Opera-Loving Students Sing the Praises of Sister Doris Kresslein

As we gather today for a memorial service for Sister Doris, who died March 1, 2019 we are republishing this piece on her that ran last year as part of our 185 Stories project.

Sister Doris Kresslin knew from an early age that she needed to pursue the path of religious life. “You just feel it and know it,” she says. “I graduated from IND in June of 1938 and entered that August.” Several young women from her IND graduating class also entered to become School Sisters (including Sister Marie Charles). Sister Doris took her vows on July 26, 1942, at the Motherhouse on Asquith Street.

While studying to become a sister, S. Doris was also on the path to become a music teacher. After balancing a busy schedule, she graduated from Catholic University in Washington D.C. “I taught 16 music classes at the monastery, and then two days a week I would commute to DC for school,” she remembers of her busy early years as a sister.

Music had always been an important part of her life. “I had music education from the time I was in 2nd or 3rd grade, and I played the organ at various parishes,” Sister Doris says. Diana Franz, who had Sister Doris as a teacher at IND, says "I turned pages for her when she accompanied. She was everything music."

Sister Doris taught music in Pittsburgh, Rochester and Baltimore, and then spent time at Notre Dame Preparatory School. She spent the last 16 years of her teaching career at her alma mater, IND. "I remember taking a special music theory class in Senior year that she taught," says IND alumna Sue Petti. "Somehow she got us free tickets to all the BSO operas that year, and we would study them in her class. I liked it so much that I bought BSO tickets for several years after graduating from IND. She was a wonderful music teacher and I still think of her when I hear opera music."

Sister Doris and her family at her 75th Jubilee in 2017

She also instilled a love of opera in another IND alumna, Camille Dobson. "Sister Doris introduced me to opera, for which I will be eternally grateful. I was lucky enough to see Turandot and The Barber of Seville! I also remember fondly our junior music class where we had to do a project on a contemporary American musician. I chose Simon and Garfunkel - another lifelong affinity I wouldn’t have developed otherwise. She was no-nonsense but kind. Reminds me a little of Minerva McGonagall (from Harry Potter)."

Janet Pilarski caught the opera bug while being taught by Sister Doris at IND, too. "I went to every opera I could while I was there. We used to look over the balcony and watch Jim Palmer take his seat with his wife. It gave me a lifelong appreciation for opera. I also had Sr. Doris at St. Pius before that. I followed her to IND."

Isabel Conley-Waters, another IND opera lover, says "My husband gets annoyed with me for having to listen to my deconstruction of Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture throughout fireworks. Simply priceless!! Thank you Sr. Doris! Also, thank you for all of the Baltimore Opera, BSO and other tickets that exposed all of us young ladies to performances and venues we would have never known without you."

Carolyn Buck, a former English teacher at IND who directed the school plays, reveals another skill Sister Doris has. "She was the costume designer for the IND musicals for many years. Even though I am no longer at IND, whenever I see her, she still asks, "Carolyn, what musical are we doing this year?" Many of the costumes even today on the 5th floor in the storage rooms were designed by Sister Doris."

Sister Doris retired from teaching in 1988 but remained active in the community. For 12 years she assisted the School Sisters of Notre Dame by working in the finance department for the province. She now lives a life of prayer and presence at Villa Assumpta.

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