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Remembering Sister Karen Kennelly, CSJ

 St. Paul Province

Karen Kennelly, CSJ

August 4, 1933 – December 15, 2023

Karen Kennelly, CSJ, died peacefully on the evening of December 15, 2023, at Carondelet Village in St. Paul.

A noted historian, author, and scholar, a lover of nature, sports, cooking, and reading, a faithful companion to family and friends, this wonderfully spirited and witty woman was born on August 4, 1933. She was the youngest of five children born to Walter and Clara (Eastman) Kennelly, in Graceville, Minnesota.

Sister Karen entered the community of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, St. Paul Province in 1951, where she was given the name Sister Dolorosa.

Her educational path was vast, including a bachelor of arts in history and English from the College of St. Catherine in St. Paul (1956); a master’s in history from the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC (1958); and a Ph.D. in history from the University of California, Berkeley (1962). She also completed post-doctoral studies at the Hispanic-American and Luso-Brazillian Center, Stanford University (1964) and the American Council of Learned Societies Fellowship, post-doctoral research in Spain (1965).

Sister Karen was missioned to teach at the College of St. Catherine as a professor, and later as chair of the history department (1956-1969). She then joined the college administration as academic dean (1970-1979), where she was instrumental in establishing the Weekend College Program. In 1979, she was appointed Executive Director of the National Federation of Carondelet Colleges, and from 1982-1988 served as Director of our St. Paul Province. She was then appointed President of Mount Saint Mary’s College in Los Angeles, where she faithfully served for 11 years.

In 2001, she was selected to serve on our Congregational Leadership Team, on which she was an indomitable force advocating for leadership and growth among our asssociate/consociate programs, and for furthering the acknowledgment and history of religious women, which resulted in a successful museum exhibit at the Smithsonian entitled: Women & Spirit: Catholic Sisters in America.

Sister Karen authored numerous publications and historical articles including the book Speaking the Language of Love: Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet in Japan. Among her many awards and honors Karen received the Alexandrine Medal from the College of St. Catherine recognizing her as “a deeply spiritual woman, sensitive to the diverse nuances of culture; one whose vision and diligent work turns countless possibilities into realities.” She will be greatly missed by all who loved her.

Sister Karen is preceded in death by her parents, her sister Marcia Bichoff; her brothers Clarence, Jack and Keith Kennelly. She is survived by many nieces and nephews, grandnieces and nephews, cousins, dear friends, and the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet and Consociates, St. Paul Province.

Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on Friday, January 12, 2024, at 11:00 a.m., in Our Lady of the Presentation Chapel, 1884 Randolph Avenue, St. Paul, with burial following at Resurrection Cemetery in Mendota Heights.

Memorials are preferred to the Sisters of St. Joseph Ministries Foundation.

Dear Karen, rest in love and peace.

Category: Obituaries

1 thought on “Remembering Sister Karen Kennelly, CSJ”

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    Sister Karen was Academic Dean when I graduated in 1977. It was such a pleasure to hear her speak my name on graduation day.

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The Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet are a congregation of Catholic sisters. We, and those who share our charism and mission, are motivated in all things by our profound love of God and our dear neighbors. We seek to build communities and bridge divides between people. Since our first sisters gathered in 1650, our members have been called to “do all things of which women are capable.” The first sisters of our congregation arrived in St. Louis, Missouri in 1836, and we now have additional locations in St. Paul, Albany, Los Angeles, Hawaii, Japan and Peru. Today, we commit to respond boldly to injustice and dare to be prophetic.


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