Sister Mary Raymond, known to us as Sister Pat, a Sister of Mercy for 75 years, passed away peacefully on Thursday, August 18. Sister Pat’s final years were spent providing friendship, support and a prayerful presence to the parishioners of St. Michael Parish, Cranford, NJ. Sister Raymond is fondly remembered as a person with a gentle and welcoming spirit and as a humble, prayerful religious sister who, throughout her life, cared deeply for people and reached out to help those in need.
The second child in a family of seven children born in 1922 in Atlantic City, New Jersey, to William and Mary (Jameson) Alkazin, Patricia Alkazin’s otherwise happy, younger years were grayed when the economic crisis of the Great Depression crippled Atlantic City in the 1930’s. As the income from her father’s previously thriving, mostly tourist bus company dwindled, Patricia’s creative mind and caring heart focused on helping her parents who were struggling to house and feed their seven children. One way she volunteered to help was by roller skating daily to the Freihofers Baking Company breadline for the daily distribution of day-old bread. A kind bread truck driver would take little Patricia, with her two loaves into one bag, back to Atlantic Avenue from where would skate “home” carrying her contribution for the family’s meals. Thus began her lifelong dedication to “being there” for anyone in need.
Sister Raymond earned her first degree at Georgian Court College, now University, in biology; then a masters degree in science education from Wayne State University in Michigan. Sister spent most of her years as a chemistry teacher at parochial elementary schools and diocesan high schools in Trenton, Bordentown, Lawrenceville, Red Bank, Perth Amboy, Absecon and Scotch Plains, New Jersey and in Fall River, Massachusetts.
What Sister Raymond, often referred to as Sister Pat in later years, wrote in 1984 reveals her direction of her time and talents, not only as a teacher, but in her dealings with everyone:
"My greatest satisfaction is the opportunity of working with young people. My efforts are toward helping them to see their own worth and potential and thereby encouraging them to develop their Christian ideals."
LETTERS FROM FORMER STUDENTS
After Sister Raymond’s death, we came across writings and letters from former students. The writings span her entire teaching career and relate touching sentiments that demonstrate her success in directing and re-directing individuals toward “their own worth and potential.” Here are excerpts from a few of them:
". . . in my life there is one person, especially, whom I admire and wish very much to be like and that is my sixth-grade teacher, Sister Mary Raymond. The characteristics of kindness and justice stood out in her. She always gave everyone a chance to show his or her ability no matter how small it was; and to the few who were not so active as the rest of the class, she always made them feel as though they wanted to try to become interested in what the class was doing and eventually joined in as though they were never out. . . . You are a teacher similar in many ways to so many others I have had in school, yet only you have left me with an impression of admiration and appreciation that will last throughout my life. I feel you have added to the character of most of the students you have ever had in your years of teaching." Lorraine, 1953
"Dear Sister Raymond, I am writing this letter to try to show you some of the deep appreciation I feel for the counseling guidance you gave me in the 6th grade. You were the first nun I ever had to teach me, and, believe me, you influenced me greatly. There were times when you were stern, but it was all for my own good. When times seemed most hard, you were always on hand to give much appreciated advice. I did not realize all of this then, but now that I am older I am more than thankful. I feel that my happy life in Cathedral High has much to do with your holy guidance and the fine start you gave me in parochial school. I only hope that I can and will live up to any expectations you had for me. I will always remember you. Sincerely yours, Janie." 1953
"Dear Sister Raymond, I just wanted to take this opportunity to tell you how much I appreciate your efforts on my behalf and by this I do not just mean the letter of recommendation. I know during the two years you taught me, you took a very special, personalized effort for my individual development. Even though I may not have demonstrated it, I am truly grateful for your concern. I have learned a great deal from you and not all of it involves chemistry. May God continue to bless you with health and happiness in the future thanks. Chris." 1986
"Dear Sister Raymond, I was in your AP class in the 1975-76 school year at Holy Spirit in Absecon. Sister, I am writing this letter to thank you for working so hard to teach me (and everyone else in your class) chemistry. You taught a much tougher and more comprehensive class than the ones that I am in now, and you did much more than that: you helped turn my interest in science into a desire to understand the rules by which God keeps the universe running. In the spring of 1997 when I get my dual degree in applied physics and mechanical engineering you will share a considerable part of the credit. Robert." 1991
PRESIDENT'S ENVIRONMENTAL YOUTH AWARD
Among her many accomplishments is the creation of the Union Catholic High School, Scotch Plains, NJ, Environmental Club which continues today and, in 1997, under her leadership, received the U.S. Region 2 President's Environmental Youth Award presented to her and the club members at the White House.
Click here to read Sister Loretta's personal reflection on the life of Sister Pat.
If you wish, you may make a contribution in her memory to St. Michael Church, 40 Alden Street, Cranford, NJ 07016 or to the Sisters of Mercy, 1645 Highway 22W, Watchung NJ 07069.