Sister Alice O’Brien, OSB, age 75, a member of St. Scholastica Monastery, died suddenly at Chapel Ridge Health & Rehab on October 17, 2020. Alice Grace Birkenfeld was born on March 9, 1945 in Amarillo, Texas, to John and Doris Moore Birkenfeld. She attended St. Joseph School in Amarillo for her primary education and then St. Mary’s Academy for high school.
Alice married Daniel O’Brien in 1963 and had six children. After her divorce in 1984, she studied to be a registered nurse and then received a bachelor’s degree in health arts from St. Francis College in Joliet, Illinois, all while lovingly raising her six children. For many years she worked as a registered nurse and was active in St. Thomas Parish in Elkhart, Indiana. Her favorite volunteer activities were with the pro-life movement.
Sister Alice loved her work as a nurse. After receiving an annulment of her marriage, she entered Our Lady of Peace Monastery in Columbia, Missouri, on August 3, 2000, where her sister, Sister Rose Maria Birkenfeld, was prioress. She became a novice in 2001 and made temporary profession on August 15, 2003. While in Columbia, she was vocation director and worked at a nursing home. On March 17, 2008, she transferred to St. Scholastica Monastery in Fort Smith, Arkansas, and renewed her temporary profession on August 15, 2008. On June 24, 2011, she made perpetual profession.
In the monastic community in Fort Smith, Sister Alice served as an assistant in the Infirmary, as a spiritual director, as assistant vocation director, and as formation director. She offered her talents as hairstylist after joining the monastery. She also took classes through the Little Rock School of Theology and volunteered at Heart to Heart Pregnancy Support Center in Fort Smith. She was well known for her Santa’s Coffee Cake, candy cane cookies, and crocheted angels and tops for hand towels which were all popular items at the monastery’s annual bake sale. Sister Alice balanced well her love and devotion for her children and grandchildren with her faithful commitment to her monastic duties as a member of the St. Scholastica community.
As her health declined, Sister Alice moved to the Infirmary and then to Chapel Ridge Health & Rehab.
She was preceded in death by her parents; her former husband, Daniel O’Brien; her son, Daniel; her brother, Charles Birkenfeld; and her sister, Sister Rose Maria Birkenfeld. She is survived by her sons, Stephen, Christopher, and Andy (Charda); her daughters, Tamara O’Brien and Cynthia O’Brien; her daughter-in-law, Arlene; many beloved grandchildren; her brothers, Martin Birkenfeld (Loretta) and Howard Birkenfeld (Annette); her nieces and nephews; and members of her Benedictine community.
The Mass for Christian Burial will be private due to Covid-19 with Father Les Farley as the presider. Arrangements are under the direction of Ocker-Putman Funeral Homes.
Memorials may be made to St. Scholastica Monastery Continuing Care Fund, P.O. Box 3489, Fort Smith, AR 72913.