Sister Rosemary Herriges

Sister Rosemary HerrigesSister Rosemary Herriges began her ministry teaching in Catholic schools in Wisconsin while continuing her education at night and in the summers, and serving as principal. “I enjoyed the sisters I lived with, the staff, the students, the families, the variety of experiences where I taught, and the challenges of leadership as principal. Whenever it was time to move on, I was ready to do that, too.”

During summers, when not attending summer school, Sister Rosemary was involved in a variety of activities. In 1969, she participated in Project Concern in Baltimore, where she worked with 12 sisters from 12 different religious orders. During other summers, she spent time cleaning at St. Joseph Convent; teaching knitting at the LaFarge Life Long Learning program at St. Joseph Convent; traveling to Lame Deer, Montana, for a summer program with sisters and volunteers; and working on a community stamp collection at the Provincial office.

In 1994 Sister Rosemary participated in the first International Community Experience (ICE). “This was the beginning of a more personal relationship with the sisters of our international community,” she said.  During that time, Sister Erna-Maria Zimmerer said, “Come to Germany and then we will go to Assisi.”

Seven years later that dream came true when Sister Rosemary traveled with Sister Bernadette Engelhaupt to Germany and Assisi. “Those 16 days were an immersion in the live and times of Mother Alexia and our German Sisters,” Sister Rosemary said.

While in Erlenbad they stayed at Haus Alexia attached to Marienheim purchased by Mother Alexia in 1895.  They walked in the Black Forest with Sister Leena from India and Sister Vera from Germany. They traveled with Sister Anita to the church where Mother Alexia was baptized, saw where Mother Alexia was born, and visited the chapel where she prayed. Sister Erna-Maria took them to Schwarzach where Mother Alexia, Mother Alfons, and Sister Clara cared for orphans before arriving in Wisconsin. Later, they traveled with Sister Erna-Maria to Switzerland where they stayed overnight in the Alpine village of Flüeli-Ranft, visited the sisters at Marienstein, and went to Basel to travel by night train to Assisi via Florence.

Sister Rosemary shared, “Our guide to Assisi was a book in English that Sister Erna-Maria said we would find in the Basilica of St. Francis. We went everywhere on foot, including the Carceri and San Damiano, and the traveled by bus to the Porziuncola. After two and half days, we were back on the night train to Basel and transferred to a train going to Offenburg where Sister Gertrud was waiting to take us back to Erlenbad for dinner.”

The next day Sister Gertrud took them to Strasburg, the place where Mother Alexia died. In the evening they celebrated Summer Fest with the Sisters and staff in the courtyard of the Erlenbad Motherhouse with good food, beer, music, and a dance by the Indian Sisters Jancy and Leena.

“There were many celebrations with the German and Indian Sisters both in Erlenbad and the various missions,” Sister said. “It seemed like a mini-ICE experience in Germany while at the same time the ICE program was going on at St. Joseph Convent in Milwaukee that summer.”    

Sister Rosemary and Sister Bernadette were able to share this Germany and Assisi experience with their classmates at the time of their 50th Jubilee. It was a plan five years in the making via email with Sister Erna-Maria to guide their retreat/pilgrimage through Germany, Switzerland, and Assisi via car, bus, tram, train, and air, along with the assistance of Sister Patricia Baier and a travel agent.

“We were immersed in the spirit of Mother Alexia by walking where she walked and being in the environment of Saints Francis and Clare,” Sister Rosemary said. “This was and continues to be a precious shared time in community and we are forever grateful.”

After 35 years in education ministry as a teacher and principal in Catholic elementary schools, Sister Rosemary always knew there was something else she wanted to do. She found that at Cedar Community in West Bend, Wisconsin.

After Sister Rosemary’s dad and stepmother moved to Cedar Community’s Assisted Living, her dad fell. After three months of rehab and a diagnosis of Lewy body dementia, he moved to a dementia unit. Some staff members suggested that Sister apply for a job at Cedar Community. The facility made arrangements for Sister’s Community Based Residential Care (CBRF) training and certification so she could care for residents, administer medication, and conduct activities at Friendship House, an assisted living facility for persons with Alzheimer’s and related dementia.

A short time later, Sister Rosemary was invited to Stephen Ministry orientation. She completed the training and as a volunteer Stephen Minister, she met with a resident one-on-one for an hour each week. The following year she was invited to participate in Cedar’s year-long chaplain training. She was assigned to visit the residents with Alzheimer’s and related dementia weekly. At the same time, her care-giving ministry continued at Friendship House until she transferred to one-on-one supportive care in Cedar Communities Home Health and Hospice Division.

During these 20 years of health care ministry, Sister Rosemary was meeting the needs of some of the most vulnerable persons in our society in an ecumenical setting whose mission is “to model Jesus’ love by creating life-enhancing relationships, services, and environments.” Sister Rosemary is most grateful for the opportunity to use her gifts, talents, and background in serving these special people. One very special memory among many was when, while assisting a resident, the woman told Sister, “You make me feel like a person.”

Every experience prepares you for the next one. During this time Sister Rosemary was asked to join the Board of Directors of our sponsored ministries Maryhill Manor in Niagara, Wisconsin, and Our Lady of the Angels Convent in Greenfield, Wisconsin. Recently, Sister Rosemary moved to Clement Manor in Greenfield with the intention of being able to carry on a ministry of one-on-one compassionate listening, meeting the needs of the sisters at Our Lady of the Angels.

At Clement Manor, Sister Rosemary finds herself “back on the farm” as Clement Manor was built on the former School Sister of St. Francis farm that she visited as an aspirant in 1960. She participates in the programs offered through the Center for Enrichment that evolved from the LaFarge Life Long Learning that she participated in the 1970s at St. Joseph Convent. And she is able to share her one-on-one Alzheimer’s and related dementia experience with the sister residents at Our Lady of the Angels.Thank you, Sister Rosemary, for sharing your gifts through your ministry among God’s people.