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Sister Rosemary (Mary Gilbert) Powers

Sister Rosemary Powers

“Jesus said, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. …’” (Matthew 13:44)

“Last Wednesday we lost a treasure: Sister Rosemary Powers. Sisters and friends have described her as kind, loving, generous to a fault, prayerful and humble, lovely to live with, having a droll sense of humor, thoughtful, caring, absolutely wonderful, a great lady, and a very true friend,” said Sister Margaret Quinlan in her commentary for Sister Rosemary Powers, who died Wednesday, Dec. 16.

Born Cecilia Rosemary Powers on Jan. 18, 1917, in Linton, Ind., she was one of four children of Edward and Mary (Haffley) Powers. She attended grade school at St. Benedict, Terre Haute, Ind., and St. Peter, Linton. She graduated from Providence Juniorate at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods and entered the Congregation Jan. 12, 1935, receiving the religious name Sister Mary Gilbert. She professed first and perpetual vows Aug. 15, 1937, and 1942, respectively. Sister Rosemary earned a bachelor’s degree in social studies from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College and a master’s degree in education from the University of Notre Dame.

Sister Rosemary began her nearly five decades in education at St. Catherine, Indianapolis, in 1937. In Indiana, she also ministered at St. Jude and Central Catholic High School, Fort Wayne, and St. John the Baptist, Whiting. In Illinois she taught at St. Francis Xavier, Wilmette; Immaculate Conception, Chicago; and Costa Catholic, Galesburg. Sister Rosemary spent several years ministering at Annunziata, St. Louis. She returned to the Woods in 1984 and ministered as an administrative assistant and volunteered many years in Archives.

“Sister Rosemary was described as a most respected teacher, who was never heard to raise her voice, and yet she had perfect control. She challenged her students to do well. One former student said that she taught them more than they needed to know when they got to high school,” said Sister Margaret.

“Her students loved her. One once wrote: ‘Mine was not a happy childhood, but my memories of Sister Mary Gilbert are happy ones. She was perceptive enough to know that I was unhappy and to realize that it might not have been all my fault. It did seem as if she went out of her way to be kind and helpful to me,’” continued Sister Margaret.

“Another former student recently said that Sister Rosemary was his absolutely favorite teacher. In her file in Archives, Sister Rosemary wrote that her fondest memory was, ‘My many years relating to teenagers as Christians, students and athletes,’” shared Sister Margaret.

“Sister Rosemary enjoyed sports. Early on, before such things were allowed, one evening Sister Rosemary and another sister went to a football game when their eighth graders were in a playoff game. As the two sisters stood on the sidelines, one of the players got tackled and rammed into the other sister and broke her leg. The next day, Sister Rosemary had to call Mother Rose Angela Horan (RIP) to confess what happened,” said Sister Margaret.

“Later, when such things were permitted, Sister Rosemary enjoyed biking and playing tennis and even taught tennis at one point! She enjoyed Notre Dame games and the NCAA basketball tournament. She was described as an astute card player, keeping her counsel and looking innocent until she could lay down all her cards and leave her opponents in the dust,” continued Sister Margaret.

“Not surprisingly, since Sister Rosemary worked in Archives and knew the importance of keeping memorabilia there, her file is filled with pictures taken at various class reunions, pictures of herself with visiting former students and with her brothers and other relatives, and pictures at parties and celebrations. There are congratulatory pieces received at class reunions and at her own jubilees, from Senator Jacobs and Senators Lugar and Quayle, one from Governor Orr and one from President Reagan,” said Sister Margaret.

“In Health Care, Sister Rosemary spent most of her day praying the office, not simply Lauds and Vespers, but praying all day. The nurses who cared for her loved her being right there with them most of the day, loved her laughter and her pleasant ways. One told me that Thanksgiving Day Sister Rosemary called her over and said, ‘Thank you for all the good care you have given me,’” shared Sister Margaret.

“And now it is our turn to say, Sister Rosemary, thank you for being our companion, our mentor, our friend, our sister,” concluded Sister Margaret.
The Mass of Christian Burial for Sister Rosemary was celebrated Dec. 19, with the Rev. Daniel Hopcus presiding. She was preceded in death by her three brothers.

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