Sister Marcelline Koch’s parents were Helen and William Koch of Mt. Sterling, Ill. When she entered the community after high school graduation there was already a Sister Marcelline from Mt. Sterling in the community, so she was not able to keep her own name. She was given the religious name Sister Mary Marcille when she entered the novitiate in 1960, later reverting to her baptismal name.
After her profession of vows, Sister Marcelline began her life of ministry as a first-grade teacher at Little Flower School, Springfield, 1961-1969. Then, after a year at the religious education center in Carlinville, she taught for two years at St. Mary School, East Moline, while she studied at St. Ambrose College to complete a bachelor degree in mathematics.
She was both principal and junior high teacher at St. Norbert School, Hardin, 1972-1978, where she was also occasionally the bus driver for student outings. Her next assignment was Our Lady of Grace School on Chicago’s north side, where she was principal, 1978-1984.
After a year of teaching 8th grade at St. Patrick School, Springfield, she became principal of St. Joseph School, Bradley, 1985-1994.
Sister Marcelline completed a master of arts in pastoral studies at Boston College in 1996, then returned to Illinois as the founding director of Project IRENE, an initiative of the Illinois’ region of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious that engaged in advocacy for women and children at the Illinois statehouse. She continued that ministry until she was elected to the General Council for the Dominican Sisters of Springfield, where she served 2001-2009.
In 2009 she volunteered with the Dominican Leadership Conference’s representative at the United Nations in New York. Returning to Springfield she became the director of the congregational office of Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation, where she serves today. Sister Marcelline also served two terms as the North American co-promoter of Justice Peace and Integrity of Creation, 2014-2020, and in that role represented the Dominicans of North America on the International Dominican Justice Commission. In addition to these responsibilities Sister Marcelline is also co-coordinator of the Springfield Dominican Antiracism Team and on the boards of the Springfield Immigrant Advocacy Network (SIAN) and the Springfield Coalition on Dismantling Racism (SCoDR.)
Sister Marcelline’s parents are deceased, as is her beloved cousin and classmate Sister Sara Koch, who died in 2020. Three of her siblings live in Illinois. Her sister Barbara Lehne and brother Paul and his spouse Charlotte Koch live in Mt. Sterling; her brother Carl and his spouse Nancy live in Aurora. Another brother, Leon, and his spouse Pam live in Wausau, Wisc.
With decades of wisdom to share, Sister Marcelline says her religious life “connects me to something greater than myself, and it connects me with God in a way that fits who I am and who I am called to be.” She takes joy in knowing she is doing God’s work with other people and is sharing her knowledge with others, and “engaging with others about the justice that is intrinsic to the Gospel and hearing how others engage that same gospel. It gives me joy to be in community and to be connected with my sisters and to know that together we are about the Mission of God.” To young people discerning a call to consecrated life she says “Don’t be afraid. Let your YES be bold and courageous.”
Congratulations Sister Marcelline!