Sister Rosaria Schaefer, OSB

March 25, 1915 - January 25, 2012

Sister RosariaSister Rosaria Schaefer, OSB, 96, a Benedictine Sister of Mount St. Scholastica, Atchison, Kans., died on January 25, 2012, at the monastery. The vigil will be at 7:00 p.m. on Sunday, January 29 in the monastery chapel and the Mass of Resurrection will be celebrated there on Monday, January 30 at 10:30 a.m.

Born March 25, 1915, the youngest daughter of Joseph M. and Agnes Clare Magrane Schaefer, Sister Rosaria was raised in St. Joseph parish, Hays, Kans. She graduated from Mount St. Scholastica Academy, and made monastic profession in 1936, living to celebrate her 75th anniversary last year. She received her B.A. in English with minors in history and music from Mount St. Scholastica College and earned the M. A. in education in 1954 at Notre Dame University.

She did postgraduate work in educational administration at Notre Dame and at Creighton University, and in both English and Corporate Ministry at St. Louis University. Sister Rosaria taught at Guardian Angels, Lillis High School and Donnelly College in Kansas City, Mo.; St. Joseph High School, Shawnee, Kans.; in Steinauer and Beatrice, Nebr.; Panama, Iowa; and at the Mount Academy, as well as being principal at Baileyville, Kans. and Salisbury, Mo. She was registrar at Benedictine College, Atchison, 1972-79 and later a parish assistant at Hanover, Kans., and at St. Mary-St. Anthony, Kansas City, Kans. Sister Rosaria then ministered to the elderly in Hays while caring for her sister Agnes. She served her monastic community as liturgist and volunteered in the Mount Academy alumnae office and in the sisters' development office.

Sister Rosaria was predeceased by her parents, her siblings Mary Zita (B.A.) Brungardt, Margaret (Henry) Hermann, Agnes, Sister Mary Felix (also a Mount Benedictine), Leo, Joseph, Victor, Paul, George, Richard and Theodore. She is survived by nieces and nephews and by her monastic community.

Let us remember her gratefully in our prayers.

S. Rosaria's Memorial Card:

"Your deeds, O Lord, make me glad,
Because of what you have done, I sing for joy."

Ps. 92:3-4

Sister Rosaria, born to Joseph and Agnes Magrane Schaefer of Hays, Kans., entered the Mount community in 1934, made monastic profession in 1936, and celebrated the 75th anniversary of her profession in 2011. A graduate of Mount St. Scholastica Academy and College, she earned a master of arts in education from Notre Dame University, taught in community schools in four states for 36 years, and was principal at Salisbury, Missouri, and Baileyville, Kansas. She taught English, religion, Latin, drama, film and music, and directed parish choirs. After serving as registrar at Benedictine College in the 1970s, she was a parish minister in Hanover, Kansas., and St. Mary-St. Anthony in Kansas City, Kansas. She was community liturgist and senate member, cared for her sister for several years, and volunteered at the Mount Academy alumnae office and in the monastery's development office. A gracious woman, gentle, self-effacing, lover of beauty in word and in music, Sister Rosaria had an almost instinctive sense of the appropriate. She was a devoted and appreciative Partner in Prayer with college students. She also compiled the Schaefer genealogy as a gift to her family. Sister Rosaria was skilled in embroidery, enjoyed reading, sharing poetry and listening to music. Let us remember her in grateful prayer.

Reflection given at the Vigil Service 

by Eleanor Suther, OSB

Scripture Readings: Isaiah 55:1-4, 6-12; Colossians 3:1-4, John 14:1-14

In the name of the Sisters of Mount St. Scholastica, I offer our condolences to all who have come to remember Sister Rosaria with us, to her family, her friends, her colleagues, former students, her classmate Sr. Lillian, the staff and residents of Dooley Center and to all her sisters in community.

Imagine this. It’s a quiet summer day in western Kansas. The sky is blue, a few clouds in the air--and in western Kansas you can see forever. A twelve year old girl is lying in the grass, looking up into that vast expanse of the sky. It is all quiet except for a melancholy, sighing sound in the distance, a mysterious sound. “Is that God? “ she wonders. The catechism says God is everywhere. Is God here now? How do you know if God is speaking to you?

Louise (Rosaria) Schaefer was no stranger to the love of God. Baptized into Christ three days after her birth, she grew up in a loving family for whom daily Mass was a given. She was the tenth of twelve children born to Joseph and Margaret Magrane Schaefer, ten of whom grew to adulthood. She was surrounded by the love of all those older brothers and sisters who doted on their baby sister—and later her baby brother, George. As the older siblings were away at school or married, Rita, Louise and George grew up together. They lived next door to St. Agnes hospital, went to the local parochial school, played together and with friends and classmates, and their nieces and nephews, ate meals together at the family table, practiced their music lessons. On a rare Christmas when they were all together, they sang and played Christmas carols together, Father on his fiddle, Mother at the piano, Agnes at the harp, Margaret with a cello, Leo on a violin, Joseph with a piccolo, Victor on the clarinet and George on the flute. When the hospital needed to expand, they moved to a new house which her father had built on Elm Street. Louise was happy in that house where she came to know God’s love through the love of her family.

In the fall of 1929, Louise came to Atchison to begin high school at Mount St. Scholastica Academy, stepping into that beautiful new Administration building that had been dedicated only five years before. Four happy years later she graduated, and the following year came back to begin her freshman year in college. During that freshman year she began to feel called to religious life. Her sister Rita, had already entered and was now known as Sister Mary Felix. A problem was, Louise really did not want to teach. But a visit with Mother Lucy Dooley convinced her that trying out a Benedictine vocation was God’s call to her.

She entered community in June of 1934, with a young woman from Blaine, Ks, Lillian Harrington. They received the habit together in 1935, and Louise received the name of Sister Rosaria. They made first vows together on January 1, 1936. And we all remember when they celebrated their 75th jubilee a few years ago.

“Incline your ear. Listen to me and you will have life!” (Is. 55:3) Seventy five years of listening for God’s voice brought Sister Rosaria to schools and convents in Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas, where she was a beloved teacher and gracious companion to her sisters in community. In her autobiography, Stepping Stones, Rosaria describes those years as “a collage of hard work, worry about students’ progress, pride in their accomplishments, satisfaction after their successful undertakings, excitement watching sports events while cheering the teams on to victory, even some aches when special homeroom groups graduated.” But the greatest ache came when she lost her dearest sister and lifelong companion, Sister Mary Felix, to an automobile accident in 1967. They had been together in community for 33 years. “God’s ways are not our ways” (Is 55:8) and Rosaria struggled with that loss for many years.

At an age when many of our contemporaries are retiring, Sister Rosaria took on new challenges. She became registrar of the newly merged Benedictine College and served there for the first difficult years of the merger. Seven years later, after a sabbatical, she heard another call to pastoral ministry. Actually, since she had finished her degree by 1945, she was free to take theology classes in the 50’s and early 60;s when the college brought in professors from Saint John’s University like Godfrey Dieckman and Ambrose Wathen. She found those classes immensely enriching, preparing her for the renewal of Vatican II, and the call to pastoral ministry.

I first came to know Sister Rosaria in the summer of 1960 shortly after I came to community. Sister Rosaria taught English comp to those of us who had just come from high school. It was our first college class. I remember her as an elegant, gracious mentor who taught us to look for beauty in our world. Our paths crossed again in 1991, when I followed her as community liturgist. She offered to work with me, moving graciously into that supportive role. Those were the years when her sister Agnes, came to live at Cray Manor, and Rosaria was working with her nephew to sell the family home, where Agnes had taken care of their parents and where Agnes had lived until she came to Atchison. That house was full of memories.

“In my Father’s house there are many mansions.” (Our reading says “dwelling places”, but for at least the first half of her life, Rosaria would have read from the Douay, which says “mansions.”) And somehow, “mansions” seems to fit such an elegant and gracious woman.

But there is more. The Greek word means “house” and the Latin vulgate would have been mansiones. So we are not just talking about rooms in a house. One commentator suggests that this dwelling place toward which we are journeying, is not one mansion for everybody, but a place for each one. The Kingdom is not like a performance which is the same for everyone in the audience. But, God’s radiance will draw from each one the resonance only God can draw forth. Each one will be in his/her own mansion, being in communion with all. God has been working with Rosaria on her mansion for a long time.

In 2009, just a few short years ago, Rosaria put the finishing touches to the autobiography she wrote for her family. She called it “Stepping Stones.” Through ninety-six years Rosaria (Louise) has been walking on those stepping stones toward that definitive communion with the God whom she heard that summer day in Hays, with her family and community members who have preceded her in death, and with all of us who will one day find our own mansion there.
Here is how she ends that story:

“Each giant step, as I look back, was a mixture of joys, sorrows, disappointments, happy surprises. I know that death will be my final stepping stone into eternity where I will be in everlasting embrace with the God Who called me into being and into this life I have lived. I will happily be with family and the Sisters of my community who have gone ahead of me.

Until that day comes, I will celebrate life. My retirement years are giving me the opportunity for spiritual growth. They invite me to find new things to do and old ideas to develop. Even now, I have done a new thing, writing this autobiography which I have found a wonderful way to stir up so many events in my life. I could not tell them all. I pray to God that I will be open to accepting life’s diminishments “gracefully.” I pray with the psalmist a favorite verse from Psalm 90. “Teach me to make use of my days and bring wisdom to my heart.”

Rosaria, you have made use of your days and you bring wisdom to our hearts. Now, when Christ who is our life reveals himself to you, you also will be revealed with him in Glory. (Col 3:4)

Can you hear that orchestra playing?