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Sister Kathleen Dolphin

Scholar And Woman Of Faith

“That is an interesting question. Tell me how you understand it.” Perhaps this is such a conversation that Sister Kathleen Dolphin is now engaged in with noted theologians in the comfort of heaven, especially, Edward Schillebeeckx whose sermons were the subject of her doctoral dissertation at the University of Chicago. This seems so appropriate considering that she was a theologian, scientist, scholar and life-long learner. Sister Kathleen pursued a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Clarke College, a master’s degree in science from the University of Montana, Missoula, and a master’s degree in Christian spirituality from Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska. As a serious scholar she completed both a master’s degree from the School of Divinity and a doctorate of philosophy at the University of Chicago. She was born in Chicago and spent the first decade of her life there before her parents, Earl and Inez, moved their family to Dubuque where she met the Sisters of the Presentation for the first time at St. Columbkille High School.

Sister Kathleen was ever mindful of the immigrant experience in this country. Her mother came to the United States from Sweden as a young teenager. At her mother’s elbow she learned the fine points of making pepparkakor, Swedish ginger cookies. At Christmas time, she often gifted her family with this special
treat. Because of her mother’s experience as a newcomer, she was especially attentive to the needs of international students at Loyola University in Chicago.

Equally proud of her Irish heritage, she thought she had the best of both worlds and was able to visit that island country several times. Sister Kathleen could juggle. She taught science and religion to high school students in Waukon, Ryan and Mason City, all in Iowa. While at Mason City, she also assumed the position of vocation director for the Presentation community and continued in this ministry while working as a campus minister at St. Thomas Aquinas Student Center at Iowa State in Ames. In addition to teaching at Loyola, Sister Kathleen earned a certificate of advanced study in philanthropy. She had, as the Irish would say, “itchy feet,” she loved to travel. This “land Dolphin” visited more than 35 countries. She chaperoned high school students to Scotland and Russia.
While on the Presentation leadership team or as a national and international speaker, she visited Greece, China, the Netherlands, England, Sri Lanka, Presentation mission in Bolivia, Australia and many other countries.

She was the director of the Center for Spirituality at St. Mary, Notre Dame for 13 years. She championed the rights of women in both the culture and the church. In that position, she convened the New Voices seminars connecting intergenerational and diverse groups of women scholars. She gave direction to the
Madeleva Lecture Series in Spirituality, and co-edited two books, Monica K. Hellwig, The People’s Theologian and Women, Wisdom and Witness. In her teaching at Loyola and St. Mary College, she mentored and significantly influenced a whole generation of post-Vatican II students.

Whether involved in ministry at the Anamosa State Penitentiary, aiding the homeless or participating in other voluntary programs, she had a heart that reached out to people on the margins. As a great storyteller and with a quick wit, she delighted others with tales of her adventures. She had a profound
influence on high school and college students. They not only loved her and appreciated her as an excellent teacher, but also saw her as a model for how to live
one’s life. One former student after hearing of Sister Kathleen’s death commented that he thought heaven just became a better place with her arrival there. A multitude of treasured friends agree. She often shared how her dad sang the song, “I’ll Take You Home Again Kathleen” to her. With her parents, her brother Dennis, departed Presentation Sisters, associates, friends, and all the saints, may she truly be home.

If you would like to make a memorial gift in memory of Sister Kathleen, click here.

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