In Loving Memory…

Sister Dolores Jean Bray, CSC; main image 1

Sister Dolores Jean Bray, CSC

Funeral Arrangements

Tuesday, August 1, 2023 

Mass of the Resurrection, 10:30 a.m.
Church of Our Lady of Loretto
Saint Mary’s, Notre Dame, Indiana 

Visitors are welcome; please wear a mask and adhere to social distance guidelines while in the church.

Sister Dolores Jean Bray, CSC
(Sister M. Francis de Paul) 

November 8, 1934–July 22, 2023 

We share news of the death of Sister Dolores Jean Bray, CSC, who died at 1 a.m. Saturday, July 22, 2023, in Saint Mary’s Convent, Notre Dame, Indiana. Sister Dolores Jean entered the Congregation from Oakland, California, on September 6, 1952. Her initial profession of vows took place on August 15, 1955.

Please join us in prayer for Sister as we renew our faith in the resurrected Jesus and strengthen our hope that all the departed will be raised to eternal life.

A young woman in Kasoa, Ghana, has lost her namesake. In 1999, Sister Dolores Jean Bray had befriended a family in difficult circumstances while missioned as a Sister of the Holy Cross to the Congregation’s newest foundation in Africa. The father named the newborn infant Dolores Bray. The family kept in touch with Sister, whom they had known for only two years, after she returned to the United States due to health issues. A woman of deep empathy and compassion, Sister Dolores cherished relationships near and far. She had lived in religious community for over 70 years when she died in Saint Mary’s Convent, Notre Dame, Indiana, on July 22, 2023.

Dolores Jean Bray was born on November 8, 1934, in Oakland, California. She was the first child and had one younger sister, Joan. Her mother, Sylvia Mary (Borstadt) Bray, worked as a telephone operator, while her father, William Francis Bray, was a shipping dock clerk in the port city of Oakland. Dolores attended St. Cyril’s School, Oakland, until 1948, when she began her secondary education at St. Joseph Notre Dame High School, Alameda, California. As she grew older, she became interested in the religious life and began her discernment. Although she was taught by Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, she felt drawn to the Sisters of the Holy Cross due to the Congregation’s education ministries. On September 6, 1952, soon after graduating high school, Dolores entered the Sisters of the Holy Cross, Notre Dame. Upon reception of the holy habit, she received the name Sister Mary Francis de Paul.

Sister Francis de Paul was an educator for almost 30 years. Sister prepared for ministry by earning her bachelor’s degree in education at the University of Portland, Portland, Oregon, in 1964, and a master’s in religious education from Seattle University, Seattle, Washington, in 1973. From 1955 to 1968, she taught second through eighth grades at Holy Cross-sponsored schools throughout California, Nevada and Washington. She returned to her baptismal name in 1967. Sister Dolores was the principal of St. Bernard School, Oakland, for one year, and Immaculate Conception School, Sacramento, California, for another year. School administration did not appeal to her; she preferred to work more closely with children and their families. However, Sister remained at Immaculate Conception School to direct religious education from 1970 to 1973 and then directed religious education at St. Anne’s Catholic School, Lodi, California; St. Pius School, Redwood City, California; and St. Clement School, Hayward, California, for 10 years.

Following a three-year assignment as the director for the Western Region of the sisters’ vocations and associates programs, Sister Dolores began her ministry in social work. She ministered in prisons throughout the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, California, from 1986 to 1988, and then was the director of the Victim Offender Reconciliation Program (VORP) of Ventura for one year. The goal of VORP was to offer probation officers and judges an alternative to incarcerating juvenile criminal offenders. Meetings arranged by a trained volunteer mediator provided an opportunity for negotiation, reconciliation and restitution between juvenile offenders and their victims. Sister Dolores was passionate about restorative justice as a positive process seeking to change a minor’s conduct. Outside of her ministry, she enjoyed cutting the hair of the youth detained in the Frank A. Colston Youth Center, Ventura. Sister Dolores’s social work ministry continued with short assignments to the Holy Cross Center for Women, Fresno, as the coordinator of client services from 1989 to 1990, and to Chrysalis Youth Homes, San Ramon, California, as a social worker and school consultant in 1990 until the State of California closed the facility in 1991.

Sister Dolores returned to teaching in 1992. She taught eighth grade social studies part time at St. Matthew Catholic School, San Mateo, California, while also studying part time at Holy Names University, Oakland, and overseeing the care of her mother. After teaching for a year, she began parish ministry at Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church, Castro Valley, California, where she coordinated the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults and parish religious education programs for two years. From 1995 to 1998, Sister Dolores served in vocation ministry within the Congregation and was a substitute teacher in Fremont, California. She spent two years ministering as part of an international Holy Cross team of pastoral workers in Jinja, Uganda, and then another year in Kasoa, Ghana, teaching English to adults and youth at St. Martha’s Parish.

After returning to the United States in 2000, Sister Dolores became a case manager for Catholic Charities OASIS (Older Adults Services and Intervention Systems), Ventura. In this role, she assessed clients who were above the age of 60 and provided resources they needed to live independently. She retired after 14 years of serving the senior citizens of Ventura. Since 2014, in addition to being devoted to a ministry of prayer and presence, Sister Dolores had been involved in various social justice and civic activities with her local community at Saint Catherine by the Sea Convent, Ventura. During the last 10 years, Sister Dolores participated in workshops and public demonstrations on issues such as fracking, homelessness and immigration reform. She occasionally visited inmates in the local jail and was on the board of CLUE-VC (Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice-Ventura County). Sister Dolores was also a long-time member of the book club at the convent.

After struggling with a serious illness, Sister Dolores transferred to the motherhouse. She had resided at Saint Mary’s Convent only a few weeks when she died suddenly an hour after midnight on July 22, 2023, on the feast of St. Mary Magdalene. Dolores, like many other Holy Cross sisters, was a strong advocate for women. Two years ago in a reflection, she referenced Mary’s marginalization and dismissal as a sinful woman: “Jesus delights in working out God’s plan in the most unlikely ways, with the most unlikely people. We pray today for an inclusive Church, which Jesus models for us … .”

Sister Esther Adjoa Entsiwah, CSC, spoke of how happy Sister Dolores was to recently receive an invitation to travel to Ghana to attend the 40th anniversary of the Congregation’s foundation there. When Sister Dolores realized that the celebration was to be in late September, she expressed disappointment, saying, “I will not be there. I will be in heaven. But my heart is with Ghana.” Her heart has now found its eternal home, with all the saints, of every nation and people.

We invite you to donate to the Ministry With the Poor Fund in Sister’s name.

—Written by Madisen Toth, Archivist, and Sister Catherine Osimo, CSC
Sisters of the Holy Cross
Archives and Records