Cover photo for Sister M. René Lorentz, SSND's Obituary
Sister M. René Lorentz, SSND Profile Photo

Sister M. René Lorentz, SSND

June 6, 1920 — April 2, 2022

Sister M. René Lorentz, SSND

Sister M. René Lorentz, SSND, 101, died peacefully at 6:40 p.m. on Saturday, April 2, 2022, in Notre Dame Health Care, Good Counsel Hill, Mankato, Minnesota.

Sister René’s autobiography concluded with, “Please come, dear God, when I am most ready.” In the week previous to her death, sisters prayed with her as she approached the moment when she would be “most ready.”

Funeral Service will include a Prayer of Remembrance at 9:00 a.m. and a Funeral Liturgy at 10:30 a.m., with Father Joe Fogal as presider, on Wednesday, April 20, in Our Lady of Good Counsel Chapel. Burial of her cremains will follow in the Good Counsel Cemetery.

We extend our sympathy to Sister René’s nephew, Tom Carroll, her cousins, including Sister Katherine Scheurer, SSND, her friends, colleagues and former students, and her sisters in community, the School Sisters of Notre Dame and SSND Associates. She was preceded in death by her parents, Peter and Elizabeth (Leonard) Lorentz, her sister, Betty Carroll, and a brother who died in infancy.

On Pentecost Sunday, June 6, 1920, Sister René, the first child of Peter and Elizabeth Lorentz, was born in Mankato, Minnesota. She was baptized a week later at SS. Peter & Paul Church and named Mary Catherine after her two grandmothers. Two years later, a baby brother, Leonard Peter, was born, but lived only six weeks. Another daughter, Betty Anne, was born when Mary Catherine was seven. Sister René later wrote, “By that time I had begun the lifelong process of being educated. Since both my parents worked in our Lorentz Cash Grocery on North Sixth Street, they were happy that I was eager to enter first grade at the age of five.” Mary Catherine admired her SSND teachers at both SS. Peter & Paul School and Good Counsel Academy and hoped one day to be one of them. She was very aware of religious vocations: her mother’s sister was Sister Mary Philip Leonard, SSND; and an uncle (Quirinus Leonard) and great uncle (Peter Leonard) were Jesuits. She especially looked forward to the visits of Fathers Peter and Quirinus when they returned to Mankato. In 1937, June 6 was again Pentecost Sunday and it was Mary Catherine’s graduation day from Good Counsel Academy. She wrote, “I loved my years of study ‘on the Hill’ and my work in the Sodality of Our Lady.” She entered the SSND candidature in August, and later remarked, “It seemed strange that my folks should have to write to me though I was only 15 blocks from home. When we walked to the flagpole at the top of the front steps, I could pinpoint our neighborhood very easily.” As a second-year candidate, she taught 45 second and third graders at St. Francis de Sales School, St. Paul. She was received into the novitiate in 1939 and given the name Sister M. René, with her patron being one of the North American Jesuit martyrs. After profession of first vows in 1940, Sister René was assigned to study social studies at Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa. She commented, “What a unique way for God to answer my prayers to be a fourth grade teacher with a college major in math!” During the school year she lived at the Franciscan motherhouse in Dubuque and spent holiday time with the SSNDs in St. Donatus, Iowa. From 1941 through 1943, she “experienced large community living while teaching ninth grade in the newly established St. Agnes High School in St. Paul.” She completed her B.A. degree in 1942 with a major in history and a minor in sociology. In 1943, she experienced several “firsts” as a teacher at St. Mary’s School in New England, North Dakota: “my first experience with a medium-sized community, with boarders, with students from the prairie land, with the load of six different high school subjects.” She remained in New England until 1947, when she returned to St. Agnes. In 1952, she moved to Don Bosco High School, Gilbertville, Iowa, for three years. After five summers of study, she earned an M. A. in history and education from Loras College (Catholic University branch) and the Catholic University in Washington, D.C. in 1951. In 1955, she again returned to St. Agnes, where she stayed until 1958. On a province questionnaire, Sister René had indicated an interest in studying philosophy, and she spent the 1958-59 school year studying in the Sister Formation Program at St. Louis University. The 1959-60 school year was a “dream come true” as she taught at Good Counsel Academy, her alma mater. During that school year, she was asked to go on for further study to enable her to teach in the formation college at Good Counsel. The fall of 1961 found Sister René again as a student, this time at Catholic University working toward a doctorate in history, with political science and education as minors. This degree was completed in 1963. In addition to the academic courses, in an article in Echoes, Sister René listed several fringe benefits to studying in Washington, D.C.: attending President Kennedy’s inauguration with Sister M. Eunice Silkey; a senatorial tour of the White House; attending two sessions of Congress; and viewing the Supreme Court in action. She was also able to take trips to Williamsburg, Monticello, Mt. Vernon, the Statue of Liberty and the United Nations, where she attended two general sessions. (Protocol tickets for the UN experience were obtained through the courtesy of Minnesota Senator Hubert Humphrey.) After four months of research for her doctoral dissertation, Sister René began teaching postulants, novices and sisters in the Mankato Campus of Mount Mary College in 1962. (Former students in her logic, ethics, and various history courses remember her insistence that research assignments be completed on 3x5 cards.) In 1965, she was appointed dean of the Mankato Campus, a position she held until 1972. She then returned to high school teaching, serving until 1975 at St. Mary’s, New England for a second time. She commented, “It was a very rewarding experience to teach sons and daughters of parents who had been my students in the 1940s.” In 1975 and in 1979 she was elected to Mankato Provincial Team leadership as Coordinator of Apostolate. At the conclusion of her second term, she wrote, “I am grateful for the privilege of working with the other Team members and for the countless graces received in serving sisters throughout the province. Prayer support was ever a felt blessing in the inevitable ups and downs of provincial administration.” When Sister René completed her term in provincial administration in 1983, she again became a high school teacher, this time at De Sales High School in Walla Walla, Washington. In 1989, her teaching ministry took a different direction as she taught history and English as a Second Language to Divine Word seminarians in Epworth, Iowa. She treasured this time with multi-cultural students, and received the Charles Malin Award for Excellence in Teaching from Divine Word College. In 1993, Sister René became a member of the SSND Interprovincial Novitiate Community based in Notre Dame Hall, St. Louis University. She taught history and ESL part time at St. Louis University until 1996, when the novitiate community moved off the university campus. Sister René then moved north to her final teaching position, teacher of social studies and religion to fifth and sixth grade students at All Saints School, Madison Lake, Minnesota. She successfully adapted her teaching methods to that student level, so much so that one year each class member selected her as the one they would call for help on the “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” TV program. She also served in parish ministry at All Saints, leading Bible Study groups and visiting senior citizens. In 2005, at the age of 85, Sister René moved “home” to Good Counsel Hill, and reflected, “Retirement environment agrees with me. I’m grateful to be a resident, community member, pray-er, and roving card player.” A faithful letter-writer, she stayed in contact with many former students. As Sister René reached and surpassed milestone birthday and Jubilee celebrations, she continued to express her gratitude to God, “in whom she lived and moved and had her being.” May her time in eternal life include unlimited card games and visits with family, friends and students!

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Past Services

Mass of Christian Burial

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Starts at 10:30 am (Central time)

Our Lady of Good Counsel Chapel

170 Good Counsel Dr, Mankato, MN 56001

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