Thursday, March 30, 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 adhere to mask and social distance guidelines while in the church.
You may view the livestreamed Mass on YouTube.
Read the memories shared at Sister Roberta's funeral.
Sister Roberta Bennett, CSC
(Sister Marie Robert)
April 14, 1942–March 24, 2023
We share news of the death of Sister Roberta Bennett, CSC, who died at 7:50 a.m. on March 24, 2023, in Saint Mary’s Convent, Notre Dame, Indiana. Sister Roberta entered the Congregation from Washington, D.C., on September 4, 1961. Her initial profession of vows took place on August 15, 1964.
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.
As Sister Roberta Bennett made her initial profession of vows as a Sister of the Holy Cross almost 60 years ago, she desired to do God’s will and devote her life in service to him (Psalm 40:8). She held God’s word in her heart throughout 40 years of active ministry in education and administrative support. She continued to do so until her death in the early morning hours of March 24, 2023, at Saint Mary’s Convent. The end of her life’s journey occurred on the same day as the vigil of the feast of the Annunciation.
Born on April 14, 1942, in Washington, D.C, Roberta Louise Bennett was the oldest of Arthur Robert Bennett and Velma Lena (Gastan) Bennett’s two daughters. Her father was an electrician who was well known within the government for his work for the U.S. Navy, while her mother worked in sales. Some of Roberta’s favorite childhood memories involved watching sports with her father.
Roberta attended public grade school in Washington, D.C., before convincing her parents to let her join several girls at their parish who were enrolling at St. Cecilia’s Academy. She was involved with the sodality and library club at the academy and was active in mission activities. It was very common at the time for students at St. Cecilia’s to hang around after school and chat with their Holy Cross teachers. Roberta was one of these students, and along with many others, her vocation was nurtured. Sister Dorothy Anne Cahill, CSC, especially encouraged her to consider the religious life. Roberta planned to enter the Congregation following graduation. While her parents were supportive, her mother suggested working for a year before entering. After graduating in 1960 as one of the top students in her class, Roberta worked for the Potomac Electric Power Company as a posting and pricing clerk. She was truly grateful for her mother’s advice.
Roberta entered the Sisters of the Holy Cross, Notre Dame, on September 4, 1961. Upon reception of the holy habit, she became Sister Marie Robert. Before beginning her education ministry, she earned a bachelor's degree in English from Saint Mary’s College, Notre Dame, in 1966.
Sisters new to teaching often began gaining experience in elementary education, as did Sister Marie Robert. She was assigned to St. Anthony of Padua School, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, in 1966. Within a year, she returned to her baptismal name. Sister Roberta taught four years in Lancaster, followed by six years in Washington, D.C., at St. Peter School. During her assignment at St. Peter, she earned a master's degree in English literature from American University, Washington, D.C., in 1974. Between 1976 and 1992, she taught English and religion at several Catholic high schools in Virginia, Washington, D.C., and California.
Feeling called to a different ministry, Sister Roberta began ministering at Holy Cross Hospital, Salt Lake City, Utah, in 1992. For two years, she worked full-time at Holy Cross Hospital as a secretary, assisting and supporting five departments: the Continuity of Care program, which provided care to HIV/AIDS patients, pastoral care, volunteers, social work and the Quinney Rehabilitation Institute. Sister Roberta’s organizational skills were greatly appreciated.
She was the office manager for one year at Holy Cross Ministries, Salt Lake City, a nonprofit center that provides health care and educational outreach to undocumented women, children and seniors. From 1995 to 1998, she was a project manager at the Literacy Programs Office, Gardena, California, where she organized training workshops for teachers and fulfilled other administrative duties. Sister Roberta served as a secretary for the Writing to Read Program of the Department of Catholic Schools in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, California, for nine years. Her retirement in 2007 was bittersweet, as her colleagues loved her dearly and were sad to see her leave.
A creative and sincere woman, Sister Roberta had several hobbies throughout her life. When she was a teacher, she often crocheted blankets in her free time. She was also a talented poet, and several of her poems have been published in literary periodicals. In 1981, her poem, “A Sonnet Twenty Years Later,” was selected for publication in the National Poetry Anthology, an annual volume of poetry written by teachers and librarians curated by the National Poetry Press, Agoura, California. Sister Roberta’s creativity was a gift she used to help other Holy Cross sisters as much as she could, always willing to participate in any project. In 2007, she moved to the motherhouse at Saint Mary’s to volunteer her services to the local community. Sister Roberta continued using her craft skills to make her popular sequined calendars every year for the Congregation’s Christmas bazaar. She was a friend to all those she lived with in community, and sisters and loved ones will miss her wry sense of humor and hearty laugh.
Sister Roberta’s poem, “A Prayer,” was published in Young America Sings: 1960 Anthology of Atlantic High School Poetry by the National High School Poetry Association. In the poem, she described how she could hear a voice within her that guided her throughout her life toward a destiny she could not see. She ends the poem with the line, “O Father, every night I kneel in prayer. May Thy Son’s voice within me stay right there.” She knew that God would be with her in her final days, just as he had been with her throughout her 80 years of life. God’s loving embrace welcomed her as she was raised to eternal life.
We invite you to donate to the Ministry With the Poor Fund in Sister’s name.
—Written by Madisen Toth, Archivist
Sisters of the Holy Cross Archives and Records