Rosemary was a true Brooklynite with proud, vivacious Italian roots. As the cherished daughter of Oswald and Margaret Bellantoni, Ro was the dear sister of three loving and supportive brothers, Frank, Donald and Bob. Ro’s deep faith and jovial, hospitable manner were nurtured by countless family gatherings with the guarantee of good food and wholesome comradery.
In her early years in the congregation, Rosemary taught elementary school and directed parish Religious Education programs until she found her real love as Residential Manager of Alhambra House, a home for developmentally challenged adults. For ten happy, adventurous years she shared that ministry with her dear friend, Sister Dolores Lawson.
Ro was a personified “people person” who loved life and treasured her rich and deep relationships with her family, friends and beloved CSJ community of Sisters, Associates, Agrégées and Partners in Mission ~ many of whom fill this room today with the overflow praying with us from home.
Sister Karen Cavanagh will later share a personal reflection as a life long companion to Ro but it is important to acknowledge with deep love, admiration and gratitude Ro’s faithful service as a leader in our Congregation.
Rosemary’s role as a Regional Superior of Region 5, Suffolk County for eleven grace-filled years endeared her to countless sisters who sought her wisdom, counsel and support. Affirmations about Ro’s compassion, empathy, selfless attentiveness and listening heart have been echoing across the CSJ world and beyond!
She was truly a splendid and striking witness to our charism, mission and spirituality.
Teresa Fitzgerald, CSJ
To say that I am honored and privileged to offer this reflection/ meditation falls short of what is in my heart.
About 63 or more years ago four Saint Brendan High School friends (Marian, Sheila, Ro and I) began an almost daily ritual meeting at the CHAT and CHEW luncheonette on Coney Island Ave and Ave N in Bklyn. Sipping coffee, a Coke or tea and eating an English muffin, (maybe smoking a little, too) we’d share our day’s “gossip” and our hearts. The One Common heart share which each of us had in those days was to become a Sister of Saint Joseph.
On this coming September 8th it will be 62 years ago that the 4 of us + 72 others entered this room for the first time. It was our Novitiate. Today, six decades later, we gather in this very same room to celebrate life. I am humbled to offer these words of thanks for the so many ways that Ro lived her life so faithfully, as a Sister of Saint Joseph, a life of great love of God and every dear neighbor without distinction.
Today’s Scriptures assure us of God’s love, fidelity, presence and care through all the times of our lives. They show the way we are to live God’s love in the world and they remind us of the promise that we shall see our God and live in God’s lavish love for all eternity.
Sister Agnes, our party and Ro’s friend, who worked so closely with Ro in Maria Regina sent me this adaptation of the Beatitudes-entitled: Beatitudes for Women No author is noted … but I would like to adapt it to Rosemary’s life.
Blessed is she who suffers with the very young, the very old, and the very lonely, for she has compassion. … and we recall hundreds of frightened first graders, anxious or awkward Junior High students and elderly residents lonely for family… Ro was Compassion!
Blessed is she who greets the world with joy, laughter, and anticipation, for she has courage. … and with us in memory are delighted parents as their children receive the sacraments, families of persons with disabilities seeing them encouraged, loved and in a life giving home… Rosemary taught them and us a peace in the face of pain … Rosemary taught us Courage!
Blessed is she who speaks gently, lives humbly, and chooses to live freely, for she has dignity. … speaking her truth to our Sisters, boards and benefactors, parents and parishioners she consistently advocated, challenged and energized others on behalf of those more dependent and vulnerable. Sister Rosemary was gentleness and dignity in the flesh!
Blessed is she who listens and hears, and extends her hand as a friend, for she has understanding…befriending, funny, supportive, tireless, generous, always there, welcoming, inclusive, sweet, caring, woman of service, never wasting a moment, never begrudging a moment.
Ro was a wonderful friend for she was understanding!
Blessed is she who gives simply, loves deeply and walks joyfully in life, for she has sincerity… at Alhambra House, in Region Five, With her convent communities in Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island, in Residences and Memory Care Units … Rosemary walked tall until she could no longer, inspired others to choose life … when frailty moved in she became a mission on wheels, an empathizer with those who couldn’t breathe on their own through waning health or violence and a mentor and midwife of new Agregee beginnings in our Congregation… Ro, deep love and sincerity are your legacy!
Blessed is she who lives intensely and sings life’s alleluias, for she has awareness. … Your awareness, Your YES!, Your Smile and awareness of God in You will remain in our hearts forever. Thank you, Rosemary for powerfully witnessing awareness!
Blessed is she who has compassion and courage, freedom and dignity, sincerity and awareness, for she is a woman, a Gift, a Blessing… Thank you, dear sister, dear aunt. dear friend, dear blessing! Hold us close!
Karen Cavagnagh, CSJ
Sister Rosemary Ann Bellantoni, CSJ died on July 20, 2021 in the 62nd year of her religious life.