Sister Carolyn Rohde

June 12, 1953  – January 3, 2022

Sister Carolyn Rohde, OSB, 68, a Benedictine sister of Mount St. Scholastica, Atchison, Kansas, died  January 3, 2022, at the monastery. A vigil was held on February 20. A Mass of Resurrection was held March 30, 2022, in St. Scholastica Chapel followed by burial in the monastery cemetery. 

Sister Carolyn was born on June 12, 1953, to Frank and Leona Bushelle Rohde of Freeport, Illinois. She became acquainted with the Benedictine sisters when she came to Benedictine College in 1971, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology.

Always committed to the poor and vulnerable, Sister Carolyn embarked on a career of caring that would continue until her death. Entering the monastic community in 1977, she worked in social services at care facilities and parishes in the Kansas City area and was active in various organizations advocating for peace and justice, as well as committees and social action activities of her monastic community.

In the 1990s, she followed her desire to be of even more intimate service, earning a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Avila University. She spent the remainder of her life in that ministry, primarily as a medical surgical nurse and, more recently, in health care for the homeless and indigent.

When she was diagnosed with cancer, she had a special knowledge of the experience from her more than a decade as an oncology nurse. Sister Carolyn’s life was one of selflessness and sensitivity to others, especially those most easily overlooked.

Sister Carolyn was preceded in death by her parents. She is survived by siblings Frank (Liz) Rohde of Kewaskum, Wisconsin, Larry Rohde and Mary Meyers, both of Freeport, Illinois, and Eleanor Palmer, Muncie, Indiana, by nieces, nephews and her monastic family. Becker-Dyer-Stanton Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements. Memorials may be sent to Mount St. Scholastica or made online at the Mount’s website.

Watch the vigil, held February 20, 2022.

Watch the Mass of Resurrection, held March 30, 2022.

Reflection at the Vigil for Sister Carolyn Rohde

Sister Linda Herndon, OSB | February 20, 2022

Readings: Micah 6:6-8; Philippians 3:7-14; Matthew 25:31-40

On behalf of Sister Esther, our Prioress, we extend our sympathy and prayers to Sister Carolyn’s brothers, Frank and Larry, and her sisters, Mary and Eleanor, her nieces, nephews, and other relatives and friends. We are sorry that this pandemic prevents you from being with us this evening.

As some of you may be aware, Carolyn always read the last chapter of the book first. I tried to convince her that was not the correct way to read a book and that she was taking all the fun out of reading a book, but I could never convince her! We each know what the last chapter of our lives is. Since this is a reflection on the scriptures we just heard proclaimed and how they speak to us of Carolyn’s life, it seems appropriate that I start with the last “chapter” of Carolyn’s life. (Carolyn, I hope you are smiling down on me tonight by my starting this reflection this way!)

Let us imagine that scene in heaven late on the night of January 3rd as Carolyn’s parents, Frank and Leona, and the company of our Benedictine sisters who have gone before us greeted Carolyn as she came to heaven’s entrance, and they presented her to Jesus. Jesus must have stood there and said to her, “Come, inherit the kingdom of heaven that I have prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”  You are worthy of this inheritance “for by caring for the least members of my family you have cared for me.” Knowing Carolyn, she surely must have asked, “When have I cared for these least members of your family?”  “Oh,” Jesus probably answered, “I have watched you all these years: when you served as a VISTA volunteer in Durango, Colorado, and ministered among the poor there, you served me. As a social worker in parishes in Kansas City, you visited the shut-ins, ministered to the dying, cared for many needs of the people—you were my hands to each of them. By serving as a nurse to oncology patients, to the homeless, the undocumented, the destitute, you served me. When you ministered with and to your sisters and when you welcomed the guests to the monastery, you have served me and in too many other ways to mention. Come now, enjoy the goal of your lifelong quest. Welcome!”

Along with the prophet Micah, Carolyn asked, “With what shall I come before the Lord?” And the answer she was given is the one that is so familiar to us, one we have heard read many times in scripture and sung in hymns: “to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” Carolyn first heard this call at her baptism. The hymn we sang this evening echoes this with a very specific call we monastics hear in the Rule of St. Benedict, “Who among you longs for life? Who among you seeks good days? Who would dwell in God’s tent? Who has heard the call of Christ all around and deep within?” Carolyn further responded to the deepening of her baptismal call and gave totally of herself by making her monastic profession as a Mount Benedictine.

Carolyn’s call to minister to God’s people came out of her deep care and concern for others. Many, in remembering her on Facebook after she died, described her as a “kind” and “caring” person. Carolyn found her preferred niche as a nurse ministering to the poor, the homeless, the undocumented, the needy. When she was sitting with our sisters who had Covid, she kept herself occupied those long nights by crocheting hats and scarves for the homeless. When I was going through things and organizing the sewing room, Carolyn wanted to make sure that if there was anything we were getting rid of that could be used by the poor,  we would not sell it to make money but give it to a charitable organization. I was reminded of this multiple times by her! I’m certain each of us can recall at community meetings when Carolyn got up and made statements about how we needed to keep in mind our need to serve the poor and to not forget them in whatever decision we were making.

On Saturday, January 1, I had the gift to visit with Carolyn one final time. We visited about a variety of things that day in the short time we had together. She told me more than once “Well, it’s not like I’m dying in two days.”  In her plan, there were several more chapters left in her book. Although we may know what the last chapter is in our life’s book, as Carolyn found out, the ending of our book is out of our control. We do not get to set the timeline. This happened for Carolyn on that January 3rd night when, for her, time became timeless. She no longer had left that “one thing” Paul described in Philippians as “just one thing: forgetting what lies behind but straining forward to what lies ahead…to pursue the goal…the prize of God’s calling in Christ Jesus.”  She has now shared in his death so that she might know Christ Jesus as her savior.

Carolyn, after nearly 45 years with us on this monastic journey at this place we call the Mount, you took that one last breath. You left us behind and entered the mystery of death and eternal life…and what appears to us as the last chapter has now become the first chapter for you.