My father, Andrew Waller, was born in Bavaria, Germany on November 20, 1872. My mother, Emma Jacob, was born in New Middletown, Indiana on January 1, 1889.
In my family there were five girls and two boys. In birth order, my oldest sister, Marie, became a Sacred Heart Ursuline Sister and received the name Sister Mary Concetta, OSU. She died on July 28, 2003. The next eldest was Genevieve who followed Marie and became Sister Mary Victor, OSU. She died on December 24, 2005. Agnes died young, on January 26, 1943. My brother, Andrew became a Franciscan Friar, Father Kenneth, OFM Conv. He died on January 10, 1985. Gertrude was next, and died on January 29, 2000. My younger brother, Joseph, also became a Franciscan Friar, Father Victor, OFM Conv. He died on July 18, 1995. Lastly, I, Rose Mary, was born. I became a Sister of Charity of Nazareth, receiving the name, Sister Rose Andrew, SCN.
Christmas was a very special family time for us. Mother put up a small tree and a crib with one hundred small sheep. She made pans and pillowcases full of cookies; springerle, plain, raisin, oatmeal-raisin. She kept them in the front room where it was cool, and we tried to find excuses to get to them.
Easter was another special joy. We looked forward to noon on Holy Saturday when Lent was officially over. At that time, a nice hot wiener on bread awaited us. On Easter Sunday, we each received a shoebox full of colored hard-boiled eggs, jelly beans, chocolate eggs, gumdrops, chocolate crosses and marshmallow chickens and bunnies.
Summers were spent helping to can fruit, jelly and vegetables. We children got to wash the jars and bottles in a big tub, then set them in the hot sun to dry. If we were good, we even got to stir the fruit and vegetables! We also got to help seal the jars and bottles.
Much of the above changed when Daddy died in 1940. My mother had to go out and get a job to pay the bills. We also got jobs cutting grass, raking leaves and doing other small things to add to the money she was making. When we were older, we had “paying jobs” to help pay the expenses.
Our parish was St. Peter’s. The Sacred Heart Ursulines in Louisville were the teachers in our grade school and the Franciscan Friars from Mount St. Francis, Indiana staffed our parish. Our family lived on Kentucky Street around the corner from the church and school in West Louisville.
I attended St. Peter’s Grade School. When I was in the first grade, my girl-friend and I dressed as twins. Our mothers plaited yellow hair and put it in with ours. We stood on a platform and sang “Playmates” in a performance for the parents. Also when I was in the first grade, some boys from the parish who had become priests said their first Mass. Eight little girls were chosen to wear long pastel dresses and to carry small bouquets of flowers. We walked in the Entrance Procession. Sister Mary was my favorite first grade teacher. She was special because she was young, religious and we could tell she loved our first grade class.
I made my First Communion in the second grade. I wore a white dress, veil and shoes. My mom and dad gave me my first prayer book and rosary and I got to have my picture taken at a studio.
I was confirmed by Archbishop John A. Floersh in the fourth grade. My mother made me a pink taffeta dress with pink buttons to wear for the occasion. I chose Victoria for my Confirmation name.
When I was in the fifth grade, my father died on Friday, September 13, 1940. I thought my world had ended, since I was Daddy’s baby girl.
In grade seven, my sister, Agnes died on January 26, 1943. That was also the year I carried the banner to lead the girls in the Forty-Hours Procession. Since Agnes was buried that day, I dressed in my long blue satin dress, carried the banner in the Procession and Mass, then went home and went with my family to Agnes’ funeral, and later went to school for Adoration with my class.
I graduated from the eighth grade in June, 1944, wearing a pink dress, white shoes, a white hat, purse and gloves.
I attended Presentation Academy from 1944 to 1948. I had never seen a Sister of Charity of Nazareth until I went to register at Presentation. I enjoyed my years there and learned many things. I enjoyed changing classes for each subject. In my junior year, I finally got to study German. Since my Daddy was born in Germany, I always wanted to study the language. I enjoyed the retreats we had each year. During my senior year, I decided I was going to be a Sister of Charity of Nazareth.
Throughout my high school years, I worked at Dick’s Men Shop as a pin girl and sales person. I had to get money for my education and future dream – going to the convent. I liked all my high school teachers. They were so new to me and always so very kind. I guess I always wanted to be a Sister, especially since my two older sisters were Sacred Heart Ursulines. It wasn’t until I went to Presentation that I started thinking about becoming a Sister of Charity of Nazareth. My family just took it for granted that I would be an Ursuline, following my two sisters. They were surprised when I said I wanted to be a Sister of Charity of Nazareth. My cousin, Father Chester Bowling, helped me to convince my mother to let me become a Charity Sister. This decision was confirmed during my senior year retreat.
I entered the Nazareth Novitiate on September 24, 1948. When we went to bed that night, there were forty-three in my class. When we got up the next morning, there were forty-one – two young women from Bardstown had gone home during the night!
Going to breakfast that morning was a different experience for me. I wasn’t used to the silence, long tables and the large number of Sisters. Having Corn Flakes was a little hard for that first breakfast, as that was my “home food”. I’m afraid some tears flowed! But I soon got over being homesick because there was so much to learn and to do.
After a walk outside one day, I remember going to the chapel. The postulant kneeling in front of me had a grasshopper under her net cap. It was hard not to laugh as it was hopping around in the cap. We soon settled in and things settled down – or at least, so we thought. It seemed that the funniest things always happened in the chapel! As novices, one day we were all praying when suddenly an orange began rolling down the chapel aisle. As usual, it all began with a smile, then we tried to control the laughter, and you can guess what followed! It seemed that we could laugh at just about anything, even if it weren’t all that funny!
Being with Sisters from various parts of the U.S. was different for me, especially getting used to the Boston accent. Learning new customs was also different for me. During my first year as a novice, my oldest brother, Andrew, was ordained as a Franciscan Friar. He took the name Kenneth. He had been like a father to me after our father died. I was always very close to him and he watched out for me until he died. I was on my first mission when my other brother, Joseph, was also ordained a Franciscan Friar (Father Victor). Since he was stationed out of state most of his priestly life, we never became as close as Father Kenneth and I were.
My first mission was to St. Ann School in Morganfield, Kentucky, teaching the fifth grade. As Sisters were changed to other missions, I was moved up to the sixth, then to the seventh grades. I believe that the students taught me more than I taught them! I also found that having different superiors was difficult for me. I had to learn that each one was different and expected different things.
While missioned at St. Ann’s, our pastor, Father Joseph L. Spalding, was made a monsignor. He was very good to us. He took the choir and the altar boys on a trip each year, and the Sisters got to go along. We went to Mammoth Cave, to the St. Louis Cathedral and the St. Louis Zoo, and to the Nazareth Motherhouse, among many other places of interest. When the music teacher in our school was changed, I inherited the choir. Again, the students taught me more than I taught them! I also started a choir at our mission church in Sturgis, KY because they wanted to have some singing at church services. That was the beginning of my choir career which lasted for a period of twelve years.
In 1962, I was sent to St. Edward School in Brockton, Massachusetts. I thought I was in a different world. The people had a northern accent and did not pronounce the letter “r”, especially when it came at the ends of words. I had to learn a new language!
In addition, there was the idea of an upper and a lower church – upstairs and downstairs. The upper church was for all adults and the lower church was for school children who went to Catholic and public schools. I was assigned the seventh grade in school, doing departmental work. Our day was divided into forty-five minutes for each subject. So every forty-five minutes, I saw forty different students. That added up to 200 students a day!
After school on Tuesdays, I prepared public school students for First Communion and Confession. On Thursday afternoons, I prepared public school students for Confirmation, and on Sunday mornings, I presided with the children attending Mass in the lower church while the parents attended Mass in the upper church. After Mass, I taught the eighth grade girls Catholic Studies for an hour. Besides all this, I had the choir and the altar boys. Since this was before Vatican II, the altar boys had to be taught their responses in Latin.
Snow in Massachusetts was never spoken of in inches. It was always in feet. And we seldom had a snow day holiday! The streets and sidewalks were immediately cleared and school was always in session.
My next mission was to St. Pius X School in Calvert City, Kentucky. It also had unique challenges for me as I had grades five, six, seven and eight in one classroom. As one can imagine, I had to be very creative. I remember starting a new reading program in which seventh and eighth grade students read library books and met with the teacher once a week to discuss the books and what they had learned.
From Calvert City, I went to Yazoo City, Mississippi, to St. Clara Convent which housed white students from kindergarten to grade six. Up the hill from us was St. Francis School for black students. Our difficult task was to integrate the two schools. It is an understatement to say that white students learned a little about black history!
Interestingly, while in Yazoo City, we had snow that left us little over an inch of snow on the ground, but school was closed for three days!
At Holy Family School in Louisville, KY I taught mainly Religion and Social Studies. As Social Studies Teacher, I was able to attend two Taft Seminars at Eastern Kentucky University. Having done this, I was asked to attend the National Taft Seminar in Washington, DC at Catholic University. Only one Social Studies Teacher from each state was invited to attend. I felt privileged and learned much to share when I returned home.
After forty-four years of teaching junior high school students, I decided I needed a change. I applied to Nazareth Home to work for Community Service and was accepted.
I retired from teaching in June of 1995. The following September, I began working in Community Service at Nazareth Home in Louisville, KY, mostly with our Sisters. When I first began there, we had over one hundred Sisters to care for, and many different and interesting personalities to deal with! Again, I learned and received more than I gave! Because of health issues, I had to retire from that special ministry on February 14, 2017 after working there for twenty-three years.
Looking back, losing my entire family to death was very hard on me because we were very close. I still have my religious family which I depend on, but I miss my “human family” very much. Prayer and God’s love have sustained me and have helped me to continue to grow. Making my Vows as a Sister of Charity of Nazareth was very important to me. Being sent to new missions in different states helped me to grow and to mature. It also helped me to learn about different cultures and races of people. I know God isn’t finished with me yet, but I hope I can continue to grow in His love.
Interviewed by Sister Paschal Maria Fernicola, 2018
Interested in reading more Marie Menard Committee interviews?
Click here: https://scnfamily.org/tag/marie-menard/