Life and Mission Experience

SCN Contact:  Evelyn Fugazzi, SCN

The snow storms and the flu epidemic of 1917 forced George and Rebecca Woods Rodenbaugh to make an emergency stop at a plantation in Tutwiler, Mississippi for Rebecca’s birth. When the weather improved, the family traveled on to Clarksdale, Miss. where Rebecca was baptized. Then the family went to Dyersburg, TN where her father became general foreman of the Illinois Central Railroad Shop.

There were few Catholics in Dyersburg.  A petition sent to the Bishop resulted in a priest coming from Humboldt to offer Mass in the Rodenbaugh home on the fifth Sunday of the month.  As the congregation grew, a more regular time was set for the first Sunday of each month.

Eventually, the family moved to Jackson, Tenn. where Rebecca and four brothers and one sister received the sacraments of Holy Eucharist and Confirmation.  In her junior year at Jackson High School, Rebecca met a new Catholic girl, Elizabeth Berry, a student at Nazareth College in Kentucky.  At the end of summer Elizabeth invited Rebecca to spend Thanksgiving Holidays with her at Nazareth.  After graduating from high school in 1935, Rebecca enrolled at Nazareth College.  A vocation to religious life was a mystery to Rebecca, but after two years, she knew it was her goal in life.  “The most sensible thing I’ve ever done,” she says.

Rebecca entered the novitiate in January 1937. She received the name S. Louis Rebecca and made vows July 19, 1939.

In 1943 S. Louis Rebecca’s father was suddenly hospitalized and Mother Ann Sebastian sent Sister to be with him.  On Good Friday, S. Louis Rebecca asked him if he wanted to be baptized a Catholic.  “Yes, Yes!” he replied.  Since the clergy were busy with Holy Week services, S. Louis Rebecca baptized him on Easter Sunday, with all of the family kneeling around the bed.  His was a beautiful death.

The highlight of S. Rebecca’s mission life was the 12 1/2 years spent in Southwest Virginia as the Executive Director of the Christian Center.  The Center is an ecumenical organization founded by local business men to help folks who “fell through the cracks.”

Besides a lack of food, clothing, housing, money for utility bills, etc, etc. S. Rebecca saw there a need for literacy. S. Rebecca and her volunteers at the Center began the Russell County Literacy Council Workshops and the Laubach Method of teaching adults was introduced.  Reading Specialist Caroline Field, SCN came from Nazareth to Lebanon, Virginia and conducted two training workshops.  Several years later, when her office at Nazareth closed, S. Caroline arranged with Emily Nabholz, SCN to donate all of her material to the very needy but eager group in Lebanon.  S. Rebecca said she has received tremendous support from the SCN Community.  In 1855, Catherine Spalding wrote “Our community must be the center from which all our good works emanate.”

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