Feb. 20, 1942-July 5, 2020
Sister Roberta O’Leary, 78, a Sister of Charity of Leavenworth (SCL), died on July 5, 2020, at Saint John Hospital, in Leavenworth, Kansas. Sister celebrated her 50th anniversary as an SCL in 2011. She entered the religious community after high school graduation and served as a long-time educator and administrator. She was known as a lover of Notre Dame Football and college athletics. While she could be no-nonsense, she was also a talented storyteller. She disliked mornings, and often worked late into the night. She epitomized the scriptural commandment to love God with one’s soul, mind, and strength.
Roberta Frances was born on February 20, 1942, in Butte, Montana, the only child of Timothy P. and Florence F. (Sullivan) O’Leary. Both her parents were educated by SCLs in their youth, and a strong Irish Catholic heritage predominated on both sides of her family, which provided the grace that steered her toward a religious vocation. She attended Kate Fratt Memorial Grade School and Central High School, both in Billings, Montana, before pursuing an elementary education degree at Saint Mary College, in Leavenworth. Roberta entered the SCL Community on Aug. 30, 1961. She professed vows as Sister Marie Timothy on Sept. 2, 1963, but later resumed her baptismal name. She finished her bachelor’s degree in 1971, and later completed a Master’s degree in teaching from Webster College, Webster Groves, Missouri, in 1976. In 1984, she finished a Master of Arts in private school administration from the University of San Francisco.
Sister Roberta taught in grade schools and junior high schools for 15 years in Illinois, Montana, and Missouri, before assuming administrative duties as principal of Central Junior High School in Butte, Montana. A highlight of her leadership was the reopening of Central Elementary School in 1986, which she led as principal, doing double-duty with both schools, for four of her 11 years. In 1998, she left Butte to serve as associate director of admissions at St. Mary College (now the University of Saint Mary) in Leavenworth, Kansas. In 2000, she became the religious education director at St. Francis de Sales Church in nearby Lansing, Kansas. Her skills as an educator, leader, and collaborator, especially in partnership with the parish priest, added spiritual vitality and depth to the growing congregation. In 2010, she went back to the University of Saint Mary to serve as administrative assistant to the athletic director. Her long-time love of college sports and her regard for students made her last years of service some of her most memorable and meaningful.
In 2011, during her golden jubilee celebration as a SCL, Sister Roberta said, “When I reflect on my life, the recurring theme is ‘blessing!’” She added that opportunities and challenges “all have led to growth and a loving God who continues to hold me in the palm of his hand.”
Preceding Sister Roberta in death were her parents; and one uncle; and one aunt. Survivors include an aunt, Gay O’Leary; SCLA; many cousins; and the SCL Community.
A vigil will be held at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, July 9, in Ross Chapel, SCL Motherhouse, in Leavenworth. Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated in Ross Chapel at 10:30 a.m. on Friday, July 10. Interment will follow in Mount Olivet Cemetery, Motherhouse grounds. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, attendance is restricted to only invited guests.
Memorial contributions can be made to the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth, 4200 S. 4th Street, Leavenworth, KS, 66048. Arrangements made by R.L. Leintz Funeral Home, Leavenworth.
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