Notre Dame Death in Our Family: Sr. Elaine DesRosiers

“I thought I’d spend my life in the little triangle of a parish: living in the convent, teaching in the school, praying in the church, and, if lucky, getting to the dentist twice a year.” That’s how, late in life, Sister Elaine Virginia DesRosiers, O.P., ’66M.S, recalled her embrace of her religious vocation as a teenager in 1948.

Her first 15 years as a Dominican nun went according to plan. Then the Second Vatican Council — and six summers studying biology as a graduate student at Notre Dame — changed everything, transforming the former grade-school teacher into a TV host and audiovisual expert who would lead the University’s trailblazing foray into the world of the computerized classroom.

The former director of educational media at Notre Dame, known as much for her oil paintings, her summer film festivals, her effervescent warmth, her hope and her heart for the poor as for her landmark contributions to campus technology, died December 16, 2020. She was 90.

Having completed her master’s degree, DesRosiers returned to the Boston archdiocese where she grew up, creating The World of Biochemistry, a televised course for high school students broadcast by the Boston Catholic Television Center. The experience led to doctoral studies in educational media and skills that landed her back at Notre Dame in 1976 as head of a small unit that mostly dispersed students and their AV carts through the halls of classroom buildings, but in time would oversee the genesis of a campuswide computing network.

By 1992, DesRosiers and associate director Michael Langthorne had spearheaded plans for DeBartolo Hall, with 84 classrooms wired into a centralized system that enabled professors to use the latest digital and visual media in their courses. As of her retirement in 1997, representatives from more than 650 universities around the world had toured the building.

“Everything concerning people and their betterment — she was into it,” recalled her friend, Gerald Gingras, professor emeritus of Spanish literature at Saint Mary’s College. “She had a total commitment to humanity and saw goodness at every level.”

Returning to her motherhouse in Springfield, Kentucky, DesRosiers’ artistic talents garnered commissions to paint historic and religious buildings — and a Fra Angelico Award from the Dominican Institute for the Arts.

“I recognized that this life of mine has been one big act of gratitude,” she once wrote. “St. Catherine’s teaching, ‘Of myself I am nothing. With God’s gifts I am everything,’ has imbedded in me a deep, deep sense of gratitude to God, the giver of my gifts.”

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Dominican Sister of Peace Elaine DesRosiers

Dominican Sister of Peace Elaine DesRosiers

Dominican Sister of Peace Elaine (Sr. Gregory Anne) DesRosiers, OP (90), a native of Worcester, Massachusetts, died on December 16, 2020, at Springview Hospital in Lebanon, KY.

Sister Elaine was one of five children born to Lena Gregoire and Romulus DesRosiers of Worcester, MA. She heard the call of God at the age of 16 and entered the Congregation in 1948. Sr. Elaine made her first profession in 1950,  took her final vows in 1953, and celebrated 70 years of religious life in 2020.

Sister Elaine earned her Bachelor of Arts in Biology and Chemistry from Spalding College, her Master of Science in Biology from the University of Notre Dame, and her Doctorate in Educational Media and Technology from Boston University.

She ministered as a teacher in elementary and high schools in Illinois, Kentucky, and Massachusetts for more than 20 years. In 1976 she began a new chapter as Director of Educational Media and Director in the Office of Information Technology at Notre Dame, where she served for more than 2 decades.

Sister Elaine also served her congregation as  Promoter of Ongoing Dominican Life and Promoter of Preaching at Saint Catharine Motherhouse and as Information Technology Consultant at Saint Catharine College.

A gifted artist, Sister Elaine created oil paintings of each of our Motherhouses, using her time at each house to just not familiarize herself with the building, but with the women who lived in the community. She also created a series of paintings of downtown Springfield, KY, which were exhibited in the conference room of the Opera House, and created an exhibition for the Martin de Porres Center. Sr. Elaine was a member of the Dominican Institute of the Arts and was a proud recipient of the Fra Angelico Award.

Sr. Elaine’s fun-loving spirit stayed with her until the end of her life, as she helped create events and activities to keep her community in good spirits during the long days of quarantine.

Sr. Elaine is survived by two sisters Janet Fontaine of Sedona, Arizona, and Felice Cottle of Denver, Colorado.

Sr. Elaine was interred in a private graveside service on December 22, 2020, at the St. Catharine Motherhouse cemetery.  A memorial mass will be held at a later date at the Magdalen Chapel at the St. Catharine Motherhouse, St. Catharine, KY.

To donate in Sr. Elaine’s memory, please click here.

To view and download a PDF of Sr. Elaine’s memorial, please click here.

Posted in Obituaries