As a young woman her life as a vowed Franciscan Sister was rather ordinary. She served as an elementary school teacher and as a Montessori teacher. She worked in Catholic parishes as Director of religious education and as a Pastoral Associate. Later she served as a Hospital Chaplain. Her life took a radical turn when prayerful discernment led to taking action to meet the needs of the poor. With deep faith and boldness in 1982 she founded the Bethlehem Food Center in Carol Stream, IL, that grew beyond her imagining into the Northern Illinois Food Bank.
Always a woman with keen interest in learning, Rosemarie became an accomplished scholar with a B.A. in English, a M.A. in Religious Education and a Doctorate in Ministry. Listening to her soul’s knowing, Rosemarie shifted her focus of learning and ministry to Healing Touch Practice and Spiritual Direction. This became her life’s work.
For many years Rosemarie found a kindred spirit in Wheaton Franciscan Sister Virginia Mary Barta as they both had the heart of a mystic. In this relationship and with continuous study and meditation practice Rosemarie experienced a radical awakening into a whole new level of consciousness. She noted this shift as an enlarged awareness that sees connections, brings forth experience of Spirit, and awakens intuitive knowing.
In 2003 Rosemarie’s ongoing discernment from a place of heart compelled her to choose a formal transfer of membership from the Bartlett Franciscan Sisters to membership with the Wheaton Franciscan Sisters. Rosemarie felt that the Wheaton Franciscans fostered individual expression and creativity and she noted that “this is a great source of delight and sometimes humor.”
With the support of her Franciscan Community Rosemarie realized her desire for solitude. She created a hermitage life that allowed her freedom for inner exploration into depth of soul. She named her Wheaton home “The Hermitage.” There she delighted in contemplation, silence, and connection to beauty in nature and music. There she strengthened her capacity to live from the essence of who she was. At this time in her life she identified her ministry this way: “My calling is to assist in the evolving of consciousness of the planet. I invite people to reflect and understand who they are and why they are on the planet.”
From her home Rosemarie offered individual healing touch and spiritual direction. She also invited people to come for seminars, reading groups, and spiritual practices such as group meditation. For more than fifteen years a group of people met monthly with Rosemarie for meditation and reflective reading. The first book they read aloud together was Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now. It took a long time to complete a reflective reading of this book so they named themselves the Now community. Ever the catalyst, Rosemarie encouraged them not only to meditate, read and reflect but to put their insights into practice.
In the last few years of her life, Rosemarie suffered memory loss and chronic pain. Still she continued to be a teacher for many as her dignity, strength of soul, and quality of presence inspired those around her. She leaves us the legacy of a practical mystic showing us by her life o f contemplation and self-surrender that we too are evolving human beings seeking to realize God as the essence of who we are becoming. She would likely add, “Wake up and do something for the good for the whole planet.”