In 1955, Sister Barbara became the first African-American to join the St. Louis Province the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet. In 1965, she was one two black sisters among 22 nuns from Kansas City who went to Selma, Ala., to help black Alabamans in their pursuit of equal voting rights. That was a proud moment in the history of the civil rights movement and in the history of the Catholic Church.
Sister Barbara spent her adult life working for the poor and disadvantaged while also advancing the causes of healthcare and healthcare education. She earned her bachelor's in nursing prior to making her final vows in 1963, and went on to complete a Master of Science in Nursing and a Master of Science in Sociology before earning a Ph.D. in Higher Education Administration in 1977.
In 1986, she left a position as Distinguished Hallmark Chairperson of the Department of Nursing at her undergraduate alma mater, Avila University in Kansas City, Mo., to become coordinator of maternal and child health at a community health center in that urban community. She subsequently worked as the director of Kansas City Health Start, overseeing a bi-state empowerment program designed to reduce infant mortality.
Sister Barbara presently is associated with Ascension Health Care Ministries of St. Louis and serves as a director on numerous boards and organizations.