A Listening Heart – In Memory of Sr. Dolores

By Sr. Nancy Uhl, SND

Sister Dolores Pardini spent more than 50 years of her life as a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur.  A good portion of that time was in South Los Angeles, living in the St. Columbkille Convent. When Sr. Dolores died this past January, there was a spontaneous outpouring of love for this Sister who had embraced the lives of her neighbors.  She was teacher, social worker, grief counselor, champion of immigrant rights, to name just a few of the areas of ministry.  What made Sr. Dolores unique is not that she solved problems; it was that she shared the lives of the people who came to the church or to the Sisters for help.  She found food, shelter, medical care, or legal help when she could.  But much more importantly, she provided a listening heart as her neighbors shared their stories.

The Vasquez family was one such neighbor. This family had fallen on hard times. The Dad had lost his job; the mother was needed at home to care for their children. Their first need was housing. The family lived in a one bedroom house. With Sister’s help, they found a three-bedroom apartment.  Dad worked part time jobs. Their oldest child, Brenda, was a bright girl, just shy of six years of age, and a place was found for her at Nativity Elementary School where our Sisters taught for decades. When the mother, Estella, developed cancer, Sr. Dolores was there to help her through the difficult decisions regarding treatment. For 15 years, Sr. Dolores was involved with this family’s joys and challenges. To Brenda and her brothers and sisters Sr. Dolores was called “grandmother.” After Sr. Dolores passed away, Estella says what she misses most is the time she and Sister spent “just talking.”  Estella would come to Sister’s parish office to help with organizing, filing or whatever was needed; and the two of them would talk and talk and talk. 

This story of the Vasquez family can be repeated over and over; just insert another family name.  When someone’s child was in trouble with the police; Sr. Dolores went to court with them. When an immigrant neighbor was trying to find a way to become a green card holder; she sat with them as they sorted through our difficult legal system.  When a parishioner was sick, or died, she was there to pray with the family.  But most importantly, she was there to listen. Sr. Dolores truly had a listening heart.