A funeral Mass for Loretto Sister Betty Obal was celebrated Oct. 18 at the Church of the Seven Dolors on the grounds of Loretto Motherhouse in Nerinx, Ky. Sister Betty mainly worked in Denver and Chicago serving the underserved, including people with disabilities, the dying, prisoners, ex-offenders and the homeless, and in New York City, where she was a U.N. NGO. She died Oct. 12 at Loretto Motherhouse Infirmary. Sister Betty was 75 and in the 35th year of her life as a Sister of Loretto at the Foot of the Cross.
Sister Betty was born Feb. 17, 1943, in Columbus, Neb., the second of five children of Cecilia (Korus) and Thomas J. Obal. She earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology/psychology in 1976 from the University of Colorado in Boulder and a master’s in theology in 1989 from Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. After earning her undergraduate degree and before becoming a Sister of Loretto, Betty was involved in various service-oriented jobs and volunteer work, including at Head Start, in prison ministry and visitations to nursing homes, along with working for Frontier Airlines.
Betty entered the Sisters of Loretto July 2, 1983, and lived her first year with Loretto at the Bridge Community in Denver, a home whose residents included Sisters of Loretto and women with disabilities. She was received into the congregation Sept. 1, 1984, making her first vows Aug. 6, 1987. During this period, she trained as a nurse’s aide and worked in a hospice program. Sister Betty made her final vows July 3, 1993.
From 1987 to 1995, Sister Betty lived in Chicago. During this period, she lived in a variety of settings, including at the Catholic Worker house in Uptown Chicago. She also worked part time and full time in a number of positions, including as associate director of alternative housing for women with disabilities and for the Institute of Women Today Sisterhouse, an ecumenical group where upward of 15 female ex-offenders, religious Sisters, teachers and homeless people shared community. During this timeframe, Sister Betty also initiated the Accessibility Project, a Loretto-funded study which resulted in improved policies and standards in the Chicago Archdiocese for inclusion of persons with disabilities. In addition, she did substitute teaching in several Chicago area school districts.
In 1995, Sister Betty moved to New York City, where she then served for the next 10 years at the United Nations in Loretto’s NGO office, first as assistant to the lead representative, then as lead representative. In 2006, Sister Betty settled in Denver, entering into the same varieties of service to the underserved as she had done in Chicago. Among her activities from 2006 to 2010, she volunteered for the Colorado Department of Corrections and the Federal Bureau of Prisons and also served with Catholic Services of the Denver Archdiocese. From 2010 to 2016, she returned to Nebraska for extended periods with family and served her Community at Loretto’s Denver Center and Motherhouse. In her later years, Sister Betty battled cancer courageously. In 2017, Sister Betty moved to Motherhouse Infirmary, where she carried out a ministry of prayer and presence and served her Community until her death.
Among survivors are her sister Delores “Dee” Jacobs of Seattle, brother Thomas “Tom” Obal of Columbus, Neb., and numerous nieces and nephews.
Sister Betty was buried in the Loretto Motherhouse Nature Preserve Cemetery.
Memorials in Sister Betty’s name may be sent to the Loretto Community, care of the Loretto Development Office, 4000 S. Wadsworth Blvd., Littleton, CO 80123-1308.