FALL RIVER, Mass. — Sister Roberta O’Connell, FCJ, passed away peacefully on March 31 at Charlton Memorial Hospital in Fall River, Massachusetts, after a brief illness.
The daughter of Charles and Doris O’Connell, Sister Roberta was born in Providence, Rhode Island, on April 30, 1943. In addition to her FCJ sisters internationally, she is survived by her brother Robert and his wife Marilyn; her nephew Andrew and his wife Nicole; and her well-loved grand-nephews and nieces James, Abbie, Hunter, Anne and Drew. She often expressed her delight about spending time with the children.
After attending local elementary and high schools in Providence, staffed by the Faithful Companions of Jesus Sisters (including one year of high school as a boarder in Ontario, Canada) Roberta decided to enter with the FCJ sisters. She travelled to Calgary, Canada, for two-and-a-half years of formation for life as an FCJ. After that she was sent to Manchester, England, for three years of study at FCJ Sedgley Teacher Training College.
Then she returned to the USA and began what would be 14 years of teaching in junior high and high schools in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. During those years she also held the positions of vice-principal at St. Philomena School Portsmouth, Rhode Island, and principal of St. Patrick’s High School in North Providence. From 1980-1981 she was missioned to Toronto, Canada, as a teacher of Religion and English.
Then she returned to the USA and taught Religion at Bishop Connolly (Jesuit) High School in Fall River, Massachusetts, for one year. After time out for the usual “tertianship” (further FCJ formation) Sister Roberta used her significant gifts as administrator of St. Philomena FCJ Convent in Portsmouth, Rhode Island; Treasurer of St. Philomena School; and bursar for the FCJ Sisters locally and in the FCJ Province. She carried out the role of bursar very ably and faithfully for many years, at one point also being one of the consultors to the FCJ Provincial Superior. She served briefly as Religious Education Coordinator at Blessed Sacrament Parish in Providence – the parish where she grew up.
For some years Sister Roberta served the Girl Scouts of the Fall River area. It was then (1986) that she took the first steps into her future in hospital ministry. Having completed training for this, she was hired to serve in St. Luke’s Hospital in New Bedford, Massachusetts. Her ministry at Charlton Memorial Hospital in Fall River began in 2005. She soon became director of Pastoral Care. It was only ill health that led her to retire from this beloved ministry in the fall of 2022.
Over the years, Sister Roberta was certified in teaching at Sedgley Park College in Manchester, England. She was awarded a B.A. from Rhode Island College, an M.A. in Religious Studies from Providence College, and an M.A. in Secondary School Administration from Rhode Island College.
A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated on April 5, at St. Louis de France Catholic Church, Swansea, Mass.
In lieu of flowers, donations could be sent to St. Louis de France Parish, 56 Buffinton St. Swansea, MA 02777; Blessed Sacrament Parish, 239 Regent Ave., Providence, RI 02908; or the Pastoral Care Department of Charlton Memorial Hospital.