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Concordia Sisters of St. Joseph

Concordia Sisters of St. Joseph

Loving God and neighbor without distinction: A pontifical institute of women religious of the Roman Catholic Church

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Eulogy for Sister Rosalyn Juenemann — Jan. 8, 1932 – Jan. 27, 2022

Vigil: Jan. 30, 2022, at the Nazareth Motherhouse
Eulogist: Sister Marcia Allen

Here, indeed, is a valiant woman! A woman of integrity and generosity, of matter-of-fact authenticity, simplicity and honesty. She was beautiful and wise and kindly attentive to others; straight as an arrow in her assessment of troublesome situations; faithful to truth and merciful in her judgments. God rescued her from an early death and she did not let God down!

Rosalyn Susanna Juenemann was born at home on a farm near Leoville in Western Kansas on Jan. 8, 1932, during the dust storm years. She was the fifth of 10 children born to Rosa Kaus and Fred Juenemann. Her older siblings were her sister, Rita Schwarz and three brothers, Bernard and Lawrence, both deceased, and Norbert. Younger than she were: Alvera Long and John, both deceased, and Gerald, Melvin and Carolyn. (Melvin and Carolyn are with us here this evening.)

Her childhood was spent on the farm where she learned to cook, not just for the family but at times for the harvest crews. She also learned to embroider and milk cows, garden and share life with its ups and downs, its work and play. The Juenemanns were a family of musicians. She participated in the family hobby of playing music as family fun and for various events, especially dances. Rosalyn added to the enjoyment through her ability with piano and accordion. She attended a country school where she received an excellent education. She and another student graduated 8th grade with firsts in the county academic tests. From country school she attended high school for three years in Seldon, Kansas, and the last year in Decatur County High School in Oberlin, Kansas, where she hoped to earn a teaching certificate upon graduation.

As luck would have it, the state changed its certification requirements that year and she needed to go to college for a 60-hour certificate. Although she had a scholarship to Fort Hays State College, she chose to go to Marymount College in Salina, Kansas, where she also received a scholarship. She chose Marymount because all of her other education had been in the public school system and she wished to attend a Catholic institution. Her aunt, Sister Albertine Kaus, was also a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph, the community that owned and staffed Marymount. She had had a desire to enter religious life for several years; her choice of the Concordia community was largely influenced by her aunt, Sister Albertine.

But back to God’s saving grace to which she credited the rest of her life. When she was three years old she fell into the stock tank while in pursuit of a marble she had accidentally dropped into it. Luckily her parents spotted her floating body and rushed her to Leoville where her Aunt Margaret was a nurse. For the next three hours, her aunt applied mouth to mouth resuscitation, and, with many other efforts surrounded by intense prayer, Rosalyn came back to life. According to her, she suffered no brain damage from those hours as well as no other ill effects with the possible exception of being afraid of water. To move through that fear, she took swimming lessons as an adult! She also mentioned that when she sometimes forgot a name, she would say: “Guess I have brain damage!”

Rosalyn entered the Community of St. Joseph on Sept. 8, 1950. On the journey, she and her two youngest siblings sat in the backseat of the car, sobbing because she was leaving home. When her father finally asked her if she wanted to go back, she said no, but continued to cry all the way to Concordia. She received the habit and her new name, Sister Mary Frieda, on March 18, 1951, and made final profession on March 19, 1955. She did receive her 60-hour certificate and went out to teach for the first time in September of 1953. Her first experience was in Antonino, Kansas, where she taught first, second and third grades all in one room. She often went to Vincent, Kansas, on Saturdays where an excellent and experienced teacher, Sister Mary Jo Fraser, taught her how to teach primary children.

After the Antonino experience she went back to Marymount for study and remained through the following school term. She took teacher training classes and asked if she could take piano lessons. She did so well that she was asked to major in music! She said that she had previously played the piano and the accordion by ear and was grateful to learn music through formal methods.

She spent several years in various elementary schools: Pfeifer, Salina- Sacred Heart, Oakley, Gorham and Plainville in Kansas and the St. Louis School in Chicago, Illinois. In most of these schools she taught music full time: classroom music and private music lessons. As a teacher she established immediate rapport with the students convincing them that they enjoyed singing and/or playing. As one student said at the end of her tenure: “You’re the best music teacher I ever had!” This particular student added a remark that more than likely illustrates what Rosalyn stressed as she taught: “Maybe someday I will even relax my wrists and count!”

In 1973, Rosalyn began Pastoral Ministry. This was a work of service not only new to her but within the post Vatican II Church as well. Her first experience was three years on the Western Slope of Colorado for the Diocese of Denver. She and three other sisters were responsible for religious education and pastoral ministry in 10 parishes along Highway 40. They were hired by the diocese rather than by the parishes. Rosalyn mainly visited shut-ins, rest homes, hospitals in her pastoral capacity, set up prayer groups, trained organists and guitarists, helped with liturgical celebrations, took communion to the home-bound, hospitals and rest homes. She also did some individual counseling. By year two the need for marriage enrichment programs emerged and she along with four married couples set up programs that eventually stretched beyond the original ten parishes into the entire Western Slope. These programs led to the establishment of pre-marriage programs for engaged couples.

Her discernment led her to take up Pastoral Ministry in three parishes in the eastern most reaches of the Salina Diocese: Greenleaf, Washington and Morrowville. Although she was often lonely she was comforted by the work and was deeply touched by sharing the parishioners’ moments of joy and tragedy: baptisms, weddings, Eucharist, birthdays, Christmas, family meals as well as the trials, anxieties, hardships and sorrows that make up the personal lives of people in the parishes and towns in general. She also taught Religious Education and conducted several weekly Bible Study groups, organized prayer groups, attended meetings of the women’s organizations, parish councils, inquiry classes, programs for marriage enrichment and marriage preparation, as well as visiting the rest homes, hospitals and home-bound taking them Eucharist or just visiting with them. She also worked with organists and choirs. At times she was asked to take marriage testimonies for people who were seeking annulments. This also describes the work that engaged her when she left this area and began working in Clay Center and Miltonvale, Kansas.

In 1987, Rosalyn was asked to take up the work of Coordinator of Community Services at the Nazareth Motherhouse in Concordia, Kansas. She partnered Jerry Gallagher who was the Motherhouse Administrator. She said that he was a joy to work with. She attended to the needs of the Community of sisters living there while Jerry oversaw the work of maintenance and supervision of lay employees. Although this work drew her from her dearly loved parish work, she proved to be a natural in her coordination of the many services needed to guarantee the quality of life for the sisters living there. About this work she said, “The four years at the Motherhouse were blessed years. I experienced the joys, sorrows, struggles, holiness and brokenness of these very precious women. During those four years we had many deaths and funerals. It was such a grace to be present with so many as they entered the fullness of life. Just to be a prayerful, comforting presence for them as they struggled with pain, suffering, weakness, doubt, fear and acceptance was such a grace-filled blessing for me personally.”

Four years later, Rosalyn was elected to community leadership as Executive Councilor and Regional Coordinator. From 1991 – 1995 she not only participated in the various administrative and leadership roles but engaged with the sisters in pastoral presence as they discerned direction for their lives, health and retirement needs, changes in ministry and the joys and sorrows that attend life in general.

In 1995, after years of nearly relentless work, Rosalyn chose a sabbatical year. She happily went to various programs such as the Sarah Sabbatical and visited relatives and friends throughout the United States. It was a time of leisure and catching up. And best of all, she said, she was welcomed to Chapman as her home base where her sister, Sister Carolyn, lived and worked as the parish administrator.

After her sabbatical it was back to parish ministry, the love of her life. She worked in Colby as Pastoral Associate, then went on to Junction City, St. Xavier’s Parish, until 2004. By this time, she was feeling that it was time to slow down. She retired to Concordia on Memorial Day, 2005 and took up residence with the community at Hillside Convent.

Retirement took on a new look with Rosalyn, however. She was soon in Plainville, Kansas, once again, where this time she said that her aim was “to carry Christ’s presence to the people of the parish by being present at the parish gatherings and doing whatever ministry the Parish Administrator invites me to help with, especially to the older members in nursing home or in their homes, with the freedom to do that as time and energy allow. I desire to be a gentle, peaceful, prayerful, loving presence to all,” she wrote. Her ministry eventually branched out into the hospital in Plainville, the prison in Stockton and the Ministerial Alliance meetings as well as tending families at wakes, funerals and anything else that she was invited to do. About this work she often wrote in her mission commitment statements that she wished to go about it “with the greatest possible love that the grace of God chooses to manifest through me.”

This is the description of a true apostolic heart. And it is the true portrait of Rosalyn. It is basically impossible to do justice to all that she gave herself to through the decades. She was a force to be reckoned with and at the same time a gentle, caring presence. She was uncannily insightful where the needs of people were to be found and identified; at the same time, she had the ability to invent the means to meet the needs and the initiative to carry out the necessary work. Above all, she was able to engage others in the work in true communal fashion.

Through all these years of apostolic labor and loving presence, Rosalyn was devoted to excellence in the work which she was about. Her file shows dozens of workshop and program certificates from Pastoral Administration to Scripture courses; therapeutic touch and reminiscing therapy for the aging; ethics and end-of life-issues, hospice, the meaning of ministry in rural areas, changing hospital policies and procedures, as well as programs for discernment, communication, assertiveness training, how to work with difficult people, legal issues, child victims of physical and sexual abuse, and many others. She went to great lengths to become and remain effective in her pastoral work. She also served on boards for the Nazareth Convent and Academy, the Edwin Vincent O’Hara Institute for Rural Ministry, Salina Diocese Rural Life, Tractors for Our Daily Bread and the Concordia Community Concert Series.

At the same time that she was busy in self education opportunities and dedicated school or parish work, she was a story teller. Along with her Life Review which was the source for this eulogy, she kept vivid accounts of many of the places in which she ministered. The first such story was the daily record of the beginning of the new mission at St. Louis, Chicago. From her arrival with Sister Corona Beaumier on Aug. 7, 1959, through the furnishing of their very bare building beneath their classrooms, through the first three months of school, she faithfully described their efforts to find and purchase inexpensive kitchen utensils, bed linens, living room and dining room chairs, equipment and books for the students, and above all, teachers for the school. She described the walls created out of cardboard boxes that made up the rooms of their makeshift home. Eventually, the new school was built along with a convent for the sisters, but the first year was one of privation and parishioner generosity, great sacrifice and uncertainty, hard work and cheerful ingenuity. Eventually, they were able to host guests, a source of pride, especially, when the guests came from St. Joseph and St. Anne’s in Chicago or sisters passing through from Concordia to other missions.

Rosalyn loved deeply, generously and effectively without an ounce of sentimentality. Wherever she lived and worked she was a gift. (Our family was the beneficiary of her gifts. She tended my mother in her diminishment enabling her to enter into her late life and old, old age with graciousness, thanks to the Rosalyn’s spiritual companionship and real friendship.)

In 2012 Rosalyn came to live at the Motherhouse, hoping to be helpful in any way that she could over the next several years. Among her tasks were giving tours of the house to guests, occasionally playing the piano or organ, serving as librarian and above all, praying. Throughout these years she desired to be a prayerful and joyful presence. Those who lived with her will testify to her effectiveness in this. By 2019, Rosalyn was no longer able to write out her own mission commitment statement, but her work of prayer continued until her death on Thursday morning, Jan. 27, 2022. She died peacefully and quietly with her sister Carolyn and several other sisters beside her.

We have words of wisdom from our founder that seem to describe Rosalyn: He encourages us to meet the other with an alert and attentive heart and then befriend the spirit in that person with effective love – love that produces results, love that meets the need of that unique person who is searching for healing, relief from suffering, wholeness. Rosalyn proved to be a master at this way of life. She did not consider herself a great apostle; was generally not in the forefront but content to be in the background; however, her manner of being inspired confidence and a willingness to confide in her. She was the presence she prayed to be, the presence that conveyed God’s love. In spite of her protests of being shy, she was outgoing, effective in love and generous to a fault.

Rosalyn, thank you for your life among us these nearly 72 years. Your presence blessed us; your life mentored and modeled our ideal for us. We bless you in your new journey and above all, we thank you.

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