In memory of…
Rose Maida Palen ’54
To celebrate her 80th birthday, Rose Palen's seven children and husband, Richard, bought her an elegant stone bench on one of her favorite places on earth.
“My mom had a great deal of fondness for St. Kate’s,” says Mimi Palen-Clare, of Rose Palen ’54 who passed away in 1998, at age 65. “Her pottery teacher at St. Kate’s, Sister Jean Nelson, was an inspiration to her artistic development as a potter.”
Rose Palen was an accomplished potter, a nurse, and the co-owner of a religious art store on Grand Avenue in St. Paul. She was active in church, as well as education and social service organizations. Many were drawn to her verve for life. Some of her best friends, in fact, came from her days in St. Kate’s nursing program. “Mom made many friends and maintained close lifelong relationships with her classmates,” notes Palen-Clare.
The Rose Palen Memorial Bench sits on an idyllic spot, at the foot of the main steps to Our Lady of Victory Chapel. The views — of the Chapel and Dew Drop Pond — are “pretty spectacular,” notes Palen-Clare. Her mother, who majored in Nursing and was a President’s Forum member, along with her husband, would have been impressed. “She loved the outdoors and was a master gardener,” says Palen-Clare. “We’re very happy with the location.”
Palen-Clare got the idea for the bench from her mother’s friend, Mary (Puddy) Dolan Delaney ’54, at lunch one day. “Puddy planted the seed, and I talked to my family members about it,” recalls Palen-Clare. “Everyone thought it would be a great way to honor our mother and to give back to St. Kate’s.”
Vera Chester ’52, CSJ
Teacher. Friend. Fulbright scholar. Eminent theologian — and the first woman president of the College Theology Society, a professional association of college and university professors. The list of nouns to describe Vera Chester, CSJ, Professor Emerita of Theology, is long. So too is the list of her attributes. She was brilliant,” recalls classmate Judy O’Malley Catton ’52, “but it was her wicked sense of humor that made her so appealing.”
Sister Vera was scheduled to teach a class at Reunion 2012, but died suddenly two months prior. “We felt the loss keenly,” says O’Malley Catton. A group that often lunched with her sent donations to Dream of Wild Health, a Native American tribal farm organization with which she was engaged. Other friends wanted to do more.
It wasn’t until this spring when Sister Vera’s roommate Ann O’Neill, CSJ, mentioned the Tekakwitha Conference — an annual gathering of Native American Catholics — that the Vera Chester CSJ Memorial at St. Catherine University was hatched.
“We thought the idea of keeping her legacy alive was something we wanted to promote,” says Mary Jo Ryan Richardson ’52. Sister Vera was active on the CSJ’s Native American Awareness Task Force of the Justice Commission, she explains, and advocated the sainthood of Kateri (Catherine) Tekakwitha, who was canonized as the first Native American saint in 2012 and now recognized as patroness of the environment and ecology.
“Since we got a late start, we were not sure how much money we could raise,” says Ryan Richardson, of the appeal letter she, O’Malley Catton and Mary Louise May Klas ’52 signed and sent to 106 classmates. Sister Ann followed up with a second letter about a week later. She sent hers to Sister Vera’s friends, colleagues and relatives.
Collectively, they raised more than enough to send two students, Rachel Thompson ’14 and Comfort Dondo-Dewey ’15 (see sidebar), and one alumna, Rebecca Roepke ’11 — to the 75th Tekakwitha Conference in Fargo, North Dakota.
“It is heartwarming to see their response to Vera’s passion,” says May Klas ’52.
For more information on honoring a loved one through a gift to St. Catherine University, contact Beth Riedel Carney at 651-690-6737 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rose Palen's photo provided by family.
Sister Vera photo courtesy of the CSJ Archives.
From Comfort Dondo-Dewey ’15 — Vera Chester CSJ Memorial recipient — to her donors:
I am writing to thank you for the generous opportunity to attend the Tekakwitha Conference.
Moving to the United States, I started to experience a lot of (isms), racism, classism, poverty, to name a few. I found myself questioning my faith. I started soul searching and was having a difficult time associating to this Christ I grew up learning about. The social injustices around me made me experience a crises of faith.
In attending the Tekakwitha conference, I found healing and learned how I could observe, embrace and include my own Shona and Zulu traditions within my Christian faith.