Retired local educator Sr. Irene Dvorak celebrates 60 years as a Notre Dame Sister

Celebrating 60 years of religious profession is Sister Irene Dvorak, daughter of the deceased Herman and Adella S. Dvorak. Born in Dodge, Nebraska she received a Bachelor ‘s degree in Education from Duchesne College and her Master’s degree in Education from Creighton University.

There are two words that best describe the long career of Sr. Irene – education and travel! She spent more than 25 years teaching in Omaha and Iowa at St. Adalbert School, St. Therese’s School, St. John the Baptist School, in Prague, St. Michael’s in Harlan, Iowa, Mary, and Queen of Apostles in Council Bluffs, lowa. Sr. Irene then embarked on a career path of teaching religious education at St. Philip Neri in Omaha, St. Rose of Lima Parish in Genoa, and at St Patrick’s in Elkhorn.

“I really loved teaching, especially junior high kids because they are beginning to become adults,” Sr. Irene said. “They are trying all kinds of new things. I saw a spark in them and they were full of ideas. They’re just wonderful at that age.”

Sr. Irene in 2004 at St. Rose of Lima Parish in Genoa, Nebraska


Sr. Irene in 2010 with Sadlier Book Company

Sr. Irene in 2004 at St. Rose of Lima Parish in Genoa, Nebraska

“I remember when my son Jason was around 3 years old, Sr. Irene would come over and play with him. He loved M&Ms so Sr. Irene always made sure she had a bag for him. He always got excited when we told him she was coming over!” said Elaine Birnstihl, alumna from Notre Dame Academy.

Sr. Irene’s religious education work eventually landed her a consultancy position with a religious textbook company, Sadlier Book Company. She travelled across the Midwest for more than 20 years teaching religious educators how to get the most out of the textbooks and keep students engaged.

But that is just the beginning of Sr. Irene’s travels. After her father passed away in 1983, her mother invited Sr. Irene to join her on a trip to visit a friend in Norway. 

“From there we went to Rome, and after that we just took off,” Sr. Irene remembers of her nearly 20 years of travel with her mother. “We would look through travel agencies and traveled together in 23 countries until she got tired of being on an airplane. Then we kept our travel to the United States, starting with the East and making it to the West. I am lucky to have been able to do that with my mother.”

The last five years of her career, Sr. Irene slowed down and worked in Pastoral Care at Via Christe in Omaha. “I enjoy my memories of working several years with the elderly, doing pastoral care and keeping them company. It was a truly wonderful experience working with the elderly. I got to know the hearts of people. It was a fulfilling thing where you were appreciated for who you were on the inside.”

After years of world travel, Sr. Irene now enjoys living at her former high school, which was converted into senior living in 1997. She has been retired since 2018 and spends her time on her prayer ministry and interacting with Sisters, neighbors, family, and staff at Notre Dame Housing in North Omaha. 

Sr. Irene joins four other Notre Dame Sisters celebrating their jubilees this year — Sr Ernestine Havlovic ND, and Sr Joan Polak, ND, are celebrating 70 years and Sr Margaret Hickey, ND, and Sr Corona Humpal, ND, are celebrating 60 years.