BY DAVID TISDALE
HATTIESBURG – Patricia “Pat” Sanchez touched lives not only through the written and spoken word, but also in her selfless devotion to her faith, family, friends and parish community.
Those are the sentiments expressed by many about Sanchez, a widely acknowledged expert on scripture and longtime member of Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Hattiesburg, who died Feb. 23 after a lengthy illness. She was 70.
A Mass of Christian Burial was held at Sacred Heart Feb. 27, with Sacred Heart Pastor Father Ken Ramon-Landry and Associate Pastor Fr. Ignacio Jiménez Morales joined by brother priests Father Tommy Conway, Father George Murphy and Father Godfrey Andoh as concelebrants.
A native of Philadelphia, Pa., Sanchez was born into a military family and lived in various places across the U.S. and in Japan following WWII, where her father was stationed as part of the post-war Allied occupation forces. In Japan, she assisted burn victims injured during the war. For the last several decades, she made Mississippi home with her children and husband, retired Southern Miss foreign language professor and Sacred Heart Music Minister Dr. Rafael Sanchez, whom she met during mission work for the poor in Uganda. The couple moved to the Magnolia State shortly thereafter to marry and raise their family.
Sanchez initially pursued a pre-med education in college, but her passion for the Bible re-directed her studies, as she went on to earn an M.A. from Union Theological Seminary and Columbia University in New York, mentored by noted scripture scholar Father Raymond Brown.
Her love for God’s word is reflected in her inspirational writing that has influenced and shaped homilies and inspired Christians around the globe, including through her longtime work as a scripture editor and contributor for Celebration magazine, a sister publication of National Catholic Reporter. Through her commentaries she shared her talents for putting the issues of the day in biblical context.
“She is a treasure – such a gentle, quiet leader,” said friend and fellow Sacred Heart parishioner Sandy Kinnan. “Her heart was in everything she did.”
Approximately two decades ago, Pat Sanchez was diagnosed with kidney disease. In need of a kidney, she found what many believed both a miraculous and ironic match for a donation from a live donor – Father Ramon-Landry. Tests for the procedure found the Sacred Heart pastor as nearly compatible with that of a relative.
He reflected on this close bond with his friend and parishioner during his homily, as he also recounted a life well-lived in her tireless passion for God’s message to mankind. “Pat knew God, and shared God with anyone who would listen,” he said. “It has been an honor and a privilege to celebrate Pat’s life with her.”
Borrowing a phrase spoken often by Sanchez when she sought to reassure and comfort others – “Everything’s going to be alright” – Father Ramon-Landry bid his friend farewell. “My sister, rest in peace. Everything’s going to be alright.”
In addition to her husband, Pat Sanchez is survived by her children, Paul; Rafael, Madalena; and Patrick; a brother, Gregory; and five grandchildren. Memorials to Sanchez can be made to the Pat Sanchez Sacred Heart Catholic Church Hispanic Fund. ####