Donna Katherine was the third child of Frances and Justo Galetovich. With her brother and sister, Donna experienced a loving family life in Cleveland, Ohio. Her mother taught her cooking, machine sewing, and housekeeping skills. A move from the east side to the west side brought them to Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish School. Donna joined a Girl Scout troop where she made life-long friends who shared her love of camping. At James Ford Rhodes High School, she enjoyed her classes as well as choir, French club, girls’ athletics, Y-Teen, and the Junior Council on World Affairs, holding offices in several of those organizations.
In 1950 Donna began college at Ohio University in Athens, but soon transferred to Notre Dame College in South Euclid, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology. She spent her summers as a counselor at the CYO camp in Madison, Ohio, where she was responsible for groups of 16 girls, aged 8 to 12. This was her introduction to working with young people, planning activities and instruction. She said that “the most important and influential college activity was her work in Sodality, serving as secretary and then sodality prefect.” God was beginning to call her to religious life. In September of 1954, Donna became a postulant, “rather timorous but determined,” she recalled, to embrace life as a Sister of Notre Dame. At investment she received the name Sister Mary Rachel.
Her career in elementary education began when she was a postulant, teaching first grade, but she was most effective with the older children, spending 27 years teaching grades 6, 7, and 8 in Greater Cleveland, Lorain, Youngstown, Amherst, and Arlington, Virginia. With her master’s degree in educational administration from St. John College, Cleveland, Sister Donna ministered for fifteen years as an elementary school principal at Holy Trinity in Avon, St. Margaret Mary, St. Anselm, and St. Paul in Euclid. Deeply supportive of her staff and teachers, she offered glad, tangible signs of appreciation for their hard work. After concluding her ministry in schools, she spent nine years as a teacher assessor with the Catholic Schools of the Diocese of Cleveland, sharing her wisdom and experience with beginning teachers, and nine years of preparing adult learners to earn their GEDs.
No matter her ministry, Sister Donna’s enthusiasm for life was unmistakable; all creation was a sign of God’s loving presence. Dancing and jazzercise, family picnics and celebrations at the Croatian Hall gave her energy. Her friends treasure her joyful spirit, patient courage in times of suffering, and peaceful presence. She reminds us of our calling to live in integrity, gratitude, and joy.
A Memorial Mass will be celebrated for Sister Donna at the Sisters of Notre Dame Center on Tuesday, October 4, at 4:30 p.m. It will be live-streamed. Go to www.sndusa.org. Click on the Chardon Regional Center.