August 28, 1919 – April 12, 2019
My being proclaims the greatness of God; my Spirit rejoices in God my Savior. Luke 1:46-55
“All I want is to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and to share His sufferings by reproducing the pattern of His death. That is the way I can hope to take my place in the resurrection of the dead. Not that I have become perfect yet; I have not yet won, but I am still running, trying to capture the prize for which Christ Jesus captured me. . . . meanwhile, let us go forward on the road that brought us to where we are” (Phil. 3:10-12; 16).
Sister Karen’s “road” began at Port Oneida (Maple City) when she was born on August 28, 1919 to Ole S. and Louise (Richard) Thoreson. Her parents were of French and Norwegian nationality. They were blessed with seven children – four boys and three girls. Her baptism was at St. Mary, Lake Leelanau on October 26, 1919, at which time she received the name of Madeline Olina. The family lived on a farm, eleven miles from the nearest Catholic mission church.
Her grade school was a one-room country schoolhouse at Port Oneida two miles from her home. Because of circumstances, Madeline did not receive the sacraments of Penance and Holy Eucharist until she entered high school at St. Mary, Lake Leelanau, which was eighteen miles from her home. This meant “boarding out” and her parents taking her to and from Lake Leelanau each week. Provisions from the farm were most important for each week’s survival.
Sister Clarice Quinlan and Sister Joan LaFontaine taught her most of her high school classes, and it was Sister Clarice who prepared her for her First Holy Communion. Madeline was an excellent student and she was attracted to Dominican life. In high school she had a very close friend, Eileen Popp, who later entered the Community with her.
Madeline was indeed the valiant and virtuous woman who wanted to give her all. She became a postulant at Marywood on September 8, 1938 under Sister Fabian MacDonald’s direction. Hers was a wholehearted, “Here I am, God, I come to do your will.” She received the Dominican habit on August 16, 1939 and was given the name, Sister Karen of the Holy Ghost. Her First Profession of Vows was made to Mother Euphrasia Sullivan on August 17, 1940.
Sister Karen earned a BA and later an MA in Religious Education from Aquinas College. Her teaching ministry for which she would be engaged for twenty-five years, included: Sacred Heart, Mt. Pleasant; St. Mary, Muskegon; St. Mary, New Salem; and Holy Cross, Beaver Island. What a wonderful, efficient, and well-liked teacher she was! The responsibility of convent and school administration was added in six of those years. A highlight of these years was the careful and diligent preparation given to students preparing to receive First Holy Communion.
In 1966 she was asked to become the novice mistress, an assignment that was not easy. These were the years following Vatican Council II. In 1969 Sister Karen became involved in the Charismatic movement which enriched her life.
In 1971 Sister Karen’s apostolic activities took a new thrust and “the job” was designated by different connotations: Religious Education Director; Coordinator of Religious Education; Pastoral Ministry; Parish Sister; Coordinator of Catechetics. By whatever name it was known, it was a deep involvement in the work of evangelization. From 1971-1989 Sister Karen ministered at St. John Essexville; Grand Traverse Area Catholic Schools, Traverse City; and St. Adalbert, Grand Rapids. Summer school or CCD classes were part of her ministry.
In 1988 Sister Karen went on a pilgrimage to Medjugorie. “This heightened my awareness of the global Church. I saw people from different cultures from around the world praying together as brothers and sisters. My faith and prayer have significantly deepened with this experience. Mary’s message of prayer, conversion, fasting, reconciliation, and peace has enabled me to understand and live the Gospel as I never did before.”
In 1989 a dream prompted her for her next ministry. It was the year of Sister Karen’s Golden Jubilee. The Congregation approved the initiation of the Prayer and Listening Line ministry. Sister Karen and two other Sisters began this ministry and were also asked to devote time to pastoral ministry with the Sisters at Aquinata Hall. This was done with love and devotion.
Sister Karen had many beautiful qualities and among them were her prayerfulness, gentle disposition, approachability, friendliness, sense of humor, thoughtfulness, helpfulness, prudence, and availability. Chief among her interests were scripture, peace, justice, and religious issues.
In 1980 Sister wrote, “God has blessed me with a very happy life! I thank Him for a close and loving family and for my Dominican family whom I love dearly. I thank Him for the countless opportunities provided me for study and spiritual enrichment, for my Sisters who have nurtured my faith through their own love of God, His word, and the Liturgy. I hereby ask pardon of every Sister whom I have offended and to whom I have neglected to do good. Please pray for me and I shall pray for you when God takes me to Himself. Alleluia !!!” That moment has now occurred in Sister Karen’s life. May she be our faithful intercessor with God to whom she gave her ALL without reservation. May she rest in God’s eternal peace, joy, and beauty.
Sister is survived by her brothers, Kenneth of Ludington, MI; Leonard (Sally) of Glen Arbor, MI; and sister-in-law Val Thoreson of Australia; nieces, nephews, friends and Sisters in her Dominican Community.
Entered eternal life on April 12, 2019 at the age of 99 after 80 years of religious life.
We commend Sister Karen to your prayers.
Pray for the USA
Sister Karen Thoreson answering the Dominican Sisters prayer line at Marywood.
The 70-Year Jubilarians gather by St. Dominic at Marywood. Celebrating 70 years as Grand Rapids Dominican Sisters.