Sister Dorothy Simpson, SNJM

(Sister M. Catherine Regina)

February 18, 1930 – September 15, 2019

Sister Dorothy Simpson, SNJM departed this life on September 15, 2019 at Mercy Retirement and Care Center in Oakland, California.

Sister Dorothy celebrated 89 years of life and 69 years of her religious profession.

Mass of Resurrection was celebrated on Sunday, September 22, 2019, at 2:30 p.m. at Holy Spirit Chapel, Campbell, California.

Burial took place Monday, September 23, 2019 at 10:15 a.m. at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, Hayward, California.

God has been very good to me;
I will be forever grateful to God.
Finally, I must say, “Thank God,”
for ALL is GIFT.
                    –Sister Dorothy Simpson

Sister Dorothy Simpson, SNJM

M. Catherine Regina

February 18, 1930 – September 15, 2019

“You are so beautiful,” “God loves you” were Sister Dorothy’s greetings when one visited her at Mercy Center in her latter days.  She was a quintessential San Franciscan.  Her grandparents were born there, her parents were born there and so was she and her brother Harold.  I imagine that when she went downtown to shop at the White House or the City of Paris, Dorothy would have worn hat and gloves like all the women of San Francisco.

Their little white house was always a symbol of security and happiness.  Her mother was extremely devoted and centered around the family.  Her motto was “children should be seen and not heard” and she “unconsciously prepared her two children  for a life of obedience by demanding that they never allow themselves “the least word, the least sign or the least reflection contrary to holy obedience.”

While Dorothy’s mother was her “greatest help and confidant”  her father was “her ideal, a noble soul, a man of principle, quiet, dignified and most gentle.  He never raised his voice; whatever he said was worth” listening to.  Mr. Simpson took Dorothy for long walks and would talk to her as if she were an adult.  Her dad was not always serious; he would tease and joke with the family in his gentle, affectionate way.

When Dorothy and her brother Harold grew into their teens the family adopted the title, “The Inseparable Simpsons.”  They were unified but that did not keep Dorothy from leading an active teen life:  basketball, the school paper where she adopted her byline “Dot” a name which her father did not like, sodality projects, fashion shows and dances, dances, dances.

Sister first met the Holy Names Sisters at St Cecilia’s where she attended the grammar school and received her First Holy Communion.  The Children of Mary Sodality was her contact in high school with the Sisters of the Holy Names and was the channel of graces for her vocation.  Life continued quite normally until Dorothy’s seventeenth year when a sudden illness assailed her.  She determined  that if she recovered she “would attempt the Religious Life.”  Her vocation “took the form, not of a gentle, persuasive call from the Divine Master, but of an interior force impelling [her] to enter Religious Life.”  Sister’s choice of Holy Names came from the unity and charity that she observed in our Sisters.

Sister entered the Novitiate in Oakland at the age of eighteen, a crushing blow for her mother (even though she had given her consent.)  Mrs. Simpson suffered from tremendous loneliness with the absence of Dorothy.  Besides learning about the religious life, methods of prayer and community living, Dorothy had classes in methodology: methods in teaching catechism, arithmetic, reading, art and so she began her career of twenty years in the elementary level, teaching and reveling in preparing children for the reception of Holy Communion.

In 1970, having taken courses to prepare her to teach theology, Sister spent the next eleven as chairman of the Religion Dept at Holy Names University teaching religious studies.  As a member of one of her classes, I can attest to her ability to clearly present and explain the Scriptures to us.

It was in 1981 that Sister began the most satisfactory phase of her life: pastoral ministry.  This was an exceptionally happy period of her life, living in the formation house at Assumption parish in San Leandro, ministering at Corpus Christi parish, teaching Scripture to adults, coordinating the R.C.I.A. program under the pastor Gino Walsh who generously lent his cabin in Tahoe to Dorothy and many of her friends in the summer.  (An aside: we did our own cooking at Assumption and Dorothy did her duty, but those of us who lived there remember that when Dorothy’s turn to cook came, she would use every pot available; the problem was that the cook never had to do the dishes so it fell on us to clean up all her pots and pans.)  Mrs. Simpson would visit Assumption on big feasts accompanied by Dorothy’s nieces, Kathi and Karen.  These were always joyous occasions. Corpus Christi was an exceptionally happy period of her life when she made life-long friends, became a god-mother and explained Scripture but her happiness peaked in January of 1990 in a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

After her years at Corpus Christi, Sister Dorothy had a sabbatical which included her visit to the Holy Land and studies at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley.  Afterwards she moved to Southern California where she continued her work with adults in three different parishes.

Perhaps over and above her ministries is Dorothy’s appreciation of Community life, for her, the hallmark of religious life.  She felt it to be the integrating factor in her chaste, poor and obedient consecration to God. It is in Community that she found her greatest peace and joy.  She believed that living in community  in the Spirit of the Gospel is what  religious life is all about.

Several of Dorothy’s friends—religious and lay—wrote on her passing what a help she was in advising, helping, her love of nature, her faithfulness and her devotion in visiting Sister Frances Franey in her declining years.

Dear Dorothy, you were unique.  I do hope that the angels in Heaven are washing any pot and pans that were left behind.  We will miss you.

SMD 9/22/2019

Remembrances may be made to Sisters of the Holy Names, P.O. Box 398, Marylhurst, OR 97036 or online at