Remembrance of the Life of Sister Rosalie Marie Phillips SL
June 5, 1915 — Aug. 30, 2018
(Editor’s note: The following is Sister Rosalie Marie Phillip’s own composition, the story of her life on the occasion of her 100th birthday three years ago. Several sentences have been added from interviews she gave in 2016 and 2006.)
“I was born June 5, 1915, in St. Louis. My parents, Margaret Grant Phillips and Patrick John Phillips, named me Julia. I had one sister, Madonna, 6 years older than I, and one brother, Francis, 5 years older. My mother died of pneumonia in April 1917 when I was not yet 2 years old. At first my father tried housekeepers; but that program didn’t work. Then, my mother’s two brothers and their wives took me into their homes and cared for me.
“My sister went to live at a small children’s school in Normandy, north of St. Louis, run by the Good Shepherd Sisters. It was what we called a boarding school, a place for children whose parents could not take care of them. I went there when I was 5 years of age. My sister and I lived there together for five years until she left at the end of grade school to enter training to be a nurse. I also lived there until I finished grade school.
“The Good Shepherd Sisters were good to us. Being an order that received children through the courts of St. Louis, those wise Sisters arranged that we would attend sixth through eighth grades at St. Ann’s Parish School in Normandy, and have our academic records show graduation from there rather than from the Good Shepherd School. St. Ann’s was next to the boarding school property. It was under the tutelage of the Sisters of Loretto.
“For a long time I did not want to become a Sister, even when others suggested it to me. I loved the movies because they put a flair into clothes, and that appealed to me since I do like nice clothes. But I gave in. On graduation from St. Ann’s Grade School, in 1931, I was received into Mother Loretto. I was 16 when I entered; I have been in Loretto’s care for almost 87 years.
“My reception into Loretto was on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Dec. 8, 1931. I spent 39 years of religious life in parishes dedicated to Mary under her title of Immaculate Conception: Springfield, Mo. (1957-64), New Madrid, Mo. (1964-67), and Monrovia, Calif. (1967-80, 1982-2000).
“For a total of 55 years I taught in parish schools, almost always the first grade — in Colorado, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri and California. The only time I didn’t teach first grade was in Monrovia when it was the practice to follow the same class into second, third and fourth grades.
“In 1987, I retired from teaching but continued to live and work in the school and parish at Immaculate Conception, Monrovia. I worked in the parish thrift shop; and it was in this parish that I also worked the parish bingo for 18 years. I lived in the same convent with the same community of four Loretto Sisters for almost 30 years.
“I returned to St. Louis in 2000 and volunteered at Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital Gift Shop on Fridays. I served as my local Community Group representative to the Community Perspectives Committee. I often did personal shopping for Sisters with the help of my friend Rebecca, who drove. And I sewed; even after I got to Loretto Motherhouse, I sewed. I make and repair clothes and I quilt.
“I spent 10 years at the St. Louis Center. I decided on my own to come to the Motherhouse in 2009. When everyone asked ‘What are you going down there for? You’re so active!’ I said, ‘I’ll be closer to the graveyard.’ But that isn’t it at all. I have just been willing to help out by moving.
“These days [at the Motherhouse] I am still busy sewing, usually something creative for someone else, reading magazines and the World Book Encyclopedia, doing word jumble puzzles, praying, writing letters and smiling at people since I don’t do much visiting. I figure I can at least smile at the people I see.
“Loretto has been important to me because this is my family. My birth family was too poor to come to visit, so I did not have much company. Loretto is my place to be … where God wanted me to be. I’m not sure I had that deep spirituality, but … I have become more conscious of the spiritual as God with us in a caring way. Loretto opened the spiritual door.”
Sister Rosalie Marie did a great deal of writing – poetry, reflections, love poems to her brother Jesus. Themes of peace, acceptance and gratitude flow through her writing, as in this little piece from a booklet she asked the Archives to keep:
Butterfly, dainty and lovely.
You are looking at your friend the flower.
You will soon be having your lunch
She will have kept for you.
God who made you both,
just because he loved you,
Will keep you in our memory.
And always say—Thank you God
for the gentle beautiful gifts
we can see and love.
Sister Rosalie Marie’s funeral Mass was celebrated Sept. 4, 2018, with burial in the Motherhouse Cemetery.
– By Eleanor Craig SL