Born to Life
June 29, 1931
June 13, 1959
Born to Eternal Life
May 4, 2022
Sacred Heart Convent
Mt. Olivet Cemetery
On June 29, 1931 in Racine, Wisconsin a baby girl was born to Laura and Walter Hagen. She was baptized at St. John Nepomuk church and named Rosemary. She grew up in a family of one boy and five girls. Their family life was built on deep faith, love, and care for one another.
All the children attended St. John Nepomuk Grammar School, staffed by the School Sisters of St. Francis. Rosemary went to St. Catherine High School, staffed by the Racine Dominicans. After High School Rosemary stayed in Racine and went to Dominican College. After one year, in 1951, she transferred to Alverno College School of Nursing.
Alverno College was still at the Motherhouse and Sister Ottonella was beginning the program for Alverno to offer a BSN degree. Rosemary joined the second year of that program with about twelve students. That group of nurses lived in Rosary Hall, a house the Convent owned on the 29 hundred block of Orchard Street. After about two months Rosemary felt part of the group. Her best friend from that first nursing class is Bernadine Szopenski. Classes and Clinicals were the daily routine. Rosemary and Bernadine were partners and after clinicals at St. Mary’s Hill they were invited to stay on until Graduation. In 1954 their graduation was “glorious” and Alverno College of Nursing moved forward now offering a Bachelor of Science in Nursing.
After graduation and waiting for State Boards, Rosemary worked at Children’s Hospital in Milwaukee.
In 1958 Rosemary made a life changing decision and entered the School Sister of St. Francis on September 8th, joining her nursing ministry to the Mission of the School Sisters of St. Francis of giving, healing, and defending life. Rosemary was received on June 13, 1959 and received the name Sister Peter Damien. After Profession in 1961 she was missioned to St. Joseph’s Hospital, Beaver Dam as Nursing Supervisor. Returning to Milwaukee she became an instructor at Alverno College School of Nursing and later Assistant Professor, after receiving her MSN from DePaul University.
From 1975 to 1979 Sister served on the Alverno Provincial Unit Team. During these years health care needs for all elderly people were changing, including for the School Sisters of St. Francis Community. We renovated Maryhill and the Rockford Provincial House to make total care available for all our Sisters’ needs. In 1979, Sister Agnes Marie Henkel, along with Sister Rosemary and others, brought the dream of Tau Home Health Care Agengy to reality. Sister Rosemary became Director of Patient Services.
In 1982 Sister Rosemary was asked to be Administrator of Maryhill Retirement Center. She continued her nursing, using her expertise and later served at Sacred Heart Rehabilitation Hospital until she retired in 2001.
At that time she moved to Marian Hall and ministered as driver until she moved to the Motherhouse in 2002. There she continued as official driver and assisted with other tasks as needed.
Sister Rosemary cherished her visits from family and friends and still often drove to Racine to check on her sisters.
Declining health brought Sister Rosemary to Sacred Heart in 2014.
Sister Rosemary transitioned from being the care-giver as a nurse to being the one who received care. She was ever gracious in her attitude and open to the care-givers who were a part of her life.
One thing Sister Rosemary never lost as Parkinson’s limited her movements: her bright eyes always searched for a point of contact to give you a big smile or a wave. Her long arms were always ready to circle you with a big hug.
Sister Rosemary, we thank you for sharing your 63 years of faithful Franciscan living. We treasure your good example in all your illness and we will never forget your grateful heart. May you now enjoy God’s love and peace forever.