Remembering Sister Dorothy Beck

Sister Dorothy Beck, a native and very proud Philadelphian, was born to Ernest and Dorothy Beck, the eldest of five children. She was followed by three brothers: Ernie, James, John, and a sister, Miriam. She happily attended Most Blessed Sacrament Grade School and West Philadelphia Catholic High School, the latter awarding her with the distinction of entrance into the Alumni Hall of Fame. By all accounts, Sr. Dorothy was the typical oldest child, loyal, loving, and protective as she watched and fretted over her younger siblings. But on December 8, 1954, her life took on an added dimension as she entered the congregation of the Handmaids of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

In her sixty-three years as a Handmaid, Sr. Dorothy served in numerous capacities, among them teacher, religious education coordinator, principal, administrator, community superior, and provincial superior. Her very first assignment was teaching in a school in Baltimore, and was quickly followed by assuming a teaching position at the Handmaid High School, Ancilla Domini Academy (ADA). After only a year at ADA in Germantown, Sr. Dorothy was reassigned to be the eighth grade teacher and principal at Assumpta Academy in Wyncote. It was clear from the start that she enjoyed the boys immensely and really didn’t seem to miss the “drama” of high school girls. What some may not know, though, is that during her time at Assumpta, she not only taught lessons in the classroom and served as principal, but Sr. Dorothy was also the bus driver. Actually, she didn’t drive a bus, but she did shuttle the students in the sisters’ station wagon!

Sr. Dorothy’s dedication to the Handmaids and to those to whom she ministered was unsurpassed. She was the Provincial Superior of the USA Province three times, serving for a total of 18 years. She has also been the Community Superior in three of the USA communities, Wyncote, Miami, and Haverford. In addition to her community and educational responsibilities in Wyncote, Sr. Dorothy was also the Coordinator of Mission Effectiveness and the initiator of the ACJ associates. In Miami, Sr. Dorothy served as the director of Religious Education in Broward County, Florida, where she oversaw 42 parishes and 3 missions. In Haverford, (her most recent active ministry), Sr. Dorothy was the Provincial Superior, Community Superior, and Director of the Saint Raphaela Center until July, 2016. Quite a feat for an octogenarian!

At the Center, a ministry she had served in several times, Sr. Dorothy consistently brought her Handmaid hospitality and joy to more than 5,000 retreatants each year. She took great delight in coordinating and planning programs, retreats, and services that would enable participants to feel the healing and reparative power of Christ. She loved to witness the spiritual development of those who sought guidance or enlightenment at the Center. She was invigorated through the conversations and reflections individuals shared with her during and after their time at the Center. In short, Sr. Dorothy loved retreat ministry.

To countless individuals, Sr. Dorothy was a sister, a friend, a colleague, a confidante, a person who, body and soul, mind and heart, espoused the Handmaid values and charism…A person who, like the Blessed Mother, willingly and without hesitation, said “Yes” to God’s call more than six decades ago. Thoughtful, caring, and compassionate, she shared her warmth with an open heart and open arms. She brought the love of Christ in every single thought and action. At the very core of her being, Dorothy’s greatest desire was to “bring healing to people’s hearts and peace to their relationships with God, with one another, and with creation.” This is the Handmaid mission, and yes, for sixty plus years, it was Sr. Dorothy’s mission. Today, I think we can all attest to Dorothy having succeeded.

Sr. Dorothy’s gifts to us all – her presence in our lives and throughout the relationships we have been blessed to share can be summed up quite simply: With affirmation and resolve, we are grateful for her “Fiat” – her willingness to say “Yes” and to stay true to her word and promise. “With love and for love” Dorothy has shared herself abundantly. It is this love, a love that is unselfish and involves sacrifice and giving that typified Dorothy. It is a genuine Christ-like love that calls for affection and respect, order, and encouragement that has helped light the way for each of us.

Sr. Dorothy was a person of profound and limitless faith. It is this faith that sustained her throughout her ministries and throughout her life. It is this faith that guided her path throughout the countless and complex decisions she made for and with the congregation of the Handmaids of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It is this faith that continued to move her along in her journey, a journey that towards the end called her to sometimes move a little slower, or a little more cautiously, but never to stop moving. We rejoice as Sr. Dorothy embarked on her last journey – the one that brought her safely home into the loving arms of God, and we pray for her eternal peace.

In addition to the Handmaid community, Sr. Dorothy is survived by her siblings, Ernie and Betty Beck, John and Phyllis Beck, Jim and Beth Beck, and Miriam Zimmer, and many nieces and nephews.