Sister Faith Roth

Sister Faith RothLongevity is a characteristic of the Roth family. Sister Faith’s mother lived to be 103 years old, and she has a younger brother who is 96. Sister Faith is now 103 as she celebrates 85 years as a School Sister of St. Francis. 

Faith was born in Elgin, Nebraska, and she grew up in a family of nine girls and two boys on a farm near Fordyce. When Faith was in sixth grade, the family moved to town. Her mother was happy about this because the children could attend the Catholic school, which was staffed by the School Sisters of St. Francis.

Faith attended the public high school in Fordyce for two years and then lived with an uncle in Hartington during the week so she could go to the Catholic high school. She went home on the weekends, taking the ten-mile train ride for a dime. The Ursuline sisters who staffed the high school invited her many times to join their order, but Faith’s sister Angela and two of her cousins were already School Sisters of St. Francis. In time, six more of her sisters joined the community!

Sister Faith dreamed of becoming a homemaker sister when she entered the community because she liked cooking and baking, but Mother Corona told her, “You will be a teacher.” She was happy doing that, mostly in the primary grades, especially second grade when she prepared children for their First Holy Communion.

She liked all the places where she taught, whether in Wisconsin at St. Anthony of Padua School near Pius XI High School, or in Colorado Springs, or in her hometown of Fordyce. She stayed many years wherever she taught.

When her mother, Helena, was 97 years old and living alone, Sister Faith was stationed in Fordyce to care for her. These were very happy, privileged years. A funny incident occurred while Sister was living there. A representative from the school in Crofton, a town nearby, called one day inquiring if there was someone named Helena living at that house. The caller wanted to invite three-year-old Helena to attend their school the following fall. Sister Faith corrected her that Helena was actually 103 years old. The surprised caller said, “Oh, our computers don’t go back that far!”

In the years of infrequent home visits, Sister Faith and her biological sisters would sometimes stay at the nearby home of Sister Francis Borgia Rothluebber’s mother because Helena’s home was too small to accommodate all of the Roth sisters. Those are happy memories for her.

Sister Faith feels her greatest accomplishment was working with an ungraded primary education program. Children in grades one through three could advance independently at their own pace. Sister did in-service training for this type of education for other teachers in the Colorado Springs area, both Catholic and public school teachers.

When the Air Force Academy was established in Colorado Springs in the late 1950s, Sister Faith’s parish faced the challenge of insufficient space at the school. Sister suddenly had 95 second graders, without any helpers! Sister divided the class in half, with one group attending in the morning and the other half in the afternoon. Each week, she composed a homework worksheet with the assignments for religion, spelling, math, and penmanship.  The old-fashioned mimeograph machine was kept very busy! The students only received their next worksheet when the parents had signed the completed worksheet. Sister remembers that filling out the report cards was “a nasty business!”

Another challenge was in the summer, when sisters came to visit Colorado Springs. Sister enjoyed having them come, but it was a lot of work cooking for them and washing the bedding.

Because of diminishing eyesight and hearing, Sister Faith is living at Sacred Heart in Milwaukee now. She stays connected to God by praying the rosary, attending Mass in the chapel, or by watching it on TV in her room. She also enjoys listening to the sisters praying the Divine Office in the afternoon.

Her secret for living so long is that her mother did it, too! Sister Faith, we are happy that God has blessed you with a long life with us and with your family. Happy Jubilee!