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Sister Mary Jessica Karlinger, SND; February 1, 1936 -February 24, 2024

(Carol Anne Karlinger)
February 1, 1936 – February 24, 2024

Professed August 16, 1955

Carol Anne was the only child of Victor and Anna Pezdirtz Karlinger. The family lived in Cleveland, Ohio—first in the home of her paternal grandparents near St. Vitus Parish, and then in North Collinwood. The family belonged to Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish.  Carol attended Oliver Hazard Perry School from grades K-8, and chose Notre Dame Academy on Ansel Road for her high school education.

A member of the sodality and student council, Carol also participated in speech and debate classes. She enjoyed classical music and took lessons in ballet and piano. Her passion for history and life-long commitment to social justice were evident early on, in activities with the Junior Council on World Affairs, and as a member of the Student Planning Committee for a program titled “Roads to World Understanding.” As a high school senior, Carol became a postulant— the day after her 17th birthday. In her 1953 autobiography she wrote, “I look forward to my new life, not knowing quite how I feel but with my mind made up and my will set.” Deeply devoted to the Blessed Mother, she chose September 8 as her name day.

With a bachelor’s degree from Notre Dame College, Sister Mary Jessica began a 28-year ministry as a high school teacher of history, government, and religion. She taught at Regina, St. Peter, and Elyria Catholic High Schools, at Cardinal Mooney in Youngstown, Cardinal Gibbons in Raleigh, North Carolina, and Notre Dame Academy in Cleveland, Chardon, and Middleburg, Virginia. Her innovative classroom methods required the students to engage in supplemental reading, research, group projects and presentations. Model UN convocations helped students to practice participative democracy. A former student, who became a longtime US government employee, often told herself and her colleagues how proud Sister Jessica would have been of her work. Another wrote her gratitude “for making us aware of the power of government. Just this week I learned that the Virginia House passed a bill with language I suggested…I was amazed to learn that my little voice could impact the law. I should not be amazed. You taught me that so many years ago. And you were right!”

Sister Mary Jessica earned an advanced catechetical diploma and a master’s degree from the Notre Dame Institute in Middleburg, in addition to a master’s degree from the University of Notre Dame. Two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities enabled her to study the role of religion in a democratic society and in public education.  She upheld the dignity of all persons, and lived a culture of caring. Her special concern for indigenous peoples was persistent and genuine.

In 1989, Sister Mary Jessica came to the Chardon center and began research and writing on the history of the Congregation of the Sisters of Notre Dame. Thanks to Sister Mary Jessica, the people, places and events that are part of our history and heritage can be shared with our international congregation. We thank her for making the SND story and charism known and loved.

The Mass of Christian Burial will be at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, February 29, at the Sisters of Notre Dame Center. Visitation will be from 9:30-10:15. Mass will be live-streamed. Go to

To make a gift in memory of Sr. Mary Jessica Karlinger, please click here.

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