Sister Eleanor Bernstein, C.S.J., former director of the University of Notre Dame’s Center for Liturgy, died March 12 in Cleveland after a long illness. She was 73 years old.
A native of New Orleans, Sister Bernstein entered the Sisters of St. Joseph in 1957 and professed her final vows in 1965. A graduate of St. Mary’s Dominican College in New Orleans, she earned a master’s degree in English from Louisiana State University. She also earned master’s degrees in theology and liturgical studies from Notre Dame in 1969 and 1981, respectively.
Before joining the Notre Dame faculty in 1983, Sister Bernstein worked in a variety of ministries in New Orleans and in the Louisiana dioceses of Baton Rouge and Lake Charles, teaching at St. Joseph Academy and St. Joseph Junior College, serving as director of religious education at St. George Parish in Baton Rouge, as director of liturgy at Our Lady of Divine Providence in Metairie, and at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Lake Charles.
Appointed director of what was then called the Center for Pastoral Liturgy at Notre Dame in 1985, Sister Bernstein served in that position until 2002. As director, she designed and planned an annual liturgy conference and banquet at Notre Dame, as well as numerous liturgical seminars in the U.S., Ireland and Australia. She also wrote articles on Catholic liturgy and edited the center’s many publications.
Rev. Michael S. Driscoll, associate professor of theology at Notre Dame and president of the Catholic Academy of Liturgy, described Sister Bernstein as “the quintessence of graciousness,” and remembered that she had emerged in an academic and pastoral field that “was very much male-dominated, so to have a conciliatory presence like Eleanor was helpful.”
Last year, Ave Maria Press published a book edited by Sister Bernstein, “Praying Our Lives: A Woman’s Treasury of Catholic Prayer.” An early and enthusiastic reader of the book was Sister Helen Prejean, C.S.J. Notre Dame’s 1996 Laetare Medalist and a friend of Sister Bernstein since the two of them entered the convent together. “It’s a great loss not to have her,” Sister Prejean said, adding that she would remember her friend as “steeped in tradition and a lover of words and good liturgy.”