The people who came to the church door knew to ask for Sister Rosanne.
Over the 34 years she worked at St. Olaf Catholic Church in downtown Minneapolis, Rosanne Fox would open the door each day and offer help to anyone who was struggling — even if all they needed was bus fare.
“She was the center for hope and healing for hundreds and hundreds of people,” said the Rev. John Forliti, who worked with Fox at St. Olaf. “Life wasn’t about her — it was about just trying to help someone who might need a lift.”
Fox, a nun in the order of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, is remembered as a fighter for social justice and advocate for the disenfranchised. She died May 15 at age 93.
Rose Ann Catherine Fox was born July 27, 1924, and was raised on a farm near Franklin, Minn. In 1935, at the encouragement of a local priest, Fox and two of her siblings began traveling to the nearby town of Bird Island to attend St. Mary’s School, where they were taught by the Sisters of St. Joseph.
When Fox decided to become a nun herself, she told the priest, the Rev. Henry Byrne, that she planned to join the Dominicans because they had taught her mother.
“After all the grief you have given the Sisters of St. Joseph,” Fox later recalled Byrne telling her, “you owe it to them to give something back.”
Fox joined the Sisters of St. Joseph as Sister St. Angela in 1941 and earned a bachelor’s degree in English from the College of St. Catherine. She went on to spend 25 years teaching at Catholic schools and eventually returned to St. Mary’s as principal.
The late Pioneer Press and Star Tribune columnist Nick Coleman, who died the day after Fox, was a former student. In Fox’s eulogy, her nephew Joe Fox quoted Coleman as saying he learned everything he needed to know in Sister St. Angela’s 7th-grade class.
“And she continued to teach us our whole lives,” he said.
After earning a master’s degree in counseling from Loyola University in Chicago, Fox began working at St. Olaf, where she was tasked with founding and building a social outreach program.
Under Fox’s leadership, the church became a place where anyone — not just those who attended mass on Sundays — could get what they needed, from food to household goods to clothing. With fellow nun Peggy O’Leary, a friend since graduate school, Fox came up with the idea to set aside some of the best donated clothing for people who needed something to wear to job interviews.
“That was her little niche,” O’Leary said. “She did a wonderful job there.”
Fox also oversaw community gardens around the city, planted on vacant lots she’d discovered and asked permission to cultivate. The fresh produce went to those who couldn’t afford to buy it. “They deserve a few homegrown tomatoes, just like the rest of us,” she is remembered as saying.
Fox had a gift for connecting with people from all walks of life, said Cathy Steffens, a fellow sister of St. Joseph.
“This was the marvel about Rosanne,” she said. “Knowing the rich people and the destitute and the in-between people, she was one who could connect with all of them.”
Steffens recalled Fox learning of a man who had died, homeless and without family or friends, and bringing people together to hold a funeral mass at St. Olaf for him. The funeral featured a beautiful casket, flowers and music, thanks to the help of donors.
“I’m not sure she actually even knew him,” Steffens said. “She just decided we needed to do this.”
Fox is survived by her brother Jerry. Services have been held.