Remembrance of the Life of Rosalie Marie Malec CoL
“Rosalie Malec was born in Detroit on Jan.6, 1925. She loved having a birthday on the Epiphany and later for her 70th birthday I helped her published a book of poetry under the title ‘Epiphany 70.’ The youngest daughter of three (she had two older brothers Roman and Raymond), she was very proud of her Polish heritage and did make the trip back to the old country with her father in the 1970s. “
So begins a tender remembrance of Rosalie written by her niece, Shelley Ann Malec Vitale of Macomb Township, Mich., a northern suburb of Detroit. Rosalie was born in Detroit in the Polish neighborhood of Our Lady Queen of Angels Parish. Her father, John, had immigrated from Kielce or Olesnica, in southwestern Poland; her mother, Theresa Nabozna, was a native of Detroit.
Shelley’s account continues: “As a very young child during Prohibition, her home was raided. Grandpa was making homemade alcohol. He had the bright idea to hide it under her crib and she was made to pretend to be asleep on top of it. It worked and they had a party afterward and did cartwheels on the front lawn.”
Rosalie completed grade and high school in Detroit, graduating in 1942. Then, for six or seven years she honed her secretarial and office skills, taking extension courses at the University of Michigan and working as a secretary stenographer. She became proficient in shorthand. Her niece, Shelly, wrote: “An avid and lifelong ‘journal-keeper’, journaling before it was in vogue, we later found a huge trunk filled with steno pads, all written, unfortunately, in scribbled shorthand. When I asked Rosalie about it she said it was ‘for herself.’ “ One of Rosalie’s pastors observed “I’ve noticed that Rosalie has talent for writing. Some of the articles written by her in the Parish Monthly were very good.”
Rosalie began to think of joining the Sisters of Loretto. She wrote at the beginning of 1949 to Reverend Mother Edwarda “So many things in the past month have pointed the way to Loretto … Father Mark has been praying for me, I know — and I’m sure you have too. I’m so grateful.” Rosalie was one of several Detroit women whom Father Mark Hoskins directed to Loretto. Another was Delores Kincaide, who accompanied Rosalie to Loretto in June 1949 and returned to join her there six months later.
Rosalie was received into the Loretto Novitiate Dec. 8. 1949, taking the name Sister Mary Demetria until the 1960s when she was known as Sister Rosalie Marie. Rosalie made her first vows on Dec. 8, 1951, and her final vows on Aug. 15, 1955. From the novitiate she was sent to teach first and then third grade at St. Mary’s, Sterling, Ill. The next two years she taught first grade at Loretto Academy in El Paso, Texas. She spent five years at Immaculate Conception in Highland Park, Ill., teaching third and fifth grades. In 1960 Rosalie was sent to Colorado, for a year at St. Joseph School in Fort Collins with the third grade; then to New Mexico for three years with seventh and ninth grades at Loretto Academy, Santa Fe; and back to Colorado for a year with seventh graders at St. John School, Denver, and a year in the high school at St. Mary’s, Colorado Springs. While teaching, Rosalie earned an undergraduate degree in English at Loretto Heights in Denver, graduating in 1963; she began graduate studies during the summers at Loyola University in Los Angeles in 1964.
By 1968, Rosalie was fully into an “inner search” about which she wrote to Reverend Mother Mary Luke: “Even with my love for writing, what I have to say now is too difficult to put into words …. [You may already know] of my agreeing to a year of exclaustration … to help me reach a final decision regarding the manner of my continued commitment to Christ. … This is not a decision that has been lightly reached, but a many-faceted thing that I have agonized over for a long time. I am not quite sure yet exactly where the Lord is leading me, but I mean to find out. … It isn’t easy at 43 to begin again, and I know there are a great many risks involved. I would rather think of this going into a strange country, though, as life continuing, down a different path perhaps, but still headed in the right direction.”
Within the year, Rosalie had determined with a measure of peace “deep down that somehow I am more at home with myself and existence in this particular context — [outside community life.]. … At the same time, I am fully aware and deeply grateful that I am better equipped to plunge into the practical reality of lay life because of the spiritual values which have been deepened by being a sister of Loretto. I have a new dimension I might not otherwise have acquired to bring to this gritty kind of existence. It will be interesting to see how I can work out a happy balance and not lose my deep-down inner perspective.” Rosalie was dispensed from her vows March 25, 1969.
Rosalie’s niece Shelly takes up the story here: “A bit later Rosalie moved to Pacifica, Calif., where she became what I like to call a very spiritual ‘Prayerful Activist,’ meshing her Catholic upbringing with the beginnings of the activist movements of the 60s. This included her love for books, poetry, music, art, spiritual enlightenment and social activism. She was involved with many of the forerunners (writers, poets, musicians, artists) of the national movements of the time.
“She loved nature and took long walks on the beach where she collected shells, stones, leaves, flowers, rose petals, etc. Her signature symbol was THE BUTTERFLY. She also loved Charles Schultz’s Charlie Brown comics – especially Woodstock and Snoopy. She loved books such as “The Little Prince” and E.E. Cummings along with modern philosophy books by Shakti Gawain and Thich Nhat Hanh (“Be Still and Know”), “Secrets of Serenity” and “The Prophet” by Kahlil Gibran. She collected poetry books.
“Rosalie had a whimsical side. She loved “celebrations” and free-form dance. On visits back to Michigan she would try her yoga and West Coast ways out on my poor working class father. Once she wanted him, after a day of tool-making at the factory, to break off in small consciousness groups with the family to meditate. He was amused if not irritated. She had some strange concoctions like Hobo coffee (with egg shells) but loved Polish brandy too. It was a mix of her old world roots, her Catholicism, her formal education and her somewhat Hippie proclivities. She was artsy, fun and eccentric.”
Rosalie moved to Santa Rosa, Calif., in 1999 with a good friend, Ken. They had next door apartments in the newly built Vintage Pointe Senior Apartment complex and looked out for each other until Ken’s death in 2010. Eventually she needed more care; her three nieces Shelley, Annette and Barbara, helped Rosalie settled into Creekside Convalescent Home. Social workers Nancy Allen and Chris Bongardt befriended Rosalie, visiting her monthly for the three years she lived at Creekside and organizing parties to celebrate her birthday each January 6th. Chris and Nancy wrote feelingly of Rosalie’s fierce independence, her solid wisdom, and her great sense of humor. “Her thoughts and insights went very deep. … The essence of this very special woman continued to her last days.”
— By Eleanor Craig SL