Sister Bernadette Tam, MM

Born: January 22, 1903
Entered: September 7, 1921
Died: June 17, 1928

Sister Bernadette Tam died in Hong Kong after a short illness on the evening of June 17, 1928. She was surrounded by Maryknoll Sisters and was holding a crucifix in her hands. She was buried at Happy Valley Cemetery in Hong Kong.

Sister Bernadette was the first American-Chinese Catholic Sister. She was born in 1903 in Wailuku, Maui, in the Hawaiian Islands. Her parents were Chinese, Tam Chee and Emma Akuhuna Wong. She had three brothers and four sisters. At sixteen years of age, she came to the United States and attended business college in Jersey City, NJ later finding a position in the clerical field.

She entered Maryknoll in 1921 and was assigned to China in 1924. Until the autumn of 1928 civil disturbances in China made it unsafe for the Maryknoll Sisters to reside in the interior, Sister Bernadette was stationed at Loting, a mission in the Maryknoll Vicariate of Kongmoon, Kwantung Province. She was of great service in the Loting Orphanage and also did catechetical work among the women and girls of the mission. Sister Bernadette was especially loved by the Chinese as one of their own.  At Hong Kong, Sister took up catechetical work among the Chinese women employed in the making of vestments at the Maryknoll Convent. She was engaged in this labor up to the time of her death.

Her funeral mass was celebrated by Fr. Borer, Fr. Parisotti, an English army chaplain deacon; Fr. Hilbert, subdeacon; and Brother Benedict as Master of Ceremonies. Fr. Byrne, Fr. Granelli and Fr. Lo were in the sanctuary. Pall bearers, Chinese of St. Raphael’s Society, carried the casket on their shoulders to the Kowloon ferry wharf where there were two launches to Murray Pier and from there to Happy Valley Cemetery. The Italian, French and Chinese Sisters joined the procession at the Cemetery. Fr. Spada gave absolution at the chapel cemetery. The plot was quite close to Fr. Price’s grave and a part of a section once reserved for the Little Sisters of the Poor.