“What shall I give to my God but my song of joy!” (Sister Roselle)

Our beloved Sister Roselle Zollar, SSND, 88, died peacefully at 6:38 p.m. on Tuesday, November 12, 2019, in Notre Dame Health Care, Good Counsel Hill, Mankato, Minnesota. During the day she experienced a sudden decline in health and family members were called. Sisters were praying with her in the hours preceding her death.

Funeral services include a Prayer of Remembrance at 9:00 a.m. and a Funeral Liturgy at 10:30 a.m., with Father Eugene Stenzel as presider, on Tuesday, November 19, in Our Lady of Good Counsel Chapel. Burial will follow in the Good Counsel Cemetery. We extend our sympathy to Sister Roselle’s sisters, Sister Luella, SSND, Helen Schmitt and Joyce Bischof, her brother, Jerry, her nieces and nephews and their families, 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, Louis and Annie (Eshanko) Zollar, her sister Florence Johnson, and her brothers Lawrence and Dan.

Sister Roselle, who called herself the “middle button [actually the fifth] of eight children,” was born May 1, 1931 in Bismarck, North Dakota. Her birth on the first day of Mary’s month led to her being given the name Mary Ann in baptism at St. Alexius Church in Bismarck. Her father, Louis, was from northern Minnesota and was a Soo Line depot agent. Her mother came with her family from Ukraine and settled in Wilton, North Dakota. Sister Roselle described an aspect of her childhood in her autobiography: “As my dad was a depot agent, we always lived upstairs and consequently I became skilled in the art of riding banisters and became efficient in making only six steps out of sixteen when ascending and three out of sixteen when descending . . . saving shoe leather, as I perceived it.” When Mary Ann was five, there was an opening at the depot in Grenville, South Dakota. Louis bid for the job because Grenville’s St. Joseph parish had a Catholic grade and high school, taught by the School Sisters of Notre Dame. The Zollar parents wanted their children to have a Catholic education. Grenville was a Polish community, and Sister Roselle remembered that Sunday sermons were given in both Polish and English. In her later student years, she substituted for the sister organist during the summers, something that she really enjoyed. She also enjoyed fishing with her dad: “Numerous and exciting were the fishing trips which I participated in if I supplied the worms and the lunch, and not to miss the chance, this I did joyously.” Music also permeated the Zollar family. Sister Roselle commented, “At one time five of us were taking music lessons. Mom played the violin and Dad played the button accordion and mouth organ to accompany us. So many happy times were created in the family with songs and laughter.” In 1943, Mary Ann’s oldest sister, Louise (the future Sister M. Luella), entered the SSND candidature in Mankato. Mary Ann knew that she, too, wanted to become a School Sister of Notre Dame, but didn’t tell anyone at that time. In fact, she convinced others that she would be the last to go. Following graduation from St. Joseph High School in 1949, however, she did enter the SSND candidature. Even Sister Luella did not know that Mary Ann was coming to SSND until the day she arrived. After recovering from severe homesickness, Mary Ann settled into the life of an SSND candidate. As a second year candidate she taught second grade in Winona for a few months until a need for an organist developed at All Saints, Madison Lake, where she finished the year. She was received into the novitiate in 1951 and given the name Sister Mary Roselle. Following profession of vows in 1952, Sister Roselle began her teaching and parish music ministry at St. Mary, Bellechester, where she taught grades 3, 4, and 5, played the organ and directed the choir. Subsequent teaching assignments, which always included church music, were in these Minnesota schools: St. Nicholas, New Market; St. Adalbert, Silver Lake (a Polish parish where her Grenville experiences proved especially valuable); Crucifixion, La Crescent; St. John the Baptist, Savage; St. Felix, Wabasha; West End Parochial, Duluth, and Cathedral High School, St. Cloud, where she chaired the religion department. In Iowa she taught at St. Donatus School in St. Donatus; in South Dakota she taught at her home parish of St. Joseph, Grenville and at Sacred Heart, Eden. In North Dakota, she taught at St. Benedict, Strasburg; and St. Anne, Bismarck; and in Washington at St. Mary, Chewelah. She earned both bachelors and master’s degrees in biology, from Mount Mary College and the University of Wisconsin, Superior, respectively. She also earned a master’s degree in religious studies from St. John’s University, Collegeville. A creative teacher, she often found ways to incorporate music into her instruction, and composed music and lyrics that children could easily remember. She was proficient in piano, accordion, guitar, violin and melodica. In 1981, her love for the rural area brought her to Taunton, a small town in southwestern Minnesota. Her initial position was pastoral minister and organist at SS. Cyril & Methodius parish and the neighboring parish in St. Leo. She had originally planned to live in St. Leo, but when the Taunton parish priest left and was not replaced, she moved to the Taunton rectory. She coordinated the religious education program in both parishes and played organ for four masses each weekend. After a few years, she was hired to work exclusively in Taunton and, because of the increasing shortage of priests in rural areas, was appointed pastoral administrator in 1986. A local newspaper article described Sister Roselle’s work: “Being a pastoral administrator entails jobs like typing the weekly bulletin; preparing for the liturgies; conducting services, Bible groups and meetings; correspondence of all events in the church and coordinating the religious education studies of the parish.” The article continued, “Sister Roselle’s work in the Taunton parish has been a joy to her. ‘I’ve always felt free as an eagle to fly high doing the things I love in the liturgy and prayer services. When we are not hampered then we do our best and want to do more for God, others and society.’ She said that her life as a religious sister has been full of variety and richly blessed.” Sister Roselle ministered with the parishioners of Taunton for 23 years, retiring in 2003. An article published at the time of her retirement began, “She was the type of person who was there for the poor, never went anywhere without her famous fudge, had several talents and wouldn’t hesitate to play a tune on the accordion.” A parishioner was quoted, “Everybody loved her.” The article also listed many other ways that Sister Roselle was present to the people of Taunton. Sister Roselle received the Bishop’s Medal for Service in 2002 when she celebrated her Golden Jubilee as a School Sister of Notre Dame. Sister Roselle moved to Good Counsel for a year, and then responded to a need for a parish organist and parish visitor at St. Michael, Morgan, in 2004. She remained in Morgan until 2010, when she returned to Good Counsel. For as long as she was able, Sister Roselle continued to share her musical talents, often playing nonstop piano (without the benefit of sheet music) wherever she could find a piano. She enjoyed visiting sisters and guests alike and delighted in talking with children. Family visits were also very important to her. The theme of Sister Roselle’s funeral liturgy comes from a song she composed. “What shall I give to my God for all you’ve given me? My song of joy.” May Sister Roselle now be singing her song of joy to the God she served (and not only singing, but accompanying the song as well)!