St. Teresa of Avila principal to leave school to be prioress

Deborah Deasy
| Wednesday, May 14, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Her secretary uses three “F” words to describe Sister Karen Brink, newly named prioress of the Benedictine Sisters of Pittsburgh.

“Firm, fair and fun,” said Brink, laughing in her principal's office at St. Teresa of Avila School in Ross Township.

“And not fussy,” Brink added.

Brink also described herself as impatient, impulsive and impetuous, plus, a sports-loving frequent listener to 93.7 The Fan radio.

Last month, Brink got the most votes when her fellow Benedictines solemnly gathered April 25, 26 and 27 at their Richland Township monastery to pick a new prioress — and president.

Brink, 67, will be installed June 15 at the monastery to succeed Sister Benita DeMatteis, prioress since 2008 of the 46-member religious community.

“I'm not solemn, but I can be serious when I have to be,” Brink said. “I'm excited about starting something new, and I dread leaving St. Teresa School because I love it so much. ... I'll miss the kids.”

Brink entered the Benedictines' community in 1963 and began her teaching career in 1966 as third-grade teacher Sister Sharon, her former Benedictine name, at St. Teresa of Avila School.

Nearly 250 elementary students and preschoolers attend the school. “They're already wishing her well and saying they'll miss her,” said Christine Mundie, the school's secretary.

Brink spent the last 12 years serving the children and families of St. Teresa of Avila School and the parish. She will move from her home at the convent there to the monastery in Richland.

“Certainly, we're sorry to see Sister Karen leave St. Teresa of Avila School,” said the Rev. Robert Vular, pastor. “But we're confident — with her leadership capabilities — that she will be able to take those gifts to another part of the kingdom (of God) to which she was called to serve.

“Her dedication and her love of the children will always be remembered.”

Vular plans to immediately hunt for Brink's replacement.

Brink — daughter of the late James and Gertrude Brink — grew up in the East Street valley of Pittsburgh's North Side.

As a girl, she admired the Benedictine sisters who taught her at the former St. Boniface School on East Street and former St. Benedict Academy in Ross.

“I wanted to be like them,” Brink said. “They seemed happy. I think they were happy.”

As a high school senior, Brink applied to join the sisters.

“My mother was very supportive,” Brink said.

“At one point, my father said, ‘If you don't go into the convent, I'll buy you a car.' Once the decision was made, my dad was fine with it.”

If she hadn't become a religious sister, Brink said, she would have been a wife and mother.

Instead, Brink spent the last five decades teaching and filling pastoral roles at schools and parishes in the Roman Catholic dioceses of Pittsburgh; Greensburg; and Youngstown, Ohio.

Her resume also includes a bachelor's degree in history from La Roche College in McCandless and master's degrees in education and theology from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh.

Brink's selection as the Benedictines' new prioress entailed a “process of prayer, of listening to the Holy Spirit and of talking in community,” said Sister Evelyn Dettling, spokeswoman for the Benedictine Sisters of Pittsburgh.

“We were in the dining room, around tables. . . . Names are mentioned,” Sister Evelyn said. “Eventually, it gets to the point where maybe five people are asked to address the community publicly.”

In her public remarks, Brink talked about her unfailing commitment to her current ministry.

“If I'm selected for this position I will give 100 percent,” Brink told her peers.

“My focus will be on the three things that I think we all consider extremely important: prayer, community and ministry. … That's what we are about, and I will give my all to that.”

Deborah Deasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6369 or

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