Sister Cynthia Brinkman, a School Sister of Notre Dame and long time educator, formator and counselor, died Jan. 19. She was 84 years old.
A private burial was held at Sancta Maria in Ripa Cemetery, with a memorial Mass to take place in the future.
Sister Cynthia was born in 1936, the third of five daughters was born to Edith (Stevens) and Raymond Brinkman in Quincy, Illinois. She attended St. Francis School, which was staffed by the School Sisters of Notre Dame. When she was 11 years old, she contracted rheumatic fever and was confined for six months. While it was a difficult period, she believed that this was God’s time to plant the seed of a call to religious life. After graduation from eighth grade, she begged her parents to attend the aspiranture at Sancta Maria in Ripa. She completed her high school education in three years, which included a six-week summer school course.
Sister Cynthia entered the candidature at Ripa on Aug. 27, 1953. She was received into the novitiate in 1954 and given the name M. Louis de Montfort. She professed first vows in 1955 and final vows in 1961. She later returned to her baptismal name. She earned a bachelor’s degree in English from the former Notre Dame College in St. Louis in 1964 and a master’s degree in theology from the University of Notre Dame in 1971.
Sister Cynthia taught elementary children for 16 years at Immaculate Conception School in Dardenne Prairie, Our Lady Queen of Peace in House Springs (where she was principal for three years) and St. Michael in Shrewsbury. She also taught at schools in Illinois.
In 1972, she was appointed the director of initial formation for the former St. Louis Province. The following year, she became a member of the newly established retreat team at Notre Dame Hall in St. Louis. In 1977, she answered the call to be director of initial formation in Honduras. Two years later, she became a member of the St. Louis Provincial Council. After two terms (1979-87) as a provincial councilor, she spent nine months as a hermit at the Cedars of Peace Hermitage in Nerinx, Kentucky. This period of solitude enabled her to integrate her experiences in Honduras and in provincial leadership as she deepened her desire for contemplative prayer.
For four years, she ministered in crisis intervention as a counselor for abused women and children at Children’s Place in Malden, Missouri. She then became director at Casa Guadalupe Family Growth Center in Ellington, Missouri, a shelter for abused and homeless women and children.
She was certified by the Clinical Pastoral Education residential program at Loyola University Medical Center in Chicago in 1997. She ministered part time in hospice and chaplaincy work for Providence Hospice. With the closure of Providence Hospice, she became a counselor at Casa Guadalupe and chaplain for the terminally ill in the four counties served by Whole Health Outreach. From 2014-18, she was a volunteer with Whole Health Outreach.
Sister Cynthia also was sensitive to the injustices experienced by the poor, especially those she witnessed in Honduras. She was a member of the School of Americas Watch group and in 2003, she participated in a peaceful demonstration at Fort Benning, Georgia. The hope of the protesters was the closing of this Department of Defense facility which trains U.S. backed Latin and South American military personnel. She was arrested with others for trespassing on government property — crossing the property line at Fort Benning during a peaceful demonstration. She also had been previously arrested while participating in a peaceful demonstration in 1983 at General Dynamics headquarters in Clayton.
She was missioned to Veronica House at The Sarah Community in Bridgeton in 2018. She later moved to Anna House. Survivors include three sisters, Barbara Meyer of Quincy; Katherine Wilper of Monroe City, Missouri; and Patricia Six of Westfield, Massachusetts.