Sr. Kendra Bottoms: Breaking ‘Holy Ground’ for 50 Years

Sr. Kendra Bottoms is a familiar face – and also voice – at University Hospitals St. John Medical Center where she serves as Director of Pastoral Care.

Her daily prayers provide assurance each day over the hospital paging system, and her voice always soars above all others when song is needed.

“This is Holy Ground,” is a familiar refrain from Sr. Kendra at many hospital functions.

Sr. Kendra celebrated her Jubilee Year as a Sister of Notre Dame this summer, marking 50 years since she entered her ministry at the Chardon, Ohio campus.

Little did Sr. Kendra know back then that she was actually breaking ‘Holy Ground’ when she entered the ministry. Her ‘call’ came when she was young, a shared sense of destiny she held with another young aspirant from her school days.

Little did she know, however, that when she entered Notre Dame Academy on Ansel Road in 1962, she was also a ground-breaker. It was the same year that race riots were taking place nationally and also in Cleveland. And nuns had just received word from the Vatican that African American women would now be accepted.

Sr. Kendra became one of the very first African American women to enter Notre Dame Academy, Looking back, she was simply following her calling, not leading a cultural change. “I am glad I didn’t know until I knew,” she laughs as she looks back on her acceptance. “I was supposed to grow up and have 13 children!”

Her love of family has always been a touchstone for Sr. Kendra. Born as Patricia Ann to Edith and Charles Bottoms of Louisville, Ky., the family moved to Cleveland when she was 5. She had a special and loving relationship with her siblings, especially her brother Charles (now deceased), and carries that love into the world through her ministry. She begins each day at UH St. John singing God’s praises over the hospital paging system and offers a confident word of faith and hope to all with humor, humility and kindness.

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