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Pat Drydyk

A woman on a mission

A beloved Sister of St. Francis of Assissi, Sister Pat Drydyk is remembered and revered for her kindness, her fierce commitment to justice, and her big heart. The first woman to lead the National Farm Worker Ministry, Sister Pat was co-Director with Fred Eyster until 1986 when she took over the role full time and served until shortly before her death in 1995.

“Sister Pat was lots of fun,” recalls Roberta (Bert) Perry, long-time NFWM staff person. “She was very dedicated. She was an excellent teacher. She taught me the ‘service to servanthood concept.’”

Long-time friend, Sister Tess Browne, a Sister of Charity in Massachusetts, credits Sister Pat with involving her in the movement (“she got me on my first picket line!”). “I was a young sister. I was based in Milwaukee and she kept sending me things to get the sisters to boycott lettuce. We hadn’t been engaged in social justice at that time….It was because of Sister Pat that I left teaching biology [to work in social justice].”

Sister Pat began her career as a journalist and teacher, meeting Cesar Chavez when she interviewed him as part of her role at the Fransiscan Communication Center where she was helping to create social justice curriculums, according to Tess. “She was organized and well trained. She had great journalism skills, but she realized she forgot to put the tape into the recording when she interviewed Cesar. She was so embarrassed, but Cesar said ‘it’s ok, it’s my lunchtime. Let’s keep talking.’ She joked that’s how he organized her for the farm workers. She started writing leaflets and joining picket lines after that.”

Under Sister Pat and Fred Eyster’s leadership, the NFWM expanded its reach outside of California, supporting the Farm Labor Organizing Committee’s (FLOC) boycott of Campbell’s Soup. Baldemar Valesquez, President of FLOC, credits Sister Pat as vital to establishing the strong relationship that exists today between FLOC and NFWM.

Sister Pat ultimately moved the NFWM headquarters outside of California to Chicago, remembers Olgha Sierra Sandman, a long-time NFWM board member based in the Chicago area: “She moved the office from Delano, CA to Chicago because someone tried to burn down the office. There was so much ill will from the growers who were very powerful with local authorities there. The office was ransacked and they tried to burn it so she [Sister Pat] decided to move it to Chicago where there would be more support from church authorities.”

Sister Pat was not only committed to farm worker justice, but she was a pioneer within her faith and within the movement. She pushed people of faith to leave their comfort zone and stand in solidarity with farm workers. She was not afraid to speak up for what she believed and to carry others along with her. Her dogged advocacy on behalf of farm workers and her passion to activate the faith community inspired a generation and established a national presence for the NFWM.

“…People thought I was a nun because I spent so much time with Sister Pat. She was my good, good friend,” said Olgha.


Read more about Sister Pat in the National Catholic Reporter: https://www.thefreelibrary.com/Drydyk’s+life+a+paradigm+for+justice.-a017618793


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