Rosemary O’Connell was a Sister of St. Joseph for nearly sixty years. How fitting that we celebrate Rosemary’s life as we begin this season of Lent. Lent is a time to return to our loving God, not simply by denying ourselves of a pleasure but by living our lives to promote God’s reign in this time in history. By our intentional actions we look to welcome the stranger, comfort the suffering, encourage those who struggle and work to change structures that dominate or oppress the dignity of others. Rosemary lived her life for the sake of others with a deep awareness of God’s unconditional love in her own life.
Born in Brooklyn to her parents Mary and Patrick, Rosemary attended St. Jerome’s parish school and St. Joseph’s High School. Entering the congregation in 1957, Rosemary earned a Bachelor’s degree in Education and eventually a Master’s degree in Pastoral Counseling from St. John’s University with continuing study of the Hispanic Ministry. Her early ministry in elementary education at Queen of All Saints, St. Theresa of Avila and Our Lady of Good Counsel led her to her ministry in Religious Education. For sixteen years, Rosemary served as Pastoral Minister at St. Gabriel’s in East New York and then for many years as Director of Adult Education at Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Jamaica.
Through all of these years, Rosemary was supported by a loving community with Kitty and of course Carole who welcomes Rosemary into eternal peace with her. For Rosemary, relationships sustained her and challenged her to be God’s loving presence where there was need. We heard yesterday of Rosemary’s gift of the “Golden Mouth,” which enabled her to speak eloquently of God’s influence in our lives in times of joy or suffering. It was not just words but Rosemary’s personal experience of God’s love active in her own life that enabled her to speak from her heart.
We have heard that actions speak louder than words but many of us were not aware that Rosemary loved her Clown Ministry. With delight and laughter, Rosemary brought the message that the God who created the universe, the world and everything in it loves each person unconditionally.
It is in that spirit of joy and hope that we celebrate Rosemary today. Through her faithful life of service and meeting the recent challenges to her health, she put her trust in God. We are all called to believe that those who die in the service of the Lord will now enjoy rest, knowing the results of their service go with them. We are grateful for Rosemary’s dedication, her outreach to so many and we are confident that she now enjoys the fullness of God’s love at the banquet prepared for her by her loving God.
Sister Rosemary O’Connell, CSJ died on March 1, 2017 in the 60th year of her religious life.