“O Lord, you have given me so much. Please give me one thing more – a grateful heart.” ~ George Herbert Early
In the afternoon of December 21, 2021, our beloved Sister Mary Dominic Klaseus died in Notre Dame Hall, Our Lady of Good Counsel, Mankato, Minnesota. She had experienced declining health in the weeks previous to her death, and sisters were taking turns praying with her in her final days.
The Funeral Mass for Sister Mary Dominic will be held at 10:30 a.m., May 25, 2022, in the Good Counsel Chapel, Mankato, Minnesota, with Father Joe Fogal as presider. A 9:00 prayer service will precede the funeral. Burial will follow in the Good Counsel cemetery. Masks are required for those who attend the funeral.
We extend our sympathy to Sister Mary Dominic’s sister, Jean (Jack) Burkard, her nieces and nephew and their families, her 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, Clarence and Agnes (Roerig) Klaseus, and her brother, Dick.
“The dismal howl of a northwestern blizzard was suddenly drowned out by the lusty shrieks of the first born of the Clarence Klaseus family.” In her own words, Sister Dominic described her birth on February 26, 1928, at St. Joseph Hospital, Mankato, Minnesota. About two weeks later, she was baptized Marilyn Helen at SS. Peter & Paul parish, even though the pastor kept referring to her as “Mary.” Marilyn grew up in the shadow of Good Counsel Hill, in Duke’s Addition. She wrote, “There were few girls my age so the boys accepted me as one of them. They taught me all the games that a boy loves, beginning with marbles and rubber gun fights to baseball and hockey.” In 1933, Marilyn entered kindergarten at SS. Peter & Paul School, where she was taught by School Sisters of Notre Dame. As a sixth grader, she admired and respected her teacher, Sister Clarentia Trautner, who asked her at the beginning of summer vacation what she planned to do when she was older. Sister Dominic described what happened next: “In my surprise I blurted out, ‘Be a sister like you are!’ She wasn’t amazed, but I was. As I walked home I must have meditated for the first time. My main interests in life were reading and athletics, and in an effort to have my cake and eat it too, I had always planned on being a librarian or a physical education teacher. Religious life had never occurred to me.” By the time she was a seventh grader she had definitely decided to become a sister, but didn’t tell anyone until after eighth grade graduation when her parents asked her about high school plans. Her father in particular vehemently opposed her choice “and decided that four years at Loyola High School would change my mind.” Marilyn, however, chose courses that would be needed for her future as a teacher and “plunged into the whirl of high school activities.” She credited Sister Clarentia with mentoring her vocational choice, encouraging daily Mass attendance and fostering a love for the Sacred Heart. When Marilyn was a junior, her sister, Jean, was born, which Marilyn saw as a blessing in regard to her vocational choice. And shortly before graduation, “there was a complete capitulation on the part of my parents.” Marilyn entered the SSND candidature in 1946 to prepare for her life as a School Sister of Notre Dame. As a second-year candidate, she taught 54 fourth graders at St. Matthew School in St. Paul. On July 18, 1948, she was received into the novitiate and given the name Sister Mary Dominic. She professed first vows on July 19, 1949, and shortly after began her teaching ministry at Holy Childhood School in St. Paul, where she stayed until 1951. She continued teaching middle and upper grades at St. Felix, Wabasha (1951-52); St. Mary, Worthington (1952-56); and Sacred Heart, St. Paul (1956-63). From 1963 through 1965, in addition to teaching eighth grade, she was also principal at St. Benedict School, Strasburg, North Dakota, a dual role that she continued at St. John the Baptist School in Mankato. She earned a B.A. in English and education from the College of St. Catherine (1958); an MS in elementary education administration (1971) and an Education Specialist degree (1978), both from Mankato State College. (A side note: She originally studied for a Masters in English but could not imagine herself teaching “Ode to a Grecian Urn” to high school students. Her interest and enthusiasm were with elementary school students.) In 1969, the four parishes of Mankato agreed to establish a new school for all seventh and eighth grade students. Sister Dominic became the principal of this cooperative venture, named Fitzgerald Middle School in honor of the then current bishop of the Winona Diocese. Sister Dominic called her years at Fitzgerald “the Camelot of my educational experiences. It was an exciting time. The original Loyola High School building was the site of this new school and volunteers from each parish worked through the summer to have the building ready.” The staff developed a curriculum tailored to the needs of pre-adolescent students and expanded the basic curriculum offerings to include art, music, basic woodworking, sewing and food preparation for all students. She worked with a Fitzgerald staff that, in her words, was “an outstanding group of talented and dedicated educators who went the extra mile to meet students’ needs.” Sister Dominic was recognized as an outstanding educational leader and was the right person to inaugurate the middle school concept in Mankato. In 1977, Sister Dominic took on a new challenge: administrator of the Lonsdale-New Market-Veseli Area Catholic School consolidation, with school buildings in all three towns. When she left LNMV in 1987, this tribute appeared in the local paper: “We have all witnessed and benefited from her strong belief in a good parochial school education; her unbounded zest and energy when it came to our school and its many fund raisers; and her keen love of God and conviction to pass it on to us and our children through our Area School and CCD programs.” Following her ten-year stint at LNMV, Sister Dominic applied for the administration position at St. Timothy School, Maple Lake. She was hired and commented in her autobiography: “It did not take long to discover that my work was cut out for me. One goal was to increase enrollment; another, to update and expand the curriculum; and a third, to ‘spruce up’ the school.” An introductory article in the local paper provided more insight, stating that her primary reason for accepting the position was educationally based: “I really believe in excellence in education for our children in the more rural areas. The value system of the rural population and their schools are from where the country’s and the church’s leadership will come.” In recognition of her leadership at St. Timothy, she was selected in 1988 as the distinguished principal from the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA) Region VIII, and received her award at the annual convention in New York. In 1993, she moved into a new area of ministry. “I always said that while I still had energy and enthusiasm, I wanted to work with our retired sisters.” The position of health care administrator on Good Counsel Hill opened; she applied for it and was accepted. Following a semester of gerontology studies, she began work in the St. Joseph Hall Health Care Center in January 1994. In her administrative role of management and supervision, she saw herself first as an advocate for the retired and ill sisters. “My new work is a carry-over from education to care for those who generously gave of themselves in the education of youth.” When the decision was made in 2000 to construct a new health care wing for sisters, Sister Dominic donned a hard hat and became the communication person between SSND and the construction workers. When Notre Dame Health Care was finished and Theresa and Isidore Halls were renovated, Sister Dominic turned in her hard hat and focused her attention on the volunteers who offered their services on Good Counsel Hill. She also became the moderator for the Good Counsel Auxiliary and the bedroom coordinator for hospitality. For many years she was the designated tour guide for Hill facilities. With her Mankato background and strong “people skills” she served as an ambassador for SSND to the local Mankato community. Her autobiography concludes: “My life has been blessed and enriched by my SSND companions, by the spiritual and cultural opportunities provided by my SSND community and by the friendship of many parishioners I worked with during my ministry in Catholic schools. I am grateful for all.” May Sister Dominic, with her grateful heart, now know the joy of being in the eternal presence of God.”