Sr. Karen Rolenc lived in service to children and her fellow Sisters; one of many in her family to enter consecrated life

Sr. Karen (Rita Marie) Rolenc, ND, passed away Monday, October 10. She was a consecrated Notre Dame Sister since 1956 and spent much of her life serving children and her fellow Sisters.

Sr. Karen’s services will be held at Notre Dame Housing (formerly Notre Dame Academy) at 3439 State Street in Omaha.

  • Her Homecoming will be Friday, October 14, 2022, at 4 p.m.
  • Her Wake Service will be October 14, 2022, at 7 p.m.
  • The Mass of Resurrection will be Saturday, October 15, 2022, at 10 a.m.
  • Her burial will be at Calvary Cemetery followed by luncheon.

Born Rita Marie Rolenc on August 25, 1934, she was one of four to be born in the farmhouse about two miles west of Brainard, Nebraska. She was the youngest of four daughters: Marcella Agnes, Pauline Beatrice, Dorothy Ann, and Rita Marie. She graduated from Notre Dame Academy in 1952. She took the name Karen when she made her vows and was known as Sr. Karen the rest of her life.

“Karen enjoyed being in the field, sometimes helping Dad when he needed a small body to climb into the enormous thrashing machine after it was shut off to help make a repair,” her sister, Sr. Anita Rolenc, remembered.

Karen came from a large family rooted in faith and was aware of the Notre Dame Sisters since she was a young girl, as her aunts Pauline and Loretta Polak (✟) were also consecrated Sisters. Dorothy Ann, now known as Sr. Anita, entered religious life four years before Karen. Their cousins also joined the Notre Dame Sisters – Sr. Joan Polak, Sr. Josita Hanus, Ernestine Havlovic, and Sr. Alma Janousek.

On February 2, 1956 she became an aspirant and a postulant on February 10. Reception into the Notre Dame community was held August 12, 1956.

In August 1966, Sr. Karen was assigned to Porcupine, SD, on the Pine Ridge Reservation. She oversaw the Sale Room at Christ the King Church. The Sale Room had used clothing, shoes, and household items for people to purchase for a reasonable price. This was an important service to serve people with a low income, as poverty was pervasive on the reservation.

Sr. Karen attended Omaha Tech College for childcare employment and Metro Community College for Applied Science/Early Childhood Education. Starting in 1974, Sr. Karen worked full time at Saint James Daycare Center working with young children until the center closed in 1980. From 1980-1986 Karen was employed at Child Saving Institute working with children aged 2-4 years old.

Her career grew when working at Creche Child Care Center (1986-1990) and in 1987 was promoted to Education Coordinator. From 1991-2009, Sr. Karen was employed as the Coordinator for Saint Richard’s Day Care Center.

In 1980, Sr. Karen served as Assistant Coordinator of the Motherhouse. She was elected Coordinator in 1998 and served until 2005. She was responsible for hiring lay employees in the kitchen, housekeeping, maintenance, telephone duty, and more. She was known to roll up her sleeves and assist in cleaning and maintenance duties.

Sr. Karen had many talents. From her work on the farm in her childhood, she was no stranger to hard work and doing things herself. Her 4-H training as a young girl made her a skilled cook and seamstress. Her skill at baking was used to make hundreds of kolaches for Notre Dame Sisters fundraisers.

Sr. Karen had the unique talent of a compassionate presence. In her own words, this presence was “just to be there; attentive—notice when one is needing help; caring, flexible—be ready to stop and help where needed; love—whatever I do, do it with love. Let God use me. I don’t have to be perfect.”