May 4, 1938 – April 7, 2022
Sister Roberta O’Rourke, CSJ, entered eternal life on April 7, 2022, at St. Joseph’s Provincial House in Latham, New York. She was 83 years old and had been a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet for 48 years.
Sister Roberta was born on May 4, 1938, and grew up in Saratoga Springs, New York, where her parents, Helen Halpin and Frank O’Rourke, made sure that Roberta and Fran, her twin sister, attended St. Peter’s Academy in that city. Roberta cherished the special bond with her twin; she and Fran were delighted when friends found it difficult to tell which twin was which. The twins also had an older brother, Bill, who was counted on to settle infrequent disputes.
After completing a B.A. and M.A. in history at The College of Saint Rose, Roberta began teaching at Saratoga Springs High School. She was loved there, and it was a shock to colleagues when, after 15 years of teaching, Roberta entered the Sisters of St. Joseph. If her friends were surprised, Roberta was not; she listened to God’s call and often said later, “I never looked back.” Roberta entered gladly into the community formation program, pronouncing her first vows in 1975 and her final vows in 1979.
During that time, she taught history and theology at Catholic Central High School in Troy, New York. The opportunity to complete a master’s degree at St. Michael’s College in Winooski, Vermont allowed her to deepen her zest for theology. She eagerly explored the meaning of Scripture in the contemporary world, using her many gifts as a teacher and mentor. No one was surprised when the Diocese of Manchester, New Hampshire named her director of the Christian Life Center in the Laconia Deanery. Sister Roberta thrived here, coordinating programs for catechists, parents and staff. It was a call to look at church in new ways, and she loved it. Although Laconia was quite a distance from Latham, Roberta’s many friends in the community delighted in visiting her.
Sister Roberta’s deepest joy came when she returned to the Albany Diocese and was appointed the first woman in the greater Amsterdam area to serve as a parish life director at St. Casmir’s Church. “I am so proud of her,” said Fran, Roberta’s twin, with tears in her eyes. Although the parish was growing, Roberta’s health was declining, and eventually, she moved to St. Joseph’s Provincial House.
Always involved in the larger province community, Roberta—universally known as Bobbie—immersed herself in the life of the house even as her abilities were diminishing. Bobbie’s last years were painful, but she never lost her interest in the future of the church as well as politics. She was not reticent in her political views and relished a good conversation or debate. Her dear friends, Sisters Mary Rose Noonan, Patricia Houlihan, and Karen Gaube, were faithful visitors.
Bobbie always kept in touch with her family, delighted to spend time with Fran, her husband Mike, and their children, Susan and Michael. “Maybob,” as the children called her, was a welcome guest for birthdays and special events.
Zealous, candid and steadfast, Sister Roberta will be missed by the many who loved her. She is survived by dear friends among the Sisters of St. Joseph as well as by her nephew, Michael, and her niece, Susan Turner, along with several beloved nieces and nephews. She was predeceased by her parents, her brother and her sister.
Services for Sister Roberta are pending. Contributions in her memory may be made to the Office of Mission Advancement, St. Joseph’s Provincial House, 385 Watervliet Shaker Road, Latham, NY, 12110 or donate online.