Birth: March 27, 1928
Profession: May 11, 1969
Death: September 4, 2013
Religious of the Sacred Heart Patricia Steppe died peacefully on Wednesday, September 4, at Oakwood, the Society of the Sacred Heart retirement center in Atherton, California. Sister Steppe’s impact on the Academy of the Sacred Heart in St. Charles – the school founded by St. Rose Philippine Duchesne –is her most lasting legacy. Her life will be celebrated in a Mass of Christian Burial at 10:00 AM on Saturday, September 14th at Oakwood. Burial will also be at Oakwood.
Patricia Steppe was born March 27, 1928 in St. Louis, Missouri, to Joseph and Elsie Trampe Steppe. She entered the Society of the Sacred Heart in 1960, made her first vows in 1963, and made her final profession in 1969. On March 20 of this year, she celebrated the 60th anniversary of her first vows. Her parents and only sister, Rosemary (Mrs. Herman) Bussen, predeceased her. She is survived by three nieces and a nephew: Mrs. Gay Lynn Finke of Villa Park, Ill., Mrs Patti Reichel of Glen Ellyn, Ill., Mrs. Lauri Melacarne of Ashburn, Va., and Mr. Gregory Bussen of Sherman, Ill. She will be missed by her Sisters in the Society of the Sacred Heart and the staff of Oakwood, her final home.
Sister Steppe’s first vocation was to teaching, and her first teaching position was at the Academy of the Sacred Heart in St. Louis (City House), operated by the Society of the Sacred Heart. It took some years more to be realized, but the seeds of her vocation to religious life were planted during her first interview in the convent parlor. She would spend thirteen years at City House, fully embracing the Sacred Heart spirituality and philosophy of education. At the age of twenty-nine, she boarded a train to Kenwood, Albany, NY, to enter the Society.
In 1964, having made her First Vows at Kenwood, she was sent to the Academy of the Sacred Heart in St. Charles, MO., the school founded by Rose Philippine Duchesne in 1818. She began there as a teacher, then served as principal and headmistress. One of her lasting imprints on the school was the decision to enroll boys, a less than popular decision with some of the religious, but one which allowed the school not only to survive, but to flourish. When she left the Academy in 1984, the school was thriving, with a waiting list for both boys and girls.
Sister Steppe went next to Menlo Park, California, where she worked in the learning center of St. Joseph School. Then, in 1989, she moved to the Academy of the Sacred Heart in Grand Coteau, LA, to help establish an elementary school, where she served as principal. In 1994, when the school was established and growing, Sister Steppe returned to her beloved St. Charles for a full time ministry of one-to-one assistance to children needing special attention. She remained at this labor of love for the next twelve years. The school has dedicated in her honor the Steppe Stairs – a stairwell in the historic building.
At the time of her retirement from St. Charles in 2007, Head of School Maureen Glavin, RSCJ, wrote: “Acknowledged by our own faculty and staff as ‘the teachers’ teacher,’ Pat Steppe breathed the soul of professionalism into all that she did in the classroom. Even better, she inspired it in others. Creativity and originality were the hallmarks of the programs that she inaugurated for remedial, curricular and enriched learning … There is no denying that children flourished in a climate marked by roll-up-your-sleeves teaching and bang-for-your-buck frugality. Without many of the ‘frills’ that seem basic to our operation today, the school functioned not quite as simply as its log-cabin predecessor, but certainly with the same Duchesne austerity.”
A former student and colleague wrote of her, “What a gift she gave to me, and what a gift she was to all of us! She was an innovator, an enthusiastic supporter of creativity, and an intellectual. She encouraged her faculty to be the best they could be, and her dedication to excellence was the foundation for the Academy’s strong academic standing.”
Sister Patricia Steppe graduated from Rosati-Kain High School and Le Clerc College. Her Master’s degree in education was from Saint Louis University.