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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 Rose Marie Dwyer

January 24, 1934 – January 4, 2023

VIGIL: January 9, 2023, at the Nazareth Motherhouse
EULOGIST: Sister Janet Lander, CSJ

Today we remember and celebrate the life of Sister Rose Marie Dwyer, CSJ.
Dorothy Marie Dwyer, the second of ten children and oldest daughter of John and
Florence (Bates) Dwyer, was born January 24, 1934, on a farm five miles west of New Almelo. She is preceded in death by her parents, and her brothers Albert, Dennis and Don. She is survived by her brother Jim and her sisters Della, Dorine, Darlene, Donna and Delphia, as well as many nieces, nephews, their children and grandchildren, and other relatives.
The Dwyer home was full of the energy of laughter and debate, teasing and love. Like many farm children, Dorothy was feeding the calves, pigs and chickens by the time she was five years old. She remembers learning responsibility through her father’s prodding, “Hurry up!” She has fond memories of trips to Kansas City with her dad.
The Dwyer children attended a one-room school in the country through sixth grade.
Beginning in 7th grade, Dorothy rode a bus to New Almelo for school where she first met the Sisters of St. Joseph. When she was in high school, she and her brother Al stayed with Mrs. Stegeman in Leoville. Again she was taught by the Sisters of St. Joseph. Sister Zephyrine, the principal, encouraged her in considering religious life, and the Sisters of St. Joseph, in particular, saying, “You should probably join the ones you know if you don’t know where to enter.” Grandmother Bates also encouraged her vocation. And so, on September 8, 1951 she entered the Postulancy of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Concordia. On March 19, 1952 she was received into the novitiate, and received the name Sister Rose Marie. She persevered even though she missed her youngest siblings. Thankfully, her parents would bring some of her brothers and sisters on each visiting Sunday.
On March 19, 1953, S. Rose Marie made her first profession, and was then sent to Marymount College, Salina, to obtain her teaching certificate. She began teaching second and then first grade at Sacred Heart School in Salina. She was grateful to Sisters Doris Marie, Caritas and Mary Claude for their mentoring, and the principal, S. Teresita, who showed off S. Rose Marie’s best “little readers” to the state supervisors. By attending summer school sessions, S. Rose Marie received her Bachelors degree in 1964.
On March 19, 1956, S. Rose Marie made final vows. In 1964 her life took a new turn. She had volunteered for the mission in Brazil. She had not been chosen for the founding group, but one day in 1964 she came home from school and found a three page letter from Mother Helena Robben, asking her to be one of the next two to go to Brazil. Rosie recounts that she was so excited that she called the whole community together to tell them before she had read the whole letter. She was amazed at her excitement, but was chagrinned when she discovered on page three that she was to tell no one. So she had to ask everyone to keep it a secret!
In February of 1965, S. Rose Marie arrived in Brazil, joining those who had begun their missionary work in 1963, and receiving the name Irmã Rosa Maria. She began her work preparing youth as catechists, and they in turn companioned her in learning the culture and language beyond her initial studies. She loved home visiting. In partnership with the Redemptorists, she started organizing base Christian communities in the midst of a repressive political situation. In all of this, Rosie relished the lack of structure that life and ministry took in Brazil, in comparison with what she had known in the United States.
Over the years, Ir. Rosa Maria served in numerous places. In her life review she says, “My personal charism seemed to be to find unusual ways of travel to reach the most difficult communities. I loved to catch an old truck filled with bags of beans, pigs and chickens and other produce going to town, or returning with a month’s supply of purchases, all piled among tired travelers and crying children…I would study with the people and then walk to the next community, to visit leaders there…This type of life led me to work in four different dioceses in the states of Piauí, Tocantins, and Pará.” Rosie was on fire with zeal for good of the people.
In 1986, S. Rose Marie experienced an inner call to return to ministry in the United States. She requested being missioned to Kansas City, where she found ministry at the Hispanic parish of Sacred Heart. She became part of the parish team, and did a great deal of volunteer work tutoring children. In seeing how Americans did indeed help the poor in Kansas City, her heart softened and she was able to once again call herself American, which had been difficult while serving in third world poverty. However, as her love for her ministry and people in Kansas City grew, so did an inner sense of call to return to Brazil.
In 1992 she was missioned to Picos in Piauí. In her life review she reflected, “there goes the itinerant missionary again,” and then she recounts the story of meeting Adão and Zilda, who would become two of the earliest Associates of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Brazil. They had been teaching children in their home, but had to close the school because it badly needed structural repairs. Rosie recalled the Christian Foundation for Children and Aging, in Kansas City. Always enterprising, Rosie together with Zilda, Adão, and their two daughters began collecting stories from the children and photographing them, to make the request for financial help, which was granted. The time Rosie spent in Kansas City now bore fruit in the interior of Brazil.
Actually, Rosie’s life review overflows with stories of experiences of her years of missionary work, too many to recount in these few minutes. Always discerning the needed response, she worked with compassion and worked for justice even in dangerous situations. She desired the closest solidarity possible with the poor, without any notice except for the plume of dust that rose behind the motorbike she rode.
In May of 2005, she returned to the United States for a three month vacation and home visit. But in June she suffered a stroke that changed everything. She made one last visit to Brazil in 2006, and then returned to be missioned to serve in Plainville, KS with Sisters Janet LeDuc and Rosalyn Juenemann. There she served as a volunteer in a kindergarten classroom, where she delighted in the joy of little children. Her days in Plainville were brought to an abrupt end by injuries sustained in a fall. She moved to the Motherhouse in 2010, where initially she taught ESL to immigrants. More recently she saw her ministry as that of presence to and friendship with the employees.
During these years at the Motherhouse, Rosie was an avid fan of the KC Royals. We could count on her to let us know how they were doing. Also, she always enjoyed a good visit, whether by her family, or friends. She kept a gallery of photographs on her bedroom wall.
A couple years ago, in her yearly commitment Rosie expressed her desire to be present to the people around her, and to be “a prayerful person for the community, family, friends and the world.” Six months ago she made her last directed retreat, during which I was privileged to witness a woman totally in love with God, a woman with a profound awareness of God’s enduring love for her. Sister Rose Marie Dwyer entered into fullness of life in God on January 4, 2023.
Sister Rosie, it has indeed been a privilege for all of us to witness your life in mission. Now we entrust you to the fullness of the embrace of your Beloved God.

Memorials for Sister Rose Marie Dwyer may be given to the Sisters of St. Joseph Health Care/ Retirement Fund or the Apostolic Works of the Sisters; P.O Box 279, Concordia, KS 66901.