Marian University Mourns the Loss of the Ultimate Knight

by News Release | Jun 24, 2020

On Monday, June 22, 2020, Marian University lost to this world a true Marian Knight and an exemplar of the Marian spirit. For over 50 years, Sister Norma Rocklage, OSF, Ph.D., '60 blessed the community with her courageous heart, selflessness in service, and magnanimous spirit.

Marian University President Daniel J. Elsener announced her passing to the Marian University community in a special message on Monday.

"In John 21, Jesus clearly instructs St. Peter to, ‘Feed my lambs, tend my sheep, and feed my sheep.' In Jesus' commissioning of Peter, it is clear that he instructs a minister to be about feeding, caring for, and leading people to the word of God, holiness, and service to humanity. This call of Jesus to serve in this manner was lived most vividly in the life of Sister Norma Rocklage and the years of service she gave to the Marian University community. Sister Norma's care and love for the Marian community is most remarkable and will never be forgotten," Elsener said.

Born Mary Ann on July 18, 1933, in St. Louis, Missouri, she is the second oldest of eight children born to Henry and Catherine (nee: Lohmann) Rocklage.

Mary Ann grew up with her close-knit family in St. Louis, attending Holy Cross School where she first became acquainted with the Franciscan Sisters, and by the eighth grade, she began thinking about becoming a Sister. She attended high school at the Immaculate Conception Academy in Oldenburg, and although quite shy and homesick, she soon made friends and enjoyed her participation in student council and school publications. It was in witnessing the Sisters' joy in their dedicated service that drew Mary Ann to the Community, and she professed her final vows on August 12, 1957, as Sister Norma.

Sister Norma continued her education at Marian College, earning a Bachelor of Arts degree. She earned a Master of Arts and Doctor of Arts degree at St. Louis University. She began teaching primary grades at St. Mary School in North Vernon, Indiana, in 1953, followed by middle school students at St. Francis of Assisi School in Portage des Sioux, Missouri, before dedicating much of her life to students at Marian University, beginning in 1965.

Her positions at Marian included:

  • 1965-74, Assistant Professor, Classical Languages
  • 1970-74, Dean for Academic Affairs
  • 1974-82, Served as Councilor at Oldenburg
  • 1974-82, Marian College Board of Trustees
  • 1989-2004, Director/Vice President for Mission Effectiveness
  • 2005-19, Executive Director for Formation and Outreach

When Sister Norma returned to Marian in 1989, she was approached by five diocesan superintendents of Indiana to initiate a program for beginning principals on developing lay spirituality since almost all principals were lay men and women with very few religious. With a grant from the Lilly Endowment, Sister Norma helped to develop an 18-month program for beginning principals, and eventually for veteran principals and parish teams, and directed it from 1989-2019 as the Indiana Catholic Principals Institute.

A partial listing of Sister Norma's awards include:

  • 1996, Marian College Distinguished Alumna Award
  • 2005, Brebeuf Preparatory School – Honorary Diploma
  • 2008, Marian College Athletic Hall of Fame
  • 2014, Archdiocesan Council for Educational Excellence
  • 2015, Marian College Intercultural Person of the Year
  • 2015, Archdiocesan Spirit of Service Award
  • 2016, Bertha Torres Hispanic Award
  • 2016, Marian College Franciscan Values Award
  • 2016, Indiana Council for Latino Affairs Distinguished Service Award
  • 2017, Center for Interfaith Cooperation's Interfaith Ambassador of the Year
  • 2017, Franciscan Federation's Intercultural Award
  • 2018, Oldenburg Academy's Distinguished Alumna Award

In reflecting upon her years at Marian, Sister Norma commented, "I learned a great deal about global affairs, was afforded many opportunities for being involved in interfaith and intercultural affairs, was able to establish at Marian a Latino/Hispanic Advisory Board composed of Marian faculty and staff and Indianapolis community members to advocate for Hispanic students to receive a higher education degree and learn of their rights, though undocumented, and also established a Service Learning Board to foster efforts in combining service learning with the academic goals and not merely volunteer work. The faculty, staff, and students challenged me so often by their energy, vision, and willingness to have the courage to venture, so much like our Mother Theresa Hackelmeier, without knowing they were doing so. I had loved teaching elementary school children who still have a special place in my heart, and I actually cried when I realized I was being prepared for college teaching, for I thought I would never like that ministry. How wrong I was. I am very grateful for the 40+ years of being involved with the Marian community, for I was graced with many blessings."

When asked to reflect upon her life, Sister Norma shared, "As our Community becomes older, more poor, more vulnerable, fewer in number, and perhaps less sure of the future, I find my love for and hope in the Community growing. As we move ahead into the uncertain future, I sense we are moving together more dependent on the Lord and more able to share our journey and lives with others. My favorite line in our mutual and personal ministry and mission is, ‘Where there is one, there is the Community, there is the church, there is Jesus.'"

Survivors include S. Norma's brothers Joseph Rocklage of St. Louis, Missouri, and Aloysius Rocklage of Rosemount, Minnesota; sisters Sister Mary Roch, RSM, of St. Louis, Missouri, and Dee Schantz of Gresham, Oregon, and many nieces, nephews, and friends. She was preceded in death by her parents, Henry and Catherine (nee: Lohmann) Rocklage, brothers Norbert and Raymond, and her sister Clara La Rose.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Sisters of St. Francis, Oldenburg, Indiana, or to the Sister Norma Rocklage, OSF, Endowed Diversity Scholarship.

Visitation Information

Friday, June 26, 2020
2-8 p.m.

Arena/Convocation Center at Marian University (Enter through the Peyton Manning Children's Hospital Hall of Champions.)

*Please wear a mask or face covering.

News Media Contact

Brad R. Wucher
Vice President of Enrollment, Marketing Communications
(317) 955-6307
Stokley Mansion, Room #1

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