Birth: April 22, 1937
Profession: February 3, 1967
Death: May 18, 2021
Religious of the Sacred Heart, Karen Olson died May 18, 2021, in Albany, New York. She was eighty-four years old and a member of the Society of the Sacred Heart for sixty-two years. Karen was born in Syracuse, New York, on April 22, 1937, the only daughter of Axel Gotric Olson and Madeleine Byrne Olson. Her early education was at the Convents of the Sacred Heart, 91st Street, in New York City, and Kenwood in Albany, New York. She graduated from Manhattanville College of the Sacred Heart with a B.A. in Biology in 1958 and an M.A. in Education in 1966. She also earned an MSA in Administration from the University of Notre Dame in 1979. Karen entered the Society of the Sacred Heart in 1958 at Kenwood in Albany and pronounced her first vows in 1961. She made her final profession in Rome in 1967.
Sister Olson taught at Sacred Heart schools in Grosse Pointe and Bloomfield Hills in Michigan. She also taught at the Academy of the Sacred Heart in Rochester, New York. She was in charge of finances, building management, and purchasing at Convents of the Sacred Heart, Greenwich, and Noroton, Connecticut. She was also assistant head of middle school at Greenwich. Sister Olson was a middle school teacher at Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart in Bethesda, Maryland. She also taught and served as head of the lower school at Stuart Country Day School in Princeton, New Jersey. From 1986 until 1990, Sister Olson was the principal at Oak Hill School in St. Louis, Missouri. She then had a one-year sabbatical, during which she went to Paris and Rome before a program in Biblical Studies in the Holy Land. This experience marked her life not only in terms of her faith but also by offering her a deep understanding of cultural differences. She returned to Stone Ridge in 1991 to teach and serve as a campus minister for the next ten years. In 2001, Sister Olson moved to Sprout Creek Farm in Poughkeepsie, New York, to serve as the business manager. Following her time at Sprout Creek, she returned to Stone Ridge in 2004 and remained there for the next ten years serving as admissions director for the middle and lower school and as campus minister and director of mission and ministry. When Sister Olson retired from Stone Ridge in 2014, she was appointed to the Board of Trustees of the school.
In 2014, Sister Olson wrote a biography of Saint Philippine for middle school students entitled Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne: A Dream Come True. Her different roles at Stone Ridge offered her many opportunities to touch the lives of students, parents, staff, all who came to know her. She was known for her wide grin and simultaneously raised eyebrows! She loved nature especially Acadia National Park in Maine. In 2018, Stone Ridge presented Sister Olson with the Barat Medal. One of the sentiments shared by a teacher and parent on this occasion was that Karen shared her love of nature through her photography, “and taught us all to see the sacred in the world around us.”
Sister Olson officially retired in 2017 when she joined the Avila Community in Albany, New York, where she was a much-loved member. Last fall, as her health declined, Sister Olson decided to move to Teresian House where she had been attending daily Mass and where she could receive the care she needed.
In the early morning hours of May 18, 2021, Sister Olson went peacefully to God. Sister Olson is survived by her brother, Peter (Ann) Olson of Fayetteville, New York, and nine loving nieces and nephews. A funeral mass will be celebrated for her on Saturday, May 29, at 11:00 a.m. at her family’s parish in Fayetteville. It will be live-streamed at www.icfayetteville.org/funerals.