Sister Barbara Scanlon, a fixture at Holy Family Cathedral in Anchorage from 1998 to 2008, died on June 20 in her 66th year as a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph.
Sister Scanlon, whose religious name was Sister Patricia Mary, died in Massachusetts where she lived the last 10 years of her life at her order’s motherhouse near Boston.
She received the St. Francis of Assisi Award in 2007 from the Archdiocese of Anchorage for her service, which included prison ministry, ministry to the homeless and a special dedication to young people.
In June 1970, she and a small group of associates founded “Bridge Over Troubled Waters,” an outreach to troubled youth in Boston that is still thriving. It has a residential program, outreach, street work, help for runaways and pregnant adolescents, and counseling. It also has a mobile medical van and dental clinic. Sister Scanlon used to drive a thirty-foot medical van once a week as part of the outreach. She worked with the program for 27 years before moving to Alaska.
Sister Scanlon’s parents were Irish and she claimed to be “One hundred percent Irish and then some.”
When she was a baby, her parents returned to Ireland to live during her early years before returning to the United States because of the poor economy in Ireland. Sister Scanlon was in Ireland long enough to learn Irish Gaelic as her first language.
At age 17, a young Scanlon joined the St. Joseph Sisters in the Archdiocese of Boston where her family had resettled. In 2008 she told the Catholic Anchor, “Nobody expected me to last long.” Everyone thought she was merely following — for a while — in the footsteps of her older sister who had joined the order.
Sister Scanlon’s background included degrees in social work and education.
She considered herself an East Coast girl until she made a sabbatical at Gonzaga University in Spokane in the late 1990s and someone suggested she consider Alaska.
At Holy Family Cathedral in Anchorage from 1998 until her departure from Alaska in 2008, she headed up local prison ministry, provided spiritual direction, oversaw outreaches to the homebound and hospitals, and worked with the homeless who frequent Holy Family Cathedral. She also served with the St. Vincent de Paul Society.
Additionally, she was the victim assistance coordinator for the archdiocese following the nationwide clergy sex abuse revelations.
Most recently Sister Scanlon assisted foreign-born priests in understanding American culture.
A Funeral Mass was held at her order’s motherhouse on June 27. Burial followed at St. Patrick Cemetery in Natick, MA.
In lieu of flowers, expressions of sympathy may be made to the Sisters of Saint Joseph, c/o Mission Advancement, 637 Cambridge St., Brighton, MA 02135 or The Dana Farber Oncology Department at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, 736 Cambridge Street, Brighton, MA 02135. Norton Funeral Home, Inc. Framingham, MA