BETHLEHEM – Reverend Mother Placid (Patricia Ann) Dempsey, 85, consecrated nun of the Abbey of Regina Laudis, died Sept. 27, 2012, at the abbey after a long illness. Mother Placid was an artist, poet and guest mistress for over 50 years.
She was the daughter of William Ambrose Dempsey and Kathleen Costello Dempsey. She received her bachelor’s degree in art from Marymount College in Tarrytown, N.Y., in 1949. In both high school and college she was awarded honors for her art.
She entered the monastery as a postulant on Aug. 18, 1949, one of the first American postulants, and received the name Sister Placid as a novice. She was perpetually professed and consecrated on the feast of the Ascension, June 3, 1954.
Besides her other ministries, Mother Placid was a council member and postulant mistress for a number of years, as well as mistress of ceremonies. She helped write and present in Rome the abbey’s first constitutions.
Her work as monastic artist included painting, graphics, vestment design, enamel, wood, stone and concrete sculpture, and book illustrations, notably the covers of several of the Classics of Western Spirituality series. Her work has been exhibited in galleries in this country and Europe, especially in New York City and Paris. Her hand-carved Stations of the Cross grace the walls of the lower monastery chapel at the abbey.
Mother Placid designed scenery for several abbey plays as well as for buildings used for the abbey fair. She was instrumental in the development of monastic crafts and supervised the renovation of the Monastic Art Shop to include an art gallery and display space.
In the abbey, Mother Placid taught classes in monastic history and spirituality, philosophy and the Rule of St. Benedict. She was much influenced in her early life by the writings of Jacques and Raissa Maritain, whom she later met when they visited Regina Laudis in 1949. She maintained scholarly and spiritual friendships with psychiatrist and author Dr. Karl A. Menninger and with Caryll Houselander, the English Catholic author. Among her most cherished relationships was the one with renowned children’s book illustrator Tomie dePaola, who first went to Regina Laudis as an art student.