Submitted by Nancy and Jim O... on

Our deepest sympathies to the Brinkmann family and to Elisabeth's community. We also knew her not only from her time here in Parkersburg but we were at her profession of vows in Chicago, visited her in Boston. Our daughter's name is Elisabeth--spelled the same way and plays the violin.. We fondly remember evenings of sharing pizza and conversation with Elisabeth and are very saddened by her death but know that she is enjoying resurrected life! Nancy, Jim and Elisabeth, Vienna WV

Submitted by Kevin Burke on

to Elizabeth's family, religious community, amazing circle of friends,

Like so many of you, I am utterly at a loss to express my sorrow, my deep sense of loss. Elizabeth, a beautiful human being...

Friends through CTSA, part of that circle of theological friends that delight in the mystery of life, that feel deeply the humility of words, the cliff's-edge of bewilderment, the dark night of grief.

I am so reminded of the words found in the journal of Sr. Ann Manganaro after her death in 1993:

Suddenly the soul
is somewhere else,
gone utterly,
out of reach.

The self that hovered
within the skin,
straining to stay,
leaves so abruptly
that the pain
cannot penetrate,
which may
or may not teach us
to carry, to keep
through our own
remaining days.

We will never
know enough of life
to take in
death, to
make death
make sense.

Submitted by Jesus Rodriguez... on

I am saddened to hear about Sr. Elisabeth's sudden death. I remember her so well from her time here in Rome and her Profession just last January 2013. May she rest in the peace of the Risen Lord. The entire RSCJ family is in my prayers - as well as her immediate family - for comfort, peace, and consolation.

Submitted by Meghan Toomey on

Elisabeth introduced me to theology and to God as I know Her now. This poem is for her.

He would declare and could himself believe
That the birds there in all the garden round
From having heard the daylong voice of Eve
Had added to their own an oversound,
Her tone of meaning but without the words.
Admittedly an eloquence so soft
Could only have had an influence on birds
When call or laughter carried it aloft.
Be that as may be, she was in their song.
Moreover her voice upon their voices crossed
Had now persisted in the woods so long
That probably it never would be lost.
Never again would birds' song be the same.
And to do that to birds was why she came.
- Robert Frost

Submitted by Marga Taylor on

Elisabeth was like a sister I have never had. We have walked together since 2003. We are still walking together, it feels. We have been through thick and thin together and she is leaving a giant whole in my heart. There are so many memories: the time she visited my parents in Germany and my father "roamed" all the local churches with her.The nun cartoons on her wall at her previous job. The time we recruited new students at some far-away community college and we could not find the car at the huge parking lot and almost wanted to call it quits.... And the last time when whe met at Alt Heidelberg in NYC over Bratwurst in February. The most honest and inspirational person I have ever met! Elisabeth, you'll be forever in my heart!

Submitted by Catherine DeLazzero on

Elisabeth was a true warrior of goodness. She was such a brave heart. I love her and miss her so much, and her memory will always remind me to aspire to be as brave as she was in the spirit of service, compassion, love, and justice. I am so grateful for the time I spent with Elisabeth, for having had the chance to know and love her, such a beautiful and wise soul. Elisabeth, thank you for lifting everyone around you higher.

Submitted by shannon fell on

A brillant woman with unceasing passion for life. A blessing for heaven and a terrible loss for us here on earth. RIP Sr. Elisabeth Brinkmann.

Submitted by Thomas Massaro, SJ on

Surely, everyone who ever knew Elisabeth Brinkmann is deeply saddened by our separation from this remarkable person, but we all continued to be inspired by her life of service. RIP.

Submitted by terry moyer on

I was very saddened by the news of Sr. Elisabeth's passing. I knew her as a fellow minister at our church ,St. Ignatius Loyola. I did not know her as a close friend...but she was always a shining Light with a smile and peacefulness about her. I was happy to know she was a fellow "Sacred Heart" family member when I met her...it just warmed me to know the legacy continues in our world. She will be missed , but not forgotten and always in my prayers. I know she is at peace. God Bless all who mourn her passing.

Submitted by Tony LoPresti on

Like many of my BC classmates who have already posted above, I too have fond memories of Elisabeth from our days as doctoral students in the 1990s. In particular I can recall walking around Walden Pond discussing the mysteries of life, not always offering the same interpretation, but benefiting from the other's perspective. She was a good listener. I, along with many others, will miss her.

Submitted by Joan L. Roccasa... on

I offer my condolences and prayers for the repose of Sr. Elisabeth's soul. Sister had the reputation of being a vibrant presence wherever she went.

Submitted by Flossie Bourg on

I hope that Elisabeth's family and her RSCJ community will receive my belated condolences. I just learned this sad news. Elisabeth and I had connections both through our doctoral work at Boston College, our vocations as teachers of Christian ethics, and our affiliation with the RSCJ community. I enjoyed many conversations with her at professional gatherings over the years. She was a good listener and a supportive friend. I will miss her!

Submitted by Suzie Knapp on

I only learned about Elisabeth's passing a few weeks ago but I wanted to send a remembrance. I knew her for 25 years, since we were youth ministers in neighboring parishes in the Oakland Diocese. I keep remembering all the fun times we had hiking, playing Scrabble and discussing / arguing theology. She was a terrific friend and I was honored when she attended my wedding and said the blessing at the reception. I think about her everyday since I heard the news and know she is at peace in the arms of our loving God.

Submitted by Rob Samples on

I am so shocked and surprised to hear of Elisabeth's passing. We were classmates in high school. A testament to how bright she was is the fact that few people in high school knew that she was two or three years younger than any of her classmates (except her sister, who was also quite advanced). She was very friendly and a great listener, in school. It's obvious she never lost those terrific traits. The picture of her shows she really didn't change much in the past 38 years, the same bright eyes and great smile.

Elisabeth, I'm so glad you had a happy life that, while much too short, benefited so many who knew you. I look forward to catching up with you in heaven. Robby

Submitted by Donna M.McKenzie on

I am stunned to learn of Elisabeth's death! I knew her from her days at the Graduate Theological Union and kept in touch with her on and off throughout the years. I remember in Berkeley how worried she was about the environment and how she only used the air conditioner in her car with great reluctance. She was a woman of great integrity. She was brilliant, inquisitive and passionate about social justice. Really it is hard for me to imagine the world without Elisabeth in it and I hope the power of her friendship will give me strength to keep serving the Spirit at work in the world. She was so happy when she joined the RSCJ's and I thought she glowed when I had lunch with her in Chicago. I was happy that she found a home where she could flourish and enjoy the support and inspiration of her wonderful sisters. I reconnected with her in NY when she was teaching at New Rochelle and I was teaching at Fordham. She seemed so happy and I know that she was a wonderful teacher. I am grateful for her friendship and know I am a better person for having known her. My prayers for her mother, sister, brothers and family. My prayers for her RSCJ Family with whom she cast her lot. May her memory be a blessing.