Sister Rose Howard: A Profile

Feb 9, 2016 | 18 comments

Written by Sister Maria Vincent Brocato
*The remarks of this interviewer are in italics.

Sister Rose Ann Howard’s path to becoming a Sister of Charity of Nazareth is a beautiful story of God’s leading. From having two aunts who were SCNs, having SCN teachers at St. Mary of the Woods Grade School in Whitesville ,Kentucky, mingling with SCNs in the years after Vatican II, God led Rose as God has led many to bravely make the choice for another community of faith and service. The SCN community is enriched and blessed by her decision and the decision of others like her.

Back row (left to right): Louise (Rose’s mother), Victor (Rose’s father), and Rose in her father’s arms. Front Row: Tony and Jerry (Rose’s older brothers)

Back row (left to right): Louise (Rose’s mother), Victor (Rose’s father), and Rose in her father’s arms. Front Row: Tony and Jerry (Rose’s older brothers)

Rose Ann Howard was born in June, 1936 to Thomas Victor and Louise Raley Howard. Rose’s father was from Whitesville, Kentucky; her mother from Waverly, Kentucky in Union County. Her father was employed at St. Vincent Academy in Union County and the two had been introduced by a cousin who also worked there. They married and, after working and living on a farm near Waverly, Victor saved money and moved with his family to Whitesville. Rose was one of their six children, – Tony, Jerry, Rose, Mary, Jim and Dot.. Rose was only seven when her beloved father died of tuberculosis. He was thirty-three years old as was Rose’s mother. Their youngest child, Dot, was only six months old.” I loved my Dad, I was the first girl and felt I had a special place in his heart,” Rose sadly recalls.

This loss was a special grief for the Howard grandparents. The year before Victor died, his sister, Sister Liguori Howard, SCN, had died of tuberculosis. His other SCN sister, Sister Rose Bernadine, would live until 1983. Rose remembers letters from Sister Rose Bernardine; she also has memories of her very Irish, very Catholic and very strong minded grandmother, Agnes Hardesty Howard.

What a challenge for Louise after Victor, her loving companion died! She had home and child-keeping experience skills but no marketable ones. She didn’t drive so she secured a horse and buggy which they used for travel to Church and errands. Louise and her children were able to remain for two years on the farm which Victor had purchased.

At that time, it seemed wise to move to Waverly where the Raley Granddad, Legay Raley, and Louise’s sisters and brothers could give this young family support and assistance. Rose and her sister Mary went to live with Aunt Gertie (Raley) and Uncle Hugh Clark. The children attended St. Peter School in Waverly staffed by the Ursuline Sisters of Mt. St. Joseph. Amazingly, All of Rose’s siblings finished high school, to the great credit of their mother and supportive family. They would all later earned college degrees or certificates for physician accreditations. In 1956 Louise Howard would marry Hugh Clark, who was by then a widower. She would live until January 1,1998.

Because Rose was a very good learner, after eighth grade she received a scholarship to attend Mount St. Joseph Academy near Owensboro, Kentucky, This would be a decisive moment in Rose’s life. She worked hard in her studies, in her assigned duties and she met other girls whose friendship is still a blessing. One in particular, Gertie Hancock Brumleve, is a Waverly/Mt. St. Joseph Academy friend whose lively and inquiring spirit continually gives Rose inspiration even to this day. Their longtime friendship Rose considers “a joy and a blessing.”

After graduating from high school at “The Mount”, Rose was not sure what path she should choose in life. She secured a job as filing-clerk Louisville which only lasted three months, but which Rose remembers well. She resided with three other young women and was fortunate in that a co-worker gave her a ride to work. There was some social life and she liked her work but it wasn’t enough for her. Because Rose had always known that she wanted to be a Sister, this path would not lead her there. She would need more money for clothing and other expenses. Her work would not allow her to move toward determining if the attraction to becoming a nun was the right choice for her. Later that summer Rose decided to leave her job and used part of her savings to buy costly “ nun shoes” at Besendorf’s in Louisville.

Rose, age eighteen, joined twenty-one others becoming postulants of the Ursuline Sisters of Mt. St. Joseph (OSU- Order of St. Ursula) on September 8, 1954. For the next nine months she retained her baptismal name, Rose Ann. On August 14, 1955, she dressed as a bride and, following Mass, changed into a black serge habit and white veil before approaching Bishop Francis Cotton where she was given her choice of a name, Sister Victor Louise. Although a cumbersome name, it honored her Mom and Dad.

After two years serving as a novice, Rose made first vows in 1957, and was sent with three others as the first faculty of St. Leonard School in Louisville, Kentucky. Sister Rose began her seven years there teaching grades five and six, changing the next year to grades six and seven and was eventually being assigned to the eighth grade. Rose shares ,”Interacting and teaching adolescents was, and still remains, a special grace and interest for me. I love being with young people in their teen years.” Another learning occurred when Sister Leora Stewart died after a brief illness and Rose was named principal of St. Leonard for the remaining months of her seventh year.

Rose’s next mission was at St. Catherine School in New Haven, Kentucky. Fr. Fred Gettlefinger, Pastor at St. Catherine Parish was a traditional and directive pastor. There had been little upkeep to a well-constructed school building. Cleaning prior to beginning the school year, such as scrubbing, waxing, and shining the bare-wooden floors, was done with children ten to thirteen years old who lived nearby. Their hearts were loving and generous as they happily helped the Sisters and received approval from their parents for doing so. After two years Rose/Sr. Victor Louise was named principal as well as 8th grade teacher. Rose recalls, “Besides the rigors of care for the school, we thirteen sisters lived a traditional religious life pattern in the nearby convent. Mass was in the morning at 6:00am, then breakfast in silence while having reading at the table. Then we were off to school with a full day of teaching, prayer, and some small amount of time in recreation”.

In addition to teaching three-fourths of a school day the principal was also responsible for completing reports to the Archdiocesan Catholic School Office, meeting with parents and supervising school children cleaning the building. Sister Victor Louise/Rose somehow found time on weekends to write the grants. A new opportunity came when federal dollars were available through grants that were written collaboratively with Catholic schools located in the specific public school district. Meeting the Nelson County personnel in charge, Rose was encouraged to submit a Title II grant proposal for purchasing library books and other fundable school supplies. The positive working-relationship between public and private schools was a new experience that lasted after Sister Victor Louise left St. Catherine Grade School.

In August 1968 Rose was changed to Mother of Good Counsel School in Louisville where she was again named principal. Being in Louisville was a benefit for her and other Sisters in the Ursuline community. In the city there would be opportunity for attendance at lectures, retreat weekends, conversations with other religious of various congregations as well as with the Vatican II educated clergy There was a spirit of inquiry and hope as the Sisters met with their friends and discussed readings that challenged the faithful to understand and accept Vatican II.

Rose recalls the names of some of those persons who gave knowledge and inspiration toward this movement in the Church and world. Monsignor Joseph Wheatley, pastor of Mother of Good Counsel Parish, was a silent supporter of Fr. James Flynn, assistant pastor, who offered classes promoting understanding of Vatican documents. Fr. Flynn also gave inspiring homilies and invited in other speakers. The Parish Council was comprised of educated lay persons who exercised their parish duty by donating to areas with fewer financial resources. It was at Mother of Good Counsel that Rose resumed the use of her baptismal name.

(The winds of change of Vatican II were definitely stirring in the Church of Louisville and were being strongly embraced by its religious. Rose’s membership on the Archdiocesan Senate of Religious was a definite avenue of growth. Mingling with religious men and women on the Senate who were very serious about renewal seems to have been a challenge and a learning time for her.)

Rose’s good friend, Mary Serra Goethals, OSU, was also located in Louisville. She was principal of St. Bernard School and was invited to meetings held by the Sisters at Mother of Good Counsel. Rose and Serra had known each other since novitiate days and were glad to be on this path of growth and renewal. Another Ursuline Sister whose energy and insights were of influence at this time was Sue Hayden (Sr. Maria). She took the initiative to order cassette tapes on topics of growth and self-development. The Sisters welcomed this input and invited Brothers, ministers of other denominations and Catholic lay persons to come and share these gatherings with them.

Rose began to sense that the theology of the religious life as she was presently experiencing it was not life-giving. When Sisters gathered at Mercy Lake or principals met at Kentucky Lake, the sharing continued to encourage the flame of change and growth within her and others. Rose shares, “In my heart it felt right to be questioning, to desire more learning, to be brave enough to change.”

When elected an OSU Chapter delegate, Rose and other delegates took responsibility at their Chapter held at Maple Mount to present a plan formulated by the Government Committee. This plan dealt with ways the OSU community might renew itself by allowing changes in community life, in dress and in ministry. The pain of the “We are not ready yet.” response was difficult to accept but there was no thought of leaving the OSU Community. The Chapter approved for Rose and eight others to live as an experimental community. The nine Sisters, all of whom lived at Mother of Good Counsel Convent, were to give the OSU Leadership and Council periodic reviews. Four taught in the school, one taught at Male High School, one directed Religious Education in a Parish, one was a Counselor at Southern Indiana Health, one was a nurse at St. Joseph Infirmary, and one was Principal at St. Bernard School.

Many weekends were spent by the group meeting, discussing and learning from, Passionist Fr. John Render, C.P.. He was very helpful in leading the group to search out what living “A Creative Collaborative Community” meant. Another blessing at this time was Sister Mary Madeline Abdelnour, SCN, who was Director of Religious Education for Mother of Good Counsel Parish, She had completed her Master of Theology degree at Marquette University not long before and was most generous in sharing her insights and knowledge regarding Vatican II. Mary Madeline’s own spirit life – open, welcoming, hospitable –was an influence in itself.

Rose and the group in the experimental community were very faithful and accountable in their reporting for over two years. The earnest request, however, for another year of experimental living was not approved by the OSU Congregational leadership .

Striving to be In touch with their personal truth and listening to the call of the Spirit, five of them sought advice from Sister Barbara Thomas, SCN, Superior General of the SCN Community. She assisted them in contacting a recommended canon lawyer in Akron, Ohio. His advice was definite and clear, ” You have no legal rights. The leadership of your present community is not going to change. Look for another congregation in which you feel you would be comfortable. There are other religious groups going through the same experience of searching for the right place to live out their call to consecrated life.”

(This interviewer finds it difficult to describe what this time of soul searching must have been for these Sisters and others who have walked this journey of transfer. The SCN Community has had throughout its history Sisters who have entered or departed as a result of their prayer and discernment – Emily Elder, Sophia Carroll, Eulalia Flaget to name those of an earlier time. In recent memory, we keep in mind and heart the Sisters of St. Joseph the Worker, the Vincentian Sisters of Pittsburgh and many individuals we know and love. For all, their courage and willingness to risk is to be greatly appreciated.)

Rose and the others knew that following the canonist’s advice meant serious and prayerful discernment .They continued their search to find God’s desire for them, and the deepest seeking of their own hearts. This would lead the group in different directions By March, 1973, they had made their separate decisions.

  • Five of them – Sisters Ann Hardman, Carolyn Thomas, Mary Serra Goethals, Rose Howard and Sarita Milliner – after conversation with Sister Barbara Thomas sought membership in the SCN community.
  • One chose exclaustration
  • Two chose dispensations
  • One chose to seek membership with the Ursulines of Louisville.

( The letters and notes from Sister Annalita Lancaster, who had been elected OSU Congregational Leader in1972, reveal her pain and sadness regarding the impending separation. One can only imagine what it meant to lose this group of vibrant, Gospel committed women.)

By 1973 Rose had also left Mother of Good Counsel School and was a Lecturer of Teacher Education at Bellarmine College in Louisville. Rose had received her Bachelor degree from Brescia College in Owensboro, Kentucky in 1968. She was now enrolled in a Educational Administration program toward her Master’s degree at Peabody College of Vanderbilt University in Nashville ,Tennessee.

Rose asked for dispensation from vows in the Ursuline Community in April of 1974, The acceptance came on June 17th of the same year. That same day Rose made private vows for one year in the chapel at SCN St. Mary Villa in Nashville, Tennessee. SCNs Mary Alma Steucker and Patricia Chuckery were her witnesses. The words of her vows reflect the searching of her heart, “Trusting in Your Word, revealed by Jesus, I ask Your help in continuing what I have begun.” In June, 1975 Rose made temporary vows for three years during Mass in the chapel at SCN Center.

Rose and the other OSU Sisters who had transferred to the SCN Community took up residence and ministry in Louisville, under the kind and supportive assistance of Sister Daniel Maria (now Shirley) Nugent. Rose was happily in ministry at Bellarmine College, now University. Her friend, Sister Mary Serra Goethals, was also in the Education Department at Bellarmine. They made final vows in the chapel at Bellarmine in June,1978.

Sister Rose and all of her siblings (from left to right): Sister Rose, Jim, Mary, Tony, Dot, and Jerry

Rose and Serra would remain strong and valued members of the Bellarmine faculty until their retirement in 2000. Rose’s evaluations help one understand why her positions changed from Assistant to Associate and then to Professor of Education, always with responsibility for being the Director of Secondary Education. In addition to her assigned classes and supervisions, Rose, now an SCN, received permission to continue her studies at Peabody College of Vanderbilt University. Dr. Eugene Petrik, new President of Bellarmine and Vice President, Monsignor Raymond Treece, told Rose that faculty were now expected to hold a Ph.D. In 1978 she earned her Ph.D. in Curriculum Development and continued ministry at Bellarmine. In addition to teaching, Rose was a member of the Bellarmine Campus Ministry. Other team members were of Fr. Joe Graffis, Fr. Clyde Crews, and a Baptist minister whose position was funded by the Long Run Baptist Association.

Sister Mary Serra Goethals and Sister Rose Howard

Sister Mary Serra Goethals and Sister Rose Howard

(We can be proud and grateful that the education of teachers was a priority and lifelong mission for Rose. During her years of dedication to this field, Rose, by herself or with others , wrote articles and books, gave workshops ,served on Southern Association Visiting Committees, received awards- all related to this important topic. I wish there were some way to share with you Rose’s complete list. That may be found in our SCN Archives. I shall mention only a few.)

Publications include:

  • A process approach to reflective practice (There were two editions of this book on teacher education in which Rose collaborated with Mary Serra, Ph.D., and then a lay colleague, Dr. Marie Sanders.)
  • Using Cooperative Groups in Student Teaching”, Association of Teacher Education, St. Louis, MO
  • “ Toward a Vision of Technology in School Personnel Preparation,” Panelist, AACTE, Annual Meeting, Atlanta , GA
  • “ Introducing Talented High School Students to Teacher Education”, Phi Delta Kappan, Vol. 66, #7 ( Mary Serra co-authored this article,)

Workshops, Seminars and Committees include:

  • External Member Dissertation Committees for Dr. Nora Deeley, Dr. Perry Sengali, Dr. Robert Mullen, Dr. B. McAuliffe, Dr. S.M. Watson, Dr. K.M.Juliano
  • Alternative Assessment: an executive summary. Superintendent and Catholic School principals
  • Chaired Visiting Committee of Southern Association of Colleges and Schools for:

St. Xavier High School , Sacred Heart Academy, Iroguois High , Atherton High, Mercy Academy, Fern Creek High , Oldham County High, South Oldham High –all in Louisville as well as St.. Mary Hiigh School, Paducah, Kentucky.


  • Collegium Grant for “ International Critical Thinking Conference” Sanoma State, CA
  • Appalachian Education Laboratory Grant (AEL) Integrating Technology into

Science Teaching

  • Delta Kappa Gamma, Kentucky Scholarship Gant to attend Project AIMM II

In 2000 at the close of her twenty-seven years of ministry at Bellarmine, Rose, along with friend Mary Serra Goethals, made a request for a long deserved sabbatical. They traveled to Belgium where Mary Serra has family members. “ Our blessing was to attend classes at the University of Louvain and be able to take short trips to nearby places of beauty and interest.” A memory to carry with them was the receiving of the Msgr. Horrigan Distinguished Service Award presented annually by the Alumni Association for significant contribution to the University. In 2013 they would be further honored by the reception of The Horrigan Medal, Bellarmine’s highest honor, given by the President and Board to individuals who embody the Spirit of Bellarmine in their lives.

Rose returned to look for opportunities to serve the SCN Community. As she readied herself for her future Rose took a course from Just Solutions, a program designed to assist participants in learning how to solve conflict situations through mediation rather than litigation. She gave workshops in an Instructional Approach to Family Literacy. Finally, Rose and Serra traveled to India where they visited fourteen SCN locations to give workshops to Sisters and faculties on Instructional Strategies for Teachers. She took classes in the School of Spirituality from SCN Marylee King at the Cathedral of the Assumption.

IN 2004 Rose accepted the role of Associate Director in the Office of Sponsored Ministries She would be a team member with Mary Elizabeth Miller, SCN, and then Maria Vincent Brocato, SCN. This office was a new structure for the Western Province.

(Mary Elizabeth welcomed Rose to this position with these words, ”I believe you bring outstanding credentials to your new role. Your ministry at Bellarmine University, membership on NLBI and other Boards, understanding of our structures and the Sponsored Ministries , as well as the knowledge gained through membership on the Guidelines Revision Committee and the Planning Committee for the Conference of Administrators – these and many other experiences and opportunities comprise the expertise you will bring to the Office.”)

Rose was eminently qualified for her new position and served in it with her usual dedication and vigor. In 2007 Rose assumed the role of Director of the Office for the next three years. The mission of this office is a challenging one. While the ultimate responsibility for the ministries owned by the SCN Congregation is under the jurisdiction of the Western Province (SCN, Inc.) ,the boards of the various sponsored ministries are obliged to accept some of the responsibility (called restricted powers). Supporting the sponsored ministries and at the same conveying the directives of SCN, Inc, is the role of the Director of Sponsored, now called Congregational, Ministries. Rose handled this wisely and continues to be of assistance there when needed.

Rose Howard001Rose’s present days are as committed and generous as have been the other times of her life. She shares,” As a Sister of Charity of Nazareth I am considered “retired” but I continue to be engaged in a number of interesting activities and Board memberships:

  • Jewish Hospital & St.Mary’s Foundation Board
  • Spalding University Board
  • SCN Advancement Dream Team
  • Vincentian Academy Board
  • Nativity Academy at St. Boniface Board

A great source of peace and joy has come from being a parishioner at the Cathedral of the Assumption. I have the privilege of being a special Eucharistic minister to Catholic patients at Jewish Hospital.”

At the close of our time together, Rose had these sincere words, “Reflecting on the past sixty years I am gratefully amazed at God’s faithful support.”

(After my visits with Sister Rose I am in wonderment at all she has accomplished and all to which she continues to give her time and talent. I believe she is still striving to live a favorite Scriptural quote she shared: “Set your heart on integrity, true piety, faithfulness, love, endurance and gentleness.” Tim 8;11)

All the ends of the earth have seen the saving power of God.

Ps 98

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