In Memoriam

Sister John Norton Barrett, OP

(1924 - 2023)

In May 2002, Sister John Norton Barrett was honored by the St. Thomas More Society in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, with the Archbishop Edward A. McCarthy Award. Local attorney James D. Camp III, making the presentation at the society’s annual Red Mass Reception, said in his remarks:

Someone once said that 100 years from now, it will not matter what kind of car we drove or what was in our bank account, but 100 years from now the world may be a better place because we were important in the life of children. Sister, there are numerous lawyers here, including myself, who you personally taught, counseled, disciplined, loved and, ultimately, assisted in our graduating from St. Thomas Aquinas High School, and we are honored to have been one of your students. Those lawyers, many of whom are in this room tonight, along with the entire St. Thomas More Society, would like you to know this evening that, at a critical point in our young lives, as future lawyers, and in the lives of countless other students, we are grateful that you were important to us.

Catherine Elizabeth Barrett, the future Sister John Norton, was born in Detroit on December 18, 1924, to Edward and Marianne (“Minnie”) Norton Barrett. Edward, who made his living as an electrician, was a Detroit native, while Minnie was born in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

Catherine was the fifth of seven children, all the rest of whom were boys: John Norton, Edward, Allan, James, Robert, and Ralph. John Norton died of pneumonia when Catherine was a sophomore in high school, and it was his name that Catherine would take in religious life.

In her autobiography, Sister John Norton remembered her Depression-era childhood as a simple one in a neighborhood with many children in it. She and her brothers all attended St. Catherine School, where they were educated by the Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM) Sisters from Monroe, Michigan, and she graduated from St. Catherine High School in 1942.

An inclination toward religious life was put on hold as she went to work, first for the J.L. Hudson Co. for a short time and then for Metropolitan Life Insurance. A year after Catherine took the Metropolitan Life Insurance job, Minnie had a serious stroke and Catherine left her position in order to look after the household duties. At some point during this time, she took a part-time job working weekends as a salesperson for Sears, Roebuck & Co.

Read more about Sister John Norton (PDF)

make a memorial giftMemorial gifts may be made to Adrian Dominican Sisters, 1257 East Siena Heights Drive, Adrian, Michigan, 49221. 



Memorial Mass at St. Thomas Aquinas High School

On Saturday, April 1, 2023, a memorial Mass for Sister John Norton Barrett was hosted at St Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where Sister John Norton was Principal for 50 years. The video recording is now available for viewing. The liturgy begins at the 12-minute mark.


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Avatar  Linda Palmer last yearReply

Sister John , you were so loved by so many in this life and you will be so missed by so many as you enter into your new life. We were blessed to know you and will cherish the memories of the Christmas Eves we spent with you and the Tolzien family and the St. Thomas Aquinas events . Our prayers go with you .

Avatar  Mary Brooks Harris last yearReply

So sorry to hear of Sister John Norton’s passing. She was an amazing woman. A beautiful person inside & out. She touched so many students from our STA ‘72 class. I was so grateful for her kindness in allowing me to teach one of her math classes on student teacher day my Senior year. God bless you Sister. You will be dearly missed. May her memory be a blessing.
Mary Brooks Harris STA ‘72

Avatar  Joe Salsamendi last yearReply

Dear Sister John,​

After nearly a century leading an exemplary life and helping to shape so many of our lives you live on through all of us.

You have touched us in so many ways even after we graduated St Thomas. When I lived in Rolling Hills and you lived about a mile away I saw you in and around town and at St David's. Even 9 years ago you would come for coffee at some of the STA Network meetings early in the morning. You always had that gleam in your eyes when I would see you and made me feel special. Of course, you had a bigger gleam in your eyes when I left. LOL.

By your example, I learned discipline in geometry class and to raise the bar. Later you encouraged me to volunteer and give back to Aquinas.

While I cannot speak for you, I do believe that you deserve, earned and were ready to rest. You have done your part and live on through all of us.

Therefore, I celebrate your life and carry on with the positive impacts you have made in my life and so many other lives!

Past summer in Ireland I loved this greeting and thought about you. Dia duit Sister John, (God be with you). I know you are saying Dia is Muire leat. (God and Mary be with you). The Irish are not afraid to speak of God.

Thank you,

Joe Salsamendi

Avatar  Mary Lou Baglia last yearReply

Sr John and I had many laughs as we were both principals in Catholic schools inFt Lauderdale. I especially remember a trip to San Francisco with her and other principals. We had some good times. She made a great impact on the students at St Thomas.

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