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Sister Rose Alice Althoff's innate leadership skills and the work ethic she acquired growing up on a North Dakota farm served her Benedictine community well for 60 years.

Althoff, a founding member and former prioress of St. Paul's Monastery, died of congestive heart failure on April 4 in Woodbury.

The educator was 90.

Althoff grew up on a farm near Mooreton, N.D., the fifth of 10 children.

In 1933, she entered St. Benedict's Monastery in St. Joseph, Minn., taking her vows five years later.

In 1942, she earned a bachelor's degree in mathematics at the College of St. Benedict in St. Joseph, later earning two master's degrees.

In 1948, she was among the sisters who began the monastery in St. Paul. It has since moved to Maplewood.

Some of her jobs were: Teacher and principal at Sacred Heart Catholic School in Robbinsdale; leader of new monastery members, and supervisor of many schools in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

She served as prioress, or monastery leader, from 1966 to 1972.

To Althoff, change was a challenge, and she took it in stride.

In crises, she would say: "Let us never lose hope," said Sister Carol Rennie, the monastery's current prioress.

Althoff led the monastery in a tumultuous time, when many in the community left the monastic life. But that upheaval and other changes in the church over the years didn't leave her discouraged, Rennie said.

"She approached the challenge with great faith and compassion," Rennie said. "Many married, but she didn't pass judgment. She never questioned their decision to leave the community."

Althoff suffered for years from peripheral neuropathy, but "in spite of this terrific pain, she was perpetually optimistic," said her friend Sister Pat Collins, the monastery's archivist who joined the community a year after Althoff helped found it.

Collins said she admired Althoff for being so well read, adding that in 2005 Althoff published a book of haikus, "Nuggets of Hope."

She received master's degrees in education in 1954 from the College of St. Thomas in St. Paul, and in sacred scripture in 1965 from St. John's University in Collegeville.

After she stepped down from leading the monastery, she served in other capacities, such as doing pastoral care at New Hope's St. Therese Home, and as interim director of the Benedictine Center.

She is survived by sisters Mary Ann Anderson of Wahpeton, N.D., and Rita Mauch of Hankinson, N.D.; a brother, Tony, of Simi, Calif., and many nieces and nephews.

Services have been held.