The Official Newspaper of the Diocese of Little Rock

Mother of six professed vows as Benedictine nun

Published: November 6, 2020   

Sister Alice O’Brien, OSB, a mother of six who made her perpetual profession as a religious in 2011, died Oct. 17 at Chapel Ridge Health and Rehab in Fort Smith. She was 75. 

She was born Alice Grace Birkenfeld March 9, 1945, in Amarillo, Texas, to John and Doris Moore Birkenfeld. In 1963, she married Daniel O’Brien and the couple had six children. She divorced in 1984. She received her bachelor’s degree in health arts from St. Francis College in Joliet, Ill., while raising her children. 

She worked as a registered nurse for several years and was active in St. Thomas Parish in Elkhart, Ind., particularly pro-life activities. After receiving an annulment, she entered Our Lady of Peace Monastery in Columbia, Mo., in 2000 where her sister, Sister Rose Maria Birkenfeld, was serving as prioress. Sister Alice made a temporary profession Aug. 15, 2003, and served as the vocation director as well as working at a nursing home. She transferred to St. Scholastica Monastery in Fort Smith in 2008 and made her final profession June 24, 2011. 

Sister Alice served as an assistant in the infirmary, as a spiritual director, formation director, assistant vocation director and shared her talent for hairstyling at the monastery. 

She participated in Little Rock Theology Institute classes and volunteered at Heart to Heart Pregnancy Support Center in Fort Smith. She was known for her Santa’s coffee cake, candy cane cookies and craft items at the monastery’s annual bake sale.

According to her obituary from St. Scholastica, “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.” 

In 2011, she told Arkansas Catholic, “The main thing I would tell any woman who might be thinking about the monastic life is to ‘pray to God every day to know what he is saying’ and to ‘Listen, really listen to that call in the many ways that it may come to you.’”

She is survived by three sons, Stephen O’Brien, Christopher O’Brien and Andy O’Brien; two daughters, Tamara O’Brien and Cynthia O’Brien; two brothers, Martin Birkenfeld and Howard Birkenfeld; and her grandchildren.

A private Mass of Christian Burial was held. Memorials can be made to St. Scholastica Continuing Care Fund, P.O. Box 3489, Fort Smith, AR 72913.

Please read our Comments Policy before posting.

Article comments powered by Disqus