St. Kate's mourns 1949 alumna Peggy O'Connell

St. Kate's mourns 1949 alumna Peggy O'Connell

Outside Our Lady of Victory Chapel: Sister Peggy and one of her many dogs over the years.


1949 St. Catherine University alumna and faculty member Peggy O'Connell died peacefully on November 7, 2017 at Carondelet Village in St. Paul at age 90.

Born in Redwood Falls, Minnesota, in December of 1927, O’Connell was baptized Cecelia Marie — but known thereafter as Peggy, after the wishes of her mother. She grew up in Marshall, Minnesota, in the lively O’Connell home with her brother and two sisters. Peggy attended St. Kate's, earning a bachelor's in education and sociology in 1949. Upon graduation, she entered the Sisters of St. Joseph and made vows in 1951, receiving the name Sister Laurentia.

Peggy, Sister Peggy, as she was fondly called, was especially talented with children — and spent her first teaching years at St. Charles Borromeo and Cathedral School in the Twin Cities before being missioned to Hawaii. There, she taught primary grades and also obtained a masters degree in education and creative drama at the University of Hawaii-Manoa in 1966. Upon returning to the mainland, she became the St. Paul Province elementary supervisor, visiting classrooms and introducing creative drama as a way of promoting a child’s total growth. “All you need,” she said, “is a group, some space and a leader with imagination. The important thing is what happens to each person.”

In the years that followed, as a creative drama specialist, Sister Peggy traveled extensively conducting workshops and demonstrations. She joined the faculty at St. Catherine’s University in fall 1967 (until summer 1998) as a teacher and student advisor. She also served as Provincial Councilor for the Sisters of St. Joseph.

Sister Peggy loved to read, hike, bike, cross country ski. She loved the outdoors, canoes, kayaks, loons and the lakes. Irish through and through — and she never felt sorry for herself; never dwelling on bad news. In her own words, “I am an optimist — that’s my gift. I was born to help people laugh.” To be in her presence was to smile and to relax.

Peggy is preceded in death by parents Richard and Esther (Erbes) O’Connell; brother Dick O’Connell Jr., and sisters Mary Ellen Kopponen and Patricia McKeown. She is survived by brother-in-law Thomas McKeown, special friend Belle Flynn, CSJC, many nieces, nephews, grand-nieces and grand-nephews.

Mass of Christian Burial was held at 11 a.m. Monday, November 13, at Chapel of Our Lady of the Presentation. Burial was at Resurrection Cemetery in Mendota Heights, Minnesota.